I was lucky enough to be present at last week's tasting session, organised by the philanthropists who are IrishCraftBrewer.com in conjunction with the humanitarians of The Bull & Castle. The evening was themed around IPAs and wheat beers, and commercial examples of both were provided to accompany the homebrews, namely Erdinger, Watou, Goose Island IPA, and Galway Hooker. One generous attendee, who works for the award-winning McHugh's off licence in Dublin, brought along a further IPA and one I hadn't tried before: Hophead IPA from New Zealand's Brew Moon brewery.
Over two years ago I came across Brew Moon's Dark Side stout and was quite impressed by it, despite it being past the drink-by date. The Hophead was similarly expired (do they walk it to Europe?) but suffered much more from it, having a powerful musty aroma. IPAs are designed to be robust-tasting, so the staleness wouldn't necessarily be a disaster, except the well-meaning fools at Brew Moon have made this one organic, which seems to inevitably ramp down the flavour quotient, letting the bad taste come through. It could well be that, when fresh, this is a subtle and delicate ale: crisp, floral and refreshing. But is that what you're after in an IPA?
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