Yesterday, after work and a couple of errands, I met up with Evan, Pivní Filosof and Rob - with whom I have shared many enjoyable drinking sessions (including the infamous finishing off of a pub's remaining Primátor Stout and wondering why it was labelled as "coffee beer"). The aim was for Evan to introduce us to the delights of the American IPA, more specifically the IPAs of the Stone Brewing Company in San Diego, also into the mix, as an example of a more straight IPA I brought along a few bottles of Belhaven Twisted Thistle.
Being completely disorganised yesterday, I didn't bring a camera with me, nor did I bring my tasting notes book, so you'll get fuller descriptions of the beer on the blogs of the other guys.
We started out with the weakest of the quartet, the Twisted Thistle, which is made with Challenger and Cascade hops and weighs in at only 5.3%. I thought it rather nice IPA, the kind of beer you could happily sup away on all night.
Next up was the Stone IPA, and this was a world apart from every standard British IPA, not to mention every Czech made American IPA I have had in Prague. Big on the hops, and it was at this point that I discovered what marijuana tastes like, apparently. I have never been one for smoking, although I love the smell of pipe smoke. I was expecting a lot more citrus and bitterness - to be honest I was expecting it to be like sucking lemons, but it was suprisingly smooth and while not a beer for a Friday night session at 6.9%ABV, it was certainly very drinkable, and one I would like to try on draught.
Following on from the standard Stone IPA was the Cali-Belique IPA, which from what I understand is basically the normal Stone IPA fermented with a Belgian yeast, hence the name. The difference that the yeast made was very pronounced, again the apparent marijuana touch was there, but this time I was reminded of the Rochefort ales, with lots of cocoa on the nose. As the four of us sat around the kitchen table, we discussed using different yeasts with the same basic ingredients and seeing what the results would be - which has me concocting all manner of plans for my homebrew when I get to the US in the summer.
The last of the Stone brews was Ruination. Evan had warned us that this would be last as the bitterness would effectively render our tastebuds redundant. Again I was expecting something quite different on the bitterness front, and found that the maltiness of the beer, despite playing second fiddle to the hops, made the beer quite smooth and refreshing.
Throughout the tasting session we all had cans of Pilsner Urquell available, so that we could compare the hoppiness of a beer we all know quite well with that of the IPAs on the table. To put it bluntly, by the time we got to the Ruination, the PU was distinctly awful, and smelt rather similar to the boiling wort at U Medvídků last Thursday. With time winding down on our tasting session, and our tastebuds being gently soothed by Bernard Černé, Evan decided to open a bottle of his hacked Porter. Very interesting, but I will let Evan tell the full story of this experiment when he gets round to it.
Rob and I then sloped off to Pivovarský klub to finish off their version of an American IPA - in the interests of research naturally. In a similar vein to last Wednesday and Thursday, there really are few pleasures as worthwhile as sitting with fellow beer lovers drinking excellent beer and discussing whatever comes up.
To sum up, a wonderful evening.