In craft beer world the IPA is pretty much the most manipulated style of beer on offer at the moment, even more so than stouts. While most brewing associations officially recognise three varieties, an English style IPA (hoppy but with malts coming through), an American style IPA (tends to really focus on the hops and only a touch of malt), and an Imperial or Double style IPA (very hoppy and very high ABV); there are all sorts of other varieties on offer.
You have Belgium style IPAs brewed with Belgium yeast, white IPAs which tended to be witbiers brewed in an IPA style (witbier esters plus notable hops and bitterness), Indian Session Ales brewed at a lower ABV so you can share a couple of pints rather than having to stop after only one, so in other words - all the IBUs of an IPA without the ABV, these are normally about 3.something %. You also have Wild IPAs brewed with multiple fermentation processes that also include wild yeast. There are spiced and herbed IPAs, flavoured IPAs e.g. coffee, and also Black IPAs. More technically these black IPAs should be referred to as American-style black ales (essentially though they are IPAs brewed with specialty dark roast malts). And then you also have Red IPAs, one of which we are going to sample today.
Red IPAs are essentially a variant of a traditional American red ale, which is a beer brewed with darker style malts in order to create a ruby red coloured brew that is toffee like, sweet and malty. To turn it into a Red IPA though, this traditional ale is “hopped” up a few notches to bring additional notes of fruity bitterness and is also brewed at a higher than usual ABV. The result essentially being a combination of sweet butterscotch malts and the herbaceous bitterness of tropical / grapefruit / herb like hops (depends on the variety used). None of which sounds like a bad idea to me. Red IPAs are a delicious IPA variant.
I’ve got Eagle Brewing’s RED IPA. Eagle are a Christchurch based brewery that has been brewing since 2010. There website doesn’t really tell you anything in terms of their story, their history or their philosophy of brewing but you can see they have a number of established ales (RED IPA, South Island Pale Ale, Coalface Stout, an ESB [Extra Style Bitter, an English style pale ale], Big American Yank IPA, and a Pilsner). As well, you can see they have offered a number of experimental beers over the years, Golden Sour (a grapefruit sour beer), Mr White IPA, a May the 4th Padawan Pale Ale, a Jawa Juice Intergalactic Brown Ale, and a Light Saber Pilsner. So they must be into Star Wars too.
Let’s pop this RED IPA and see if it is as good as it is promised to be on the label: “The finest new world malts and hops contribute all they have to this shining example of the style. Toffee and caramel together with fruity hop aromas…” etc etc.
Price: $9.99 500mls
Alcohol content: 5.8%
Colour: Browny / ruby red colour with a slight head. Nice and red when you hold it up to the light. A little cloudy.
Aroma: Smells both sweet and hoppy. Promising.
Palate: Bitter hops at first, grapefruit and lawn clippings. Very much like an IPA, even a double IPA.
Finish: The toffee like malts come through lovely and strong in the finish. Caramel, marmite, malt biscuits for sure. In saying that though, you can't escape the hoppy bitterness.
On the Chart: This is a beautifully balanced beer. Quite a bit more hoppy than malty as expected with an IPA, but the ruby red malts have their moments. It's not a sweet beer at all though. So we're well left of centre and up a bit in terms of complexity.
Conclusion: I really enjoyed this. I prefer a bitter beer to a sweet beer, and this is certainly bitter. At the same time though the sweet toffee profiles of the malt come through as well. It's really nice. Well done Eagle Brewing on your lovely RED IPA. Highly recommended!