Monday, September 8, 2014

Smog City Hoptonic India Pale Ale

When you have an India Pale Ale, do you wonder where it got its name?  There is never anything pale about an IPA’s appearance.  Sit one next to a Budweiser, and it is obvious which of the two has the yellowy tint which prompted Firesign Theater to produce the fake ad for Bear Whiz Beer.  “It’s in the water!”

What is in the water with India Pale Ale is hops.  Plenty of hops.  Hops are flowers which are used in brewing to add a bitter offset to the sweetness of malt.  They also help in preserving beer.  I have always heard that the first India Pale Ale was made because spoilage was a problem on the long ocean voyage from England to India.  It appears that’s not actually correct, if I am to believe Wikipedia.  That source says the highly hopped beer became a favorite in India because of the taste and was given the name due to that popularity.

Wikipedia also offers a listing of the kinds of hops used in American craft IPAs today: “...distinctively American hops, such as Cascade, Centennial, Citra, Columbus, Chinook, Simcoe, Amarillo, Tomahawk, Warrior, and Nugget.”  Hop nerds must be the beer world’s equivalent to the wine world’s grape nerds, especially those grape nerds who actually know - and talk openly about - what clone they are drinking.  It might be fun to ask a bartender, "Is this Cascade or Chinook I'm tasting?"  Of course, the bartender might then decide that it's fun to not wait on you anymore.

Smog City Brewing Company was named, no doubt, after the most iconic element of life in Los Angeles - bad air.  They are located in Torrance, in the South Bay area of Southern California, even though I have never noticed too much smog down that way.  We keep our excess smog in the San Gabriel Valley.  It sits well against the mountains there.

Smog City’s head brewmaster Jonathan Porter - great beer name, right? - presides over the brews, collects awards and works with chefs in L.A. to pair his beers with great food.

Smog City’s Hoptonic IPA goes for $7 a glass at Westside Tavern on Pico.  It was hot that day, and a good IPA is one of my favorite warm-weather refreshers, so I drank it pretty quickly.  I did take time to note the aromas and flavors of citrus and a floral hops element that I love in this style of beer.

Smog City elaborates on Hoptonic a little more, citing “the exceptional flavor and aroma of west coast hops with notes of orange, citrus peel, tropical fruit, guava and floral honey. The lightly toasted caramel malt balances the resinous hop flavors and firm, yet balanced bitterness that make this beer a full bodied hop lovers' paradise.”  I'll try to drink it slower next time.


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