The British Empire Lives Strong in India

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Quite simply, Samuel Smith's Pale Ale blew me away. It is brewed in the fine tradition of British-based India Pale Ales.

It's 9:00 on a brisk morning, on the campus of Michigan State. It's a tailgate. Besides my morning coffee, spiked with a bit of John Jameson and Son's finest, my palate was undisturbed. I reach into my cooler full of Molson Canadian (I'll review that one later) and pull out my bottle of this IPA. I had been looking forward to this moment, as IPAs generally present a very hoppy beer, full of taste.

A bit of history, being that I was on a college campus. Education is everything, afterall. The reason IPAs are so hoppy is because hops are a natural preservative. The only way beer would survive the long trip from Her Majesty's front door to the streets of Bangladesh was to imbue it with a ton of hops. The result is a beer along the lines of a slightly-more-bitter Extra Special Bitter (I'll review one of those later). Americans do a decent IPA, like Sierra Nevada, but ours are often over-hopped, because that's how the legend goes. The hops used are great, but sometimes too many. But in this fine example, the British show their handle on their own traditional beers is still as strong as ever. Long live the Queen!

I digress...I cracked open the bottle, and was immediately hit by a wonderful floral smell. I smelled plenty of hops, as I would with any IPA, but not so strong as Sierra Nevada. This woke my brain up out of its early-morning fog. Quivering with anticipation, my tastebuds ready for the shock of a mega-hoppy IPA, I nearly fell over at what I perceived to be an amazingly well-balanced IPA. Incredible. Sure, there were loads of's an IPA. That's what they do. But these hops I thought were extremely-well balanced by a nice sweet maltiness. In fact, the extra maltiness really took the sting off of what I would have normally expected. I exclaimed out loud that it was the best IPAs I'd had in a long time. Sorry Sierra Nevada...I found a new one. Mouthfeel was slightly dry, as it should be with IPA. Drinkability I think speaks for itself. I will buy this beer over and over again. 9/10.


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