i’ve been drinking a lot of IPA lately (read: 10 months) and totally failing to tell you about it, for which i apologize. i know my charm can only take me so far, and now and then people need solid recommendations, something to sink their teeth into, as it were.
well, try this on for size: as anyone who lives in mtl knows, pickings are slim for IPAs at your average dep or beer dispensary. while many deps carry the usual Québecois breweries – McAuslan/St. Ambroise, Unibroue, Boréale, none of them make an IPA, and so one has to look to the smaller craft brewers, of which there are plenty, but they tend to be pricier and harder to find. you may not need to go to a specialty shop, but whatever logic governs which deps carry these marks seems arbitrary and inconsistent.
obviously, if you’re looking for any number of craft beer curiosities, a good bet is Paradis de la Biére (151 laurier O.) in the Mile-End. or surprisingly, Dépanneur A.S. Vidéo, on the southeast corner of st-laurent and fairmount, has a pretty good selection (further north, i also noticed the other night that the dep on bélanger, in between st-denis and st-vallier, carries the Simple Malt line). and if you’re in the dirty southwest, Le Fromagerie in the Atwater Market has a surprisingly good selection.
it was there that a good buddy picked me up for my birthday a 6-pack of Simple Malt‘s Cascade IPA, which at 66 IBU is downright excellent. it’s everything i want from an American IPA – super bitter, slightly floral, almost citrusy, without even a trace of the sweetness that i would expect to find in a 6.4% beer. utterly refreshing and astringent at the same time. i’m excited to try not only their standard IPA, but if their Imperial Stout and Double Porter are as artfully constructed as this guy -i’m going to have a slight financial problem. that said, i don’t actually know how much it cost. i assume in the vicinity of 12 bones for six though.
in the spirit of affordability, however, without sacrificing too much taste, is the AMB/Maître Brasseur IPA – not quite so bitter or so alcoholic, and a little sweeter, but definitely tolerably so. i picked up a 6-pack of these at Aubut in St-Henri (whose website, as you know if you’ve ever been there, makes it look WAY classier than it actually is) for around 8.99$ and they are alright – in a sense a little more versatile and easy-drinking than the Simple Malt because of the less aggressive hops. this summer i read an article in Biéres et Plaisirs about the makeover (including the shift from “Au Maître Brasseur” to “AMB/Maître Brasseur”) and reorganization of their brewing process they recently undertook, which involved a move away from the production of a great variety of seasonal and experimental beers to focus on smaller repertoire of classic, carefully refined styles. which is the type of move that i applaud, because at least in a brewpub context, i often get frustrated with a menu full of wacky adventurebeers that basically taste like someone was like “hey, uh….how about…..blueberries and hibiscus, in uh, a…..blanche?” and once it’s all made feel like they don’t have much choice but to sell it even thought it tastes like old iced tea or an air-freshener someone’s been using as an insole. that said, AMB makes a whopping 13 kinds of beer, which is a little nuts, but i haven’t tried ’em all, and i don’t possess a familiarity with the kind of brews they were turning out before the changeover, so i’m not in much position to judge, historically.
but i look forward to getting into the thick of it, believe you me.
there have been all manner of other exciting forays into burgeoning India Pale Ale connoisseurship (who am i kidding, let’s call it what it is: avid amateurism, in the truest sense, where lack of technical knowledge is made up for in sheer chutzpah), including a growler of mysterious IPA not yet drank; BeerFest 2010 and its lamentably underchilled, but nonetheless delicious, 60- and 90-Minute Dogfish Head IPAs; and a roadtrip to rural Vermont ostensibly for blackmetalist purposes but inevitably equally focused on buying and trying as many VT IPAs as we could get our grubby mitts on, but unfortunately i wasn’t taking detailed tasting notes, so you’ll just have to get your own heels dusty. i will say, however, that Harpoon’s Leviathan Imperial IPA, despite being both delicious and the best looking bottle of beer i’ve ever purchased, is not quite worth the financial outlay, at least for more than exploratory purposes (although their standard IPA was exactly the bright, hoppy, go-to IPA i was looking for when i crossed that cursed border). the Longtrail Brewmaster Series Double IPA is a good solid IPA, but is unfortunately only as good and solid as their standard should be, but is not. nothing particularly mastery or 8.6%ish about it, alas. other things were drank that trip, something Magic Hat, some sort of UFO IPA, but i mean, we were on a hill, man, what do you want from me? i ate roadkill venison stew. a dude in a skirt ran out of the woods and set a miniature replica of a church on fire with a molotov cocktail. i was busy, okay? i left my Blackberry* in the van, man.
* i do not own a Blackberry. i did own an iPod Touch, until i decided it was a good idea to take it out in a canoe so we could listen to Van Morrison while drinking scotch on the lake at 2am. which -was- a good idea, i just no longer have an iPod Touch that, you know, turns on, or does anything.
†update: i have also tried the AMB American Pale Ale, and it’s quite good. 5%, pretty easy drinking, but still quite bitter. very crisp.