For Part 2 of my exposé on aging IPAs, I conducted a taste experiment to put the very problem of oxidation into practice so I could train my palate to recognize the flavors of an IPA that’s well past its prime (that’s what I tell myself anyway). To this end, I purposely aged one of the freshest beers around, Stone’s Enjoy By, 10 months past the enjoy by date and compared it to a 2 month old edition and one fresh off the truck (the 02.14.14, 10.31.14, and 12.26.14 respectively).
If you don’t know, the name of every bottle is the date by which you better drink it else Greg Koch will personally come to your house and punch you in the solar plexus (his teary, disappointed dad eyes are the worse part). To avoid this, I hid my two aging Enjoy By bottles in a dark, temperature-controlled place along with my other cellared beers.
Now, let’s address what some of you are probably thinking. Why use Stone’s Enjoy By when any common IPA would most likely have a simpler and more consistent flavor profile? And why commit this level of beer abuse against a wonderful IPA that has only given the world glass after glass of joy? If these thoughts haven’t crossed your mind, I suggest you just get on with it and skip to the Experiment and Findings section. For those that want due diligence, I shall explain.
I’m sure many of us have been out, enjoying some fine brews at an establishment and notice a chalk scrawled menu board that proudly claims that this here IPA has been “dry-hopped” or a bar’s Facebook post the boasts, “Zomg, wet-hopped beer on tap, fresher than your dad on prom night!” Either way, we coo, we ahh, we greedily drink it down and proclaim it to be a superior IPA, but what does any of that mean? Aren’t all hops wet when added to the beer? Do they even have anything to do with each other and why does it matter? Before getting into the whats-a-who of each, we should know that dry and wet are two completely different things in beer as they are in life. Well, not completely, both involve hops, but one is a process while the other is a descriptor.
I took a break from mentally traveling back through yesteryear for Part 2 of my 2014 retrospective when I came across some rather intriguing news about Sierra Nevada and a certain hop hunting IPA. While most have focused on the now defunct lawsuit from Lagunitas over font and typography, there is an intriguing beer buried in the controversy. Now, SN is known for playing around with hops. They were the first to use wet hops long ago and you need look no further than the recently released Harvest Wild Hop IPA with Neomexicallious, a hop found growing in the wilds of New Mexico. For these hop dynamos, the announcement of a new IPA should come as no surprise, but the process in making this beer does.
In a world of beer cellars and “vertical slices” going back through 15 generations of a single beer, the beer age rage is strong. If you’ve ever had a properly stored beer with some age on it, you already know why. If you never have, I highly recommend it. My first was a 3 year old Avery Mephistopheles that turned my brain into toasted porridge (I don’t know what that means either) and a high I’ve been hunting down since. I only have another year to wait for my next Mephisto!
While I have roughly 20 beers aging under my bar, a paltry sum compared to most enthusiasts, only one is an IPA. I know the initial gut reaction is to drop to your knees, screaming to the beer gods, “Why would you age an IPA!”, but a Dogfish Head 120 can handle the fall of civilization and still be drinkable by whatever irradiated overlords still roam the cracked husk know as earth (an 18% ABV can do that). Generally though, hoppy IPAs are meant to be drank and drank now. I think most IPA lovers know this or figure it out after trying that IPA they forgot about on the back shelf, but what keeps IPAs from keeping? Well, that worthless pursuit, “science”, can shed light on this cruel trick of nature.
Recently, I’ve had conversations with my beer loving friends about the stagnate state of the keg to glass systems used by most every bar out there. This archaic dinosaur from the colder-is-better popular pilsner era isn’t meant to handle the wide array of craft beers we enjoy in this time of enlightenment. To bring on the needed warms, I employ a basic ordering system of hitting two beers at a time, going for one I can drink cold while the other high-ABV imperial bomb warms up. Well, my crude and uncivilized methods could be a thing of the past due to a forward thinking bar owner named Gabe Gordon.