7 IPA’s reviewed

In lieu of the normal training session activities that I normally give my panel on Thursday mornings, I decided to switch it up a bit today and present them a number of IPAs to judge. Each one was purchased from a local grocery store or specialty beer/wine store, and was tasted blind by the panel of 11 tasters. I asked them to throw out any term or descriptor they could think of, and when we finished with that I went around the room and asked them express their preference for each sample on a 1-10 scale (10 being the best beer they’ve ever had). Below are the terms that were used for each sample, as well as the average rating and the range of ratings given for that sample. I’m assembling them here in order of “worst” to “best”.

21st Amendment Brew Free or Die IPA, 12oz cans, packaging info: 1010 0904 (9:04am on 10th day of 2011??)
Oxidized
Crayons
Yams
Baby food
Banana
Isovaleric
Grassy
Fig Newton
Grainy
Fusel
Rating: 2.45/10 (range: 1-4)

Deschutes Hop Henge, 22oz, packaging info: Best by 6/16/11
Pineapple
Sweat
Ethyl Hexanoate
Salty
Alcoholic
Thick
Metalllic
Ethyl butyrate
Flat
Urine
Lingering Bitterness
Solvent
Citrus
Rating: 2.82/10 (1-5)

Alaskan Pilot-Series Imperial IPA, 22oz, packaging info: Best by 8/12/11
Caramel Apple
Ethyl octanoate
Acetaldehyde
Ethyl Hexanoate
Ethyl acetate
Diacetyl
Cedar Resin
Dry
Woody
Hibiscus
Lingering Bitterness
Bile
Thick
Rating: 3.64/10 (3-5)

Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA, 22oz, packaging info: Bottled 1/19/11
Peppery
Fresh
Sweatsocks
Oxidized
Floral
Geraniol
Linalool
Vegetative
Harsh Bitterness
Haze
Astringent
Grassy
Diacetyl
Lemon
Rating: 4.27-10 (2-7)

Dogfish Head 90min IPA, 12oz bottle, no packaging info
Pineapple
Tropical Fruit
Alcoholic
Solvent
Salty
Oxidized
Thick
Sweet
Roasted
Caramel
Burnt Aftertaste
Beta-caryophyllene
Ethyl acetate
Rating: 5.45/10 (4-7)

Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA, 22oz, packaging info: Bottled 3/5/11
Piney
Grassy
Cannabis
Peppery
Geraniol
Lemon
Citrus
Sweet
Low carbonation
Hay
Incense
Grainy
Rating: 6.27/10 (4-9)

AND THE NUMBER ONE RATED IPA (from this set, anyway)…

New Belgium Ranger IPA, 12oz cans, packaging info: Canned 3/20/11
Hay
Straw
Cascade hops
Lemon Pledge
Grassy
Clean Finish
Wet plants
Earthy
Ethyl acetate
Piney
Tomato Plant
Cheese
Celery
DMS
Thin
Carrots
Cucumber
Myrcene
Rating: 7/10 (6-8)

So there you have it. I’ll probably do this again with more IPAs in the future, and will definitely do this again with different styles. In fact, I have some of this data for various pilsners from last night, but there were only two of us tasting, so I’ll keep that data to myself for now.

Things that surprised me about this session:
-I’ve always enjoyed the Hop Henge from Deschutes (mentioned it a couple times here), so I’m surprised it landed so far down the list
-How yummy Firestone Walker’s Union Jack was (hadn’t had it before)
-How prolific the panel was with coming up with terms and descriptors. They had a great time with this one.

See ya!

[edit: added age info]

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6 responses to “7 IPA’s reviewed

  1. Seeing as most beer blogs gush so much about US produced IPA’s, its interesting to see these reviews, and such low score’s!
    Always enjoy your posts by the way, (even when it goes way over my head sometimes!)

  2. Agree with the last comment. Interesting take on American IPA’s. These descriptors are helping to build my descriptor vocabulary for beer.

    I noticed in the Hop Henge they noted metallic, do you have any insight on Metallic flavors? I’ve brewed a two batches that had a metallic (blood) aroma after about 2 months. One was a hefeweizen (all-grain) and one was a brown ale (extract with grains).

  3. Keep the IPA evaluations coming please.

    With just one word descriptors though, its hard to judge at what level they were noticed and if it was distracting/unpleasant, adding to the drinking experience, or just mildly apparant.

    Can I send you my homebrewed IPA to evaluate? Would be much more accurate/detailed than my friends/family and the those who have evaluated my beer submitted to homebrew comps. On second thought, I might be too scared of the results. 😉

    • I understand the desire for some idea of intensity for the various flavors in the beer reviews. There are a couple sticking points, however. For one, everybody’s sensitivity and threshold for any given flavor tends to be different, some flavors covering a wider range of thresholds than others. So what this panel comes up with may not jive with what you might sense. Secondly, I’m still training my panel to that level. We haven’t started working on intensity much yet as we’ve got our work cut out for us building a foundation of flavor recognition. I’ve also had an influx of new panelists that require training from square one, so that can slow the process as well. I may be able to add some sort of indication as to which flavors dominate the profile of the beer; that’d probably work alright.

      About the IPA: probably not a good idea. As you noted, you may not like the result and I don’t want to bruise any egos or ruffle feathers. But also because I’d prefer to keep my address (and even my region) as private as possible for the time being.

      Thanks for reading the blog! Glad you like it. I think I’m planning on doing a few more IPA tastings like this one and then pit the “winners” against each other until we have “champion” that few reading this will agree with…. =) But it’s natural when discussing beer, I suppose.

  4. Those mean scores you give are pretty fascinating. I have a visceral desire to debate them, but I’ll leave that aside. One thing that would be useful, though, is knowing whether you’re getting broad agreement in the scores or bimodal distributions. The Racer IPA, for example, might have gotten two groups–ones and twos on the one hand and eights, nines, and tens on the other. Were there any of these beers that scored poorly but got minority love?

  5. Thomas Barnes

    Whoo boy! Your tasters are a tough crowd. Either that, or your local beer stores seriously abuse their craft beer. Just about all the beers had off-characteristics I’d associate with mishandling or age – all those fatty acid and oxidized notes. Even the top-rated IPA had some problems – hay, grassy, vegetal, cheese, etc.

    @Lstaff: Find a good local homebrew club. Bring your beer there and have the most experienced brewers and beer judges sample it and give you feedback. It’s quicker, more useful and cheaper than entering your beer in competition if you just want feedback.

    http://www.homebrewersassociation.org/pages/directories/find-a-club

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