Monday, June 22, 2009

Hop To It

The July issue of Bon Appetit magazine is all about summer barbecuing. It also includes a list of the Top Twelve American IPAs to enjoy with your food:

The American versions, particularly those brewed on the West Coast, have been labeled "extreme beers," owing to their amped-up use of hops. And in turn, their devotees are appropriately called "hop heads." Take Lagunitas Brewing Company in Northern California, which helped pioneer the West Coast style in the mid '90s. "In hops and alcohol, we're bigger than the British," says Tony Magee, founder of Lagunitas. "We had to find ways to differentiate ourselves from traditional European styles. We love the flavor of American hops--they're so distinct with that resiny flavorful bitterness--so we took our pale ale and upped the malt by 35 percent and the hops by 40 percent. We figured if some hops is good, then more is better." The Lagunitas IPA has a pleasant amount of bitterness, with an IBU (International Bitterness Units) of 45.6. To give you some means of comparison, British versions hover around 30 IBU. Meanwhile in Minnesota, Omar Ansari at Surly Brewing Co. has turned up the dial on hops to a full roar for what he calls "a tempest on the tongue" with his Furious IPA, which has a whopping 99 IBU. At the Maui Brewing Co., the Big Swell IPA features a comparably modest 60 IBU, and is as refreshing as one might expect from a brewery in a tropical locale. But whatever their flavor differences, one important commonality that all American craft IPAs have is that they go remarkably well with food, particularly spicy and fatty dishes.

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