April 13, 2008
The homebrewing community is, by and large, a very helpful, generous, and kind group. They’re quick to help each other, always ready to offer advice, and enjoy the fraternity of “do-it-yourself” mentality that we all share.
So, when a few homebrewing bloggers got into a 90’s-style internet flame war, we knew this could not stand. Travis from CNYbrew.com is a homebrewer in New York. A Syracuse fan and a northerner, he’ll brave the elements to brew, even if it means dressing like a gay Eskimo. The Monday Night Brewery guys, Jonathan, Joel, and Jeff, met a few years ago in Bible study, and wish to help the beer-starved Southeast by opening their own brewery in Georgia within the next few years. Plus, they’re huge Bryan Adams fans, which makes Travis’ brokeback overalls seem far more normal. The flame war begun, with Travis intimating that MNB was its own grandpaw, and MNB suggesting that Travis simply can’t brew. There was only one way to settle this – man to man, mano a mano, cerveza a cerveza! A brew-off!
So they decided to send samples of their IPA to myself, and two other brewers. This is good, as I consider myself a connoisseur of IPA’s, and live in the mecca of the IPA, Southern California. So, two packages arrived, each containing two IPA’s from each brewer, and my brother-in-law and I took to the task of settling this dispute!
First, the intangibles. MNB sent two bottles of their beer with their custom labels, a very nice presentation. Travis sent his beer in two Saranac bottles that he had neglected to even remove the original label. MNB sent a few bottles of Terrapin Rye Pale Ale, one of the beers I missed from my time in Georgia (which I liked so much that I brew my own RyePA), along with a few Monday Night Brewery pint glasses. Of course, I am evaluating purely on the beer, so the
bribes presentation is not a factor in judging.
Pours a pale gold color, with a strong head that persists for quite some time and leaves very nice lacing on the glass. This got me a bit excited, as the color was exactly what I want in an IPA. I took a few nice long whiff’s of the beer, and got very little hop aroma. What I did pick up was a slightly heavy ester & higher alcohol aroma, suggesting high fermentation temps. The mouthfeel was very thin, with low to moderate maltiness. Taste followed similarly, with a very thin body, mild bitterness, and little to no hop flavor/aroma. The thin body made the beer feel a bit “hollow”, but without a heavy hop aroma, there was little to make up for the light body. I don’t mind a light-bodied IPA, in fact I prefer it to be lighter and more crisp, but it didn’t have the “clean” dry taste or the in-your-face hop characteristic that I expect.
Pours an amber-reddish color, small head, but the head persists while drinking the beer. The aroma had a very mild hop character, but picked up more maltiness. No higher alcohols or heavy esters detected. In the mouthfeel, there was definitely more body, and more sweetness came through. I wouldn’t call this beer a “malt-bomb”, which is good, as an IPA should not be one, but the malt is prominent. Tastewise, there was a good balance between malt and bitterness, but the balance was more appropriate for an American Pale Ale than an IPA. The beer could be well served by additional bitterness and dry-hopping.
I had already heard that Travis had conceded defeat, and the Canadian judge had awarded the win to MNB, and I thought that I might find this to be a runaway win. Instead, it was actually a very close match. Both beers would really have been improved with some dry-hopping, as they did have bitterness, but not the pungent hop aroma. I think the thin body and more harsh higher alcohol I detected in Travis’ brew would be considered a technical flaw, whereas my view of the MNB beer is that it was a good beer, but not a great IPA. But, the results were unanimous (okay, it was only myself and my brother-in-law*), and we also decide in favor of the boys from Atlanta. It was the cleaner technical beer, and in general was something that I’d be more likely to sit down and drink a few in an evening.
brewpoll.com linked with The Unrepentant Individual » Settling A Homebrew Beer Blogger Dispute...
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