As we all know, the IPA is the single biggest thing to hit the craft beer scene since some people got together and said, “Maybe beer doesn’t have to taste stale piss!” What’s interesting too is the trends around this king of craft beer styles, and how what is popular to the beer drinker’s palate seems to shift every few years. There was a time, for example, where everyone was seeking the skunkiest, heaviest, most bitter IPA they could get their hands on. There was a time when Boulder Beer’s Mojo (by all accounts, an incredibly hop-forward beer) was considered “tame.” IBUs became the golden standard for determining a beer’s quality (even though that’s a pretty stupid way to rate a beer).
Today, however, the pendulum has swung back in the opposite direction with the latest New England IPA craze. Nope, we don’t want a clear beer. We don’t want a particularly bitter beer. We just want a beer that is citrus, juicy, and tame. We want beers that look like orange juice with some heavy cream mixed in. Don’t get me wrong. I like a well-made NE-IPA as much as the next guy. But sometimes, I miss the hop hunting craze that swept us all up not five years ago. Fortunately, plenty of breweries have held out, and are still producing their big, hoppy IPAs. The Copper Kettle IPA is a great example of this. It’s a beer that is unashamed to live behind the curve, refusing to change with the craft beer Zeitgeist.
Copper Kettle IPA: The Basics
- Brewery: Copper Kettle Brewing Company (Denver, CO)
- Style: IPA
- ABV: 7.2%
Copper Kettle IPA: The Details
Copper Kettle is one of those breweries that I’m always like, “Oh yeah! They’re in Denver!” I mean, they’ve made some very decent beer – their Mexican Chocolate Stout is tough to beat. I’d never had their IPA out of the can before, and I’m currently trying to remember if I’ve ever had it on tap anywhere. I’m pretty sure no (holy shit I need to get on Untappd). Anyway, the beer pours a charming golden orange and is clear all the way through. In the glass, the beer left about a finger’s worth of foamy white head, which maintained decently through the entirety of the drink. The nose on this beer does not pull any punches – it’s very clear what this beer is going to taste like by smell alone. Strong bursts of pine and citrus mix with a bready malt odor. Ah yes, this is the classic American IPA that we’ve moved away from.
The flavor was… strong, to say the least. The beer only had a gentle carbonation, making the mouthfeel quite syrupy and thick. The flavor of dank pine and lemon-lime shine strongly throughout this beer, with a caramelly sweetness constantly lingering in the background. And then came the bitterness. The Coppler Kettle IPA finishes with a strong, puckering bitterness. It might be the first beer I’ve had in a while where I audibly commented on the nearly astringent nature of its aftertaste. I don’t think this beer hides the fact that it’s 7.2%. From first sip to last, this beer sits heavy, with strong, bold flavors throughout. We got a 6 pack of these guys to try, but I’d be shocked if anyone could get through more than two without having to switch to something else.
I’m having a hard time trying to come up with a good utility for the beer, other than, “Let’s just drink a beer, and MEAN IT.” I don’t think it’d go well with too many foods – the bold, syrupy nature of this beer would certainly dominate the taste buds, and would make a lousy pairing with most foods. This might go well with a heavily spiced chicken dish, or an equally bold chicken tikka masala. I don’t think the beer is all that refreshing, either – not something I’d take to a barbecue filled with modern beer drinkers and their palates.
For those of you missing the archetypical America IPA arms race, where brewers sought nothing more than to stuff as much hops into a beer as possible, this beer might be for you. It’s not bad, but it’s certainly a blast from the near past; a time when “balance” wasn’t really in a brewer’s vocabulary.