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Well, seeing as though it’s IPA Day (an event which was massive, massive fun last year) today, I thought it would be the perfect time to post up my thoughts on one of the best IPA’s this country produces – Thornbridge’s Halcyon. Especially seeing as though work demands mean I’ll be sequestered at home rather than enjoying one of the many events being held in pubs across Yorkshire.
You see, the problem with many IPA’s is simply lack of balance. Too sweet. Too bitter. Too thin. As a style, it has to be the most abused; a problem borne out of inexperienced brewers bowing to the hyperbole that IPA seems to create. Sure – certainly in the States – IPA has pushed brewing forward somewhat – breweries trying to outdo each other with IBU rates and creating arcane ways to get even more hops into beer. But more hops isn’t always good. Popular, yes, but IPA needs to be handled with respect.
For every harsh, overhopped IPA out there, there’s a Halcyon to balance them out. At 7.4% abv, it’s no slouch in the alcohol stakes; not that you’d guess, such is the cloak that Thornbridge have wrapped around that heat. On the nose, there’s Passion Fruit, Lychee, Strawberry and sweet, honeyed notes. This sets you up for a sickly, saccharine hit but that never comes; what you get instead is the softest, fruitiest IPA I’ve tasted in a long while, all tropical fruit, with the sharp bitterness that you now expect coming late, lemony and fresh.
Is there a more drinkable bottled UK IPA out there? Well, my love for Buxton’s Axe Edge is well-documented and for me, it’s the only one that gets close. In my humble opinion, of course. Speaking of Buxton, fresh off the success of appearing at The International Festival of Small Brewers & Cidermakers in the US last month, they’ve been invited to Borefts this year and they picked up awards at this years International Beer Challenge.
This week I tried their English Pale Ale (4.9%abv), a Pale that certainly has enough bitterness to satisfy hop-heads. Pouring pure gold with a billowy head, there’s some creamy malt in the nose, along with a sherbet-lemon note that hints at the cutting edge that this EPA possesses. The body is a little grainy, with a long, long assertive lemon/lime bitterness that finishes the beer off; making it massively refreshing. My bottle was only cellar-cool, but as it warmed in the glass, honeyed, subtle wildflower notes appeared in the nose and the body turned a little creamier. It ended up being the best of both worlds; a hearty, full-bodied pint with a distinct cutting edge. Lovely.
Good things come to those who wait, for sure. I’m sure there’s not many out there who would begrudge Buxton’s success. Entirely well deserved, lads.
Anyway, enjoy your IPA day; a quick Googling reveals there’s loads going on at breweries, pubs and bars in the UK. If you’re going out in Yorkshire, The Grove in Huddersfield look to have really upped the ante this year. Get yourself over.