There is a phenomenon happening the brewing industry that is well known to “hopheads” (the moniker given to beer aficionados that like their beer strong and heavily flavored with hops). It is the fascination with just how “big” your beer can be – higher in alcohol and higher in IBUs (the scale for bitterness). It is a trend referred to as “Extreme Brewing”. Extreme beers are now being created all across America as the renaissance of American Brewing continues to unfold, and both award winning Brew Works locations are releasing very different versions of an extreme style beer – Double IPA.
The history of “big” beers can be traced back to Imperial stout, also known as “Russian Imperial Stout” or “Imperial Russian Stout,” which is a strong dark beer that was originally brewed by Thrale’s brewery in London, for export to the court of Catherine II of Russia. It was brewed with high alcohol content – nine or ten percent ABV (alcohol by volume) to withstand the long shipping route. It cannot be denied that the Russian court also enjoyed the higher alcohol content.
India Pale Ale, is an ale style that was originally brewed in England for British troops stationed in India in the 18th century. It was also brewed very strong to survive a voyage that could take as long as six months. It was also highly hopped to preserve the beer and disguise any spoilage. When the troops returned to Britain, they found the British ales were lacking the bold hop flavor they had become accustomed to, so India Pale Ales continued to be brewed to accommodate them. It should be noted that a similar history can be traced in the distilling industry (think London Gins vs. Bombay Gins).
In America, where we like everything bigger, extreme versions of beer have become very popular and brewers are experimenting with styles beyond stouts. The most admired of these carry the style name “Imperial IPA” or “Double IPA” (due to the nearly double amount of grain necessary to brew it – double the grain, double the sugar, double the alcohol content). Lehigh Valley hopheads will get to experience two distinct versions of Double IPAs with an east coast version brewed in Bethlehem, and a west coast version brewed in Allentown.
“West coast IPAs can be considered a style of its own, and tend to be dryer and lighter bodied than east coast IPAs. This allows for their hop bitterness to shine through. East coast style is fuller bodied and more balanced because the heavier body rounds out the aggressiveness of the hops,” says Beau Baden, the multiple medal-winning Brewmaster of the Brew Works. “Our Allentown location took on the West Coast version with huge loads of hops added to create a monstrous hop flavor and aroma. With so many hops we needed an appropriate name – and there it was – Hop’Solutely! Our Bethlehem location took on the East Coast version which tend to be maltier but with a solid bitterness that is well balanced. That one we call ‘Stop, Hop and Roll’,” he said with a chuckle.
Both versions of these Double IPAs will be available at both Brew Works locations.
Hop’Solutely is deep copper in color, brewed with Cascade, Chinook, Amarillo, Summit and Tomahawk Hops. It has a complex grapefruit hop aroma which is followed by a smooth malt flavor. Hop’Solutely comes in at a whopping 11.5% ABV with 74 IBUs.
Stop, Hop and Roll is brewed with loads of Summit and Cascade hops, which lend a citrus aroma and hop bitterness to this 9% ABV brew with 80 IBUs. In contrast, a typical mainstream American Lager has approximately 4% ABV and only 11 IBUs.