Review Date 11/15/2000
We all know the story of India
Pale Ale. Just in case you were napping in beer history class, however,
let’s review a bit. This hoppy, very bitter version of pale ale originated
in England during the nineteenth century when kegs of beer were being
shipped to India for the troops there. In those days, travel took time, and
the voyage to India might take place over a matter of months. Beer, being a
fragile beverage that is usually best when served as fresh as possible,
could spoil on such a journey. What to do? The troops, good Englishmen that
they were, had to have their ale after all.
The solution was to brew an ale of greater strength, body, and hoppiness than normal pale ale. The style that came to be known as India Pale ale generally is about 7 percent alcohol by volume with a richer, fuller mouthfeel and a pronounced hop character. The hops acted as a preservative, and gave the beer greater character to boot. They would mellow slightly during the voyage.
Today, many brewers produce India pale ales. A sub-style, called American IPA, has even been developed that can in times be intensely hoppy, both aromatically and in bitterness. IPAs in England today tend to be a bit more restrained. Interestingly, several brewers have added a further dimension to the IPA style by aging their versions in oak barrels, since at least some of the brew was undoubtedly shipped in them.
While it is debatable exactly how much character these barrels may have lent to the IPA when it reached its destination, it is interesting to sample beers like Woodstock IPA (and also Samuel Adams IPA) that speculate on the addition of oak character to a hoppy beer. Both examples I have listed are on the lighter side for IPA, perhaps simulating the mellowing that would have been achieved when the beer arrived in India. Too much hop character would render the oak notes imperceptible. Original gravity for this brew is a bit higher than usual at 1.062, IBUs weigh in at 45.
The label says Woodstock India Pale Ale is "a modern IPA", whatever that is. The brew is light orange in color with a nice head formation and a subtle hop nose. The delicate malt body definitely showcases earthy, oaky notes, then segues into a respectable bitter finish. This seems more of an English style IPA to me both in malt and hop categories, though the bitterness is more intense than any English IPA I've ever tasted. An exceptional beer, one I am glad to see popping up all over Massachusetts.
Delicious with light fare such as chicken Caesar salad, chef salad, or garden salads; the oak notes and bitterness cut through the richest of dressings and complement the fresh vegetables to perfection.
And remember, try a new beer today, and drink outside the box.
*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.