Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Oregon IPA Blind Tasting

This is kind of a slow follow-through, but a couple of weekends ago I helped judge Blitz Ladd's blind tasting competition of Oregon IPAs.  Earlier in the year I went on a kick of blind-tasting Double IPAs three or four at a time with friends and neighbors, in March, April, and May.  The Blitz tasting was on a different level: the good news is that I was seated amongst far more experienced beer judges; the bad news is we had a roster of 13 IPAs to get through.

We were surprisingly unanimous in choosing our top three:
  • Hopworks HUB IPA
  • Widmer Falconer IPA
  • Lucky Lab Super Dog IPA
Sometimes you forget how good old favorites can be -- well, four-year-old favorites anyway.  HUB IPA is the burly but drinkable IPA that launched Hopworks to nearly instant success, but I rarely seem to drink it these days.  When I'm at Hopworks, I usually geek out and try whatever seasonal beer they have; when I'm somewhere else I rarely go for the IPA.  I guess I'll have to rethink my strategy now. 

It also surprised me how much we liked the new Rotator from Widmer.  I had tasted it for the first time the day before, and liked it pretty well -- especially the long bitter finish -- but I wouldn't have thought it was one of my two favorites in town.  It's brewed with the Falconer's Flight hop blend from Hop Union that breweries are starting to experiment with.  Fans of Walking Man beers should pick up a six-pack of it: the recipe was devised by Jacob Leonard, who left his head brewer position at Walking Man earlier this year to join Widmer.  He's still new enough that he has to work the night shift, but his beer has already made it to a national audience.  Pretty cool.

The Blitz folks stressed to us over and over that these were not Double or Imperial IPAs, but I couldn't shake doubles out of my mind and I was sure I had several of the competitors pegged for this or that Double IPA -- even to the point of insisting aloud that #9 was Caldera's Hopportunity Knocks, Super Dog was Ninkasi's Tricerahops, and the Widmer was Hopworks' Ace of Spades.  Goofy.  I'm a little embarrassed to think of it now.  Well, it was a long weekend and I had been up late the night before sampling beers from around the country at the Beer Bloggers Conference.

I also thought I had Gilgamesh's IPA pegged for Bridgeport Hop Czar, another imperial.  I mean that in a good way: it would have been my choice for 4th place.  Except for the strange and wonderful tea-hopped Black Mamba, Gilgamesh's beers have left me cold, but this IPA had a very nice grapefruity hop profile, and I'll be keeping an eye out for it now.  Other pleasant surprises were McTarnahan's Grifter -- very nicely balanced -- and Vertigo's Friar Mike's IPA.  I've had both in the past, but wouldn't have expected them to surpass much more established IPAs.  That goes to show the power of blind tasting.

Speaking of blind tasting:  if you're not already reading the Southern Oregon-based blog Bottle Battle, add it to your list.  Each post is a blind tasting between two or more similar beers, a nice twist on beer reviews.

1 comment:

  1. I am a huge fan of both IPAs and blind tastings. If I have learned anything from the times I am at Concordia Ale House it is that I have NEVER been able to guess the beer. I have been more than sure a couple of time. Oh well, that is some of the fun.