Wednesday, February 4, 2015

IPAs — Base Camp Brewing vs. Stone Brewing

Base Camp Brewing
Ultra Gnar Gnar IPA
ABV 6.7%

Stone Brewing 
Delicious IPA 
ABV 7.7% 

Another IPA battle. This time featuring two beers with self-proclaimed greatness built right into their names. Can the laid back snowboard/skater slang of Ultra Gnar Gnar from Base Camp in Portland take down the brash pomposity of a Stone beer touting itself as "Delicious?" These are the questions we tackle at Bottle Battle. Tasting was conducted blind as is our custom.

Beer #1 (Base Camp Ultra Gnar Gnar IPA) was a hazy orangish brown that was quite a bit darker than your typical IPA. It had an intriguing nose featuring aromas of peppery and piney hops, sweet pipe tobacco and men's cologne. The flavor was quite fruity with sweet malts dominating while the peppery and piney hop notes stayed in the background along with some woodiness. The finish was a bit flat offering a bit of citrus, some moderate bitterness and a lingering vegetal taste.

Beer #2 (Stone Delicious IPA) was a clear, golden yellow. It also featured a unique and intriguing nose featuring sweet citrus (more orange than lemon), fruity honey and a hint of funk. The flavor was heavy on the citrus with a mild honey sweetness along with some fun tropical fruit flavors. The finish started with an intense citrus rind bitterness but soon faded to sweet, floral honey with softer citrus notes.

This was a fun battle, mostly because it seems as if brewers are straying from the typical IPA profile of just a few years ago by incorporating a whole host of new and experimental hop varieties that are expanding our definition of what an IPA can be. I can envision a time in the not so distant future where IPAs are categorized and labelled based on the hops they use, similar to the grape varietals in a wine. You'll have hopheads waxing philosophic on the merits of Mosaic hops and tweaking old wine acronyms like ABC (anything but Chardonnay) to "anything but Chinook." I can almost see it now, an entire refrigerated case at Whole Foods dedicated to IPAs organized by hops.

Back to the beers. While we were captivated by the aromas of both, we preferred the overall package of the Stone Delicious IPA. The Ultra Gnar Gnar was a fun and unique IPA, but to our palate the fruity and malty notes overwhelmed the hop notes leaving it a bit out of balance. 

According to Stone's marketing, the Delicious IPA is an attempt to bridge the gap between IPA snobs and IPA noobs. On a very simple level we think they made a nice, well balanced IPA and somehow managed to make it a bit softer and sweeter without sacrificing that balance. And while we're not sure that they will find a huge market in the IPA snob population (count us in there) we do feel that it could be the perfect beer for IPA noobs wanting to experiment with IPAs.

Unanimous decision: Stone Delicious IPA

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