American beer lovers have this problem. They’re spoiled
on over the top, super-hoppy, intensely bitter India Pale Ales (IPAs for
short). And indeed, that’s what a lot of American IPAs taste like. But
here’s the thing. It was the British who put the India in India Pale Ale,
quite literally. They exported a very hoppy pale ale with a higher than
average alcohol content to the British troops in India in the 19th century.
The “souping up” acted to preserve the beer, and it would have arrived in a
bit better condition than lower strength, less hoppy beers might.
Likely, the beers tasted hoppier and more bitter when they departed than
when they arrived. By how much, of course, it’s hard to say. They might even
have taken on woody notes from the oak barrels they were transported in.
Today, IPAs in England are, again, on the milder side, and it’s not likely
that a beer like Samuel Smith’s India Ale represents them well.
Still, the Brits did invent the style, and they should be allowed some
latitude. That said, I like Sam Smith’s India Ale just fine, despite the
relative (to American IPAs anyway) dearth of hops. Sure, it might be a
little different than what you might expect for an IPA. But it has a unique
and complex character all its own that I enjoy now and again.
Like other Samuel Smith’s brews, the India Ale is fermented using the
Yorkshire squares system with special yeast strains. The yeast rise to the
top of the small “squares”, and must be continually roused to do their job.
Lazy yeast. You heard it here first. Still, these beers are well known for
their rich, full flavor attributed to this little-used process.
Samuel Smith’s India Ale pours to a bright orange amber color with a
soft creamy head and a faintly fruity, somewhat aromatic floral hop nose.
The first sip reveals a beer with good body to it, the chewy caramel malt
kind of course. But there are a lot of other things going on here, too. The
beer is rich with flavors of mince pie, and candied fruit, prune, a hint of
molasses, a touch of butter, and raisin.
And in the finish, yes, there are hops. Certainly, the beer is not a hop
blast, but if you just let it wash over the tongue and bathe the palate,
you’ll detect a noticeable hop bitterness in the finish, along with some
grassy herbal notes and floral aroma that call to mind Goldings hops.
A tasty little IPA with a Yorkshire twist, to be enjoyed for what it is: a
tasty fusion of dark fruity Yorkshire character with mild IPA hop character.
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.