Beer Sherp Recommends: Ft. George Overdub Session IPA
The idea of a session IPA is irresistible: all the intense flavor and aroma from a traditional IPA without all the booze (and calories, if you care about that). The problem is that they're hard to make. With a standard IPA, brewers have a very solid foundation to work with--lots of malt body and often a touch of caramel flavor--onto which they can build stories and stories (or layers) of hop bitterness, flavor, and aroma. The sweetness and body provided by the malt make it possible to nuke the beer with hops and have the whole thing work.
Session IPAs, on the other hand, are often too thin, or the hops are too bitter, or they lack the intensity you get from a proper IPA. I love the idea, and I order them anytime I see them on a taplist (in the past six months my session IPA consumption outpaces regular IPAs by perhaps four to one).
am I satisfied by the result. I thought Harpoon's Take Five, mashed in at 161 degrees for maximum body, was spectacular (it was also one of the first I had, setting unreasonable expectations). There have been others that were good, but only one that hits all the marks.
I first had Fort George's Overdub in a can at the Hollywood Theater. I forget the movie, but the beer--whoo boy, that was memorable. Last week I stopped in at the brewery when I was in Astoria, and found the draft version even more delightful. The perfume of tropical fruit, as sticky and fresh as if I were standing in a jungle, billowed from the glass. The flavors followed the aroma, and were supported by just enough bitterness to give them structure and bite--but there was a fine body to support everything (fine to the extent a 4.5% beer can manage). It was that unicorn of balance and intensity in a tiny package. I was tempted to drink 14.
This beer is apparently a seasonal (Big Guns, Fort George's regular-lineup session IPA, is nowhere near as vivid), so seek it out and purchase with alacrity.
"Beer Sherpa Recommends" is an irregular feature. In this fallen world, when the number of beers outnumber your woeful stomach capacity by several orders of magnitude, you risk exposing yourself to substandard beer. Worse, you risk selecting substandard beer when there are tasty alternatives at hand. In this terrible jungle of overabundance, wouldn't it be nice to have a neon sign pointing to the few beers among the crowd that really stand out? A beer sherpa, if you will, to guide you to the beery mountaintop. I don't profess to drink all the beers out there, but from time to time I stumble across a winner and when I do, I'll pass it along to you.