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Not Just for Indian Summer

By Michael Schiaparelli · May 20th, 2009 · Fermentations

As the weather warms and sun starts to show itself a little more frequently, we tend to cook on the grill a lot: from burgers and shrimp kabobs to pork loin and rib eyes. And while we certainly continue to drink wine through the summer, we find many more whites and rosés on the table. And a lot more beer, too.

Beer is actually my beverage of choice on a baking Sunday afternoon after I’ve just finished mowing the lawn. When we first moved to Cincinnati, I used to gravitate to Wiedemann’s on such days. Light and nearly flavorless, it was eminently thirst quenching. I could down a can in two decent gulps (and I am not a chugging professional). As far as I can tell, that venerable brand is not currently available, so I’ve been searching out local beers with more interest and character.

Currently in the “beverage center,” we’re featuring Mt. Carmel Brewing Company’s India Pale Ale (six packs run about $8.99). I’ve been a fan of their Copper Ale for some time, but didn’t buy it very often because it only came in half-gallon growler that didn’t keep very long after opening.

They now have a new bottling line, and the entire lineup is finally available in nicely labeled/packaged 12-ounce bottles that are far more convenient.

IPA is a great, traditional style. The story goes that British colonists in India demanded the import of familiar beers from back home, but that their regular products rarely survived the vagaries of a long sea voyage. Brewers, it’s asserted, created a hardier ale specifically for export, raising the alcohol level and increasing the hop character. They called the brew India Pale Ale.

While this “origin” story is still commonly bandied about, it’s likely as fictional as the recent film adaptation of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. In fact, the first India Pale Ale was likely made by George Hodgson’s Bow Brewery sometime around the turn of the 19th century. Originally, pale ales were brewed from pale malt and were very lightly hopped. Bow Brewery was well known for its October beer, a more heavily hopped ale that improved with time in the cellar. It was this product that became popular with colonial consumers in India; other producers looking for an export market imitated the style, which soon became popular domestically as well.

IPAs can vary pretty widely in style, though all will have elevated alcohol levels — expect 5.5 to 7 percent Alcohol By Volume (ABV) and strong hop character. Mount Carmel’s version clocks in at a hearty 7 percent ABV and its amber color is a bit cloudy. True to the label description, the piney nose reminds me of Christmas, and its richness would make this a good winter drink. But the smooth, well-hopped flavor and slightly spicy finish makes me look forward to drinking it all summer long.




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