Now I have absolutely no idea what was at the root of their fatal conflict. One of the realities of being a skinny, white Canadian boy is that you are largely insulated from the inner socio-political workings of American urban warfare. All we really hear about up here is Hillary vs The Donald and frankly, that is more than enough. There's 319 million Americans and through all of this, you narrowed it down to those two?
Back to the big rap battle. You see, on the east coast, you had The Notorious B.I.G and his New York record label, Bad Boy Records. On the west coast was Tupac Shakur and his LA record label Death Row Records. And both sides despised each other... again, for reasons Canadians are not allowed to know. Apparently. How did it all end? Both were killed in drive-by shootings - Shakur in 1996, B.I.G a year later, proving there are several routes that go Straight Outta Compton. (Too soon?)
Well, two decades later, there's another west coast-east coast feud a-brewin' but it's far less likely to end in bloodshed. No, this one is over two styles of IPAs - the clean, filtered west coast style and the murky, unfiltered east coast style, which is rapidly gaining popularity.
My first exposure to the East Coast Style came last Summer when Rib Eye Jack's Ale House's general manager Steve gifted me with a Heady Topper Imperial IPA, made by The Alchemist Brewing, located in Stowe, Vermont.
But I got a huge laugh recently when Beer Bro Stevil St Evil's neighbourhood brewery Garage Project very deliberately entered an East Coast Style IPA called Party & Bullshit in the local watering hole's Malthouse West Coast IPA Challenge held at the end of July. To be clear, Garage Project is to Stevil what Nickel Brook is to me. Except where Nickel Brook is a quick five minute drive for me, Stevil can see both the Garage Project brewery and their recently-opened bar across the street from the living room window of his Wellington, New Zealand perch. It is an even quicker five-minute walk.
Okay, the single criteria for the Malthouse West Coast IPA Challenge is this: it has to be West Coast style!!! Frankly, that still leaves a humongous amount of creative leeway and Stevil suggests that the entries are getting hoppier, boozier and wilder every year.
|Stevil St Evil, looking styling as always with his|
Hawaiian shirt, hoists a pint of Ballast Point
Brewing's (San Diego) Sculpin IPA at Golding's
Free Dive, a popular pub in Wellington. As you
can see, Stevil prefers his IPAs clean and filtered.
Frankly, for my money, the next biggest challenge involved that day must be how our mutual buddy, award-winning New Zealand beer writer Neil Miller survives it as a perennial judge. This year, he had to sample 25 entries of high-alcohol, hoppier-than-hell IPAs... before noon! He claims to be Scottish but there must be some Viking blood in his ancestry. Dude's a warrior. Like Thor... but of beer drinking.
But let's get Stevil's review of his neighbourhood's brewers odd-ball entry, shall we? (Yes, I think we shall.) "Oh yeah, I tried that Garage Project one. I think they did it as a joke. Unfiltered but it tasted pretty damn good! There are a few unfiltered IPAs around the world but generally, people don't like to see floatie bits in their beer. A few breweries try that and to purists, it's a good thing. But meh, gimme filtered every time."
Except for the filtration part because the jury is out on that, Stevil is all around my theory but he nailed it with his next comment. "While the West Coast IPA Challenge is an awesome event, it's usually a gimme that there'll be four to five legit contenders for wins with the judges and the rest of the entries are in there for a bit of fun and exposure."
|Stevil's local five-year-old brewery is actually a former|
gas station-auto repair garage that is now cranking out
some of the coolest brews in Wellington, New Zealand...
♫ Ding ding ding, we have a winner... Lessee, Stevil said joke, fun and finally, exposure. Two weeks after the Malthouse West Coast IPA Challenge was Wellington's biggest beer festival of the year - the two-day Beervana. By basically entering a cat into a Dog Show, Garage Project got a ton of press about their strange-but-tasty entry just 14 days before Beervana. The same event where Party & Bullshit was officially released to the craft-loving public. Sneaky? Perhaps. Duplicitous? No, that'd be stretching the definition. Clever? Oh hell to the yeah! Give me a proper haircut, get me in a nice suit and throw me in a court of law and I'm sure I could make a strong case for ingenious. And in the end, as Stevil said, it tasted "pretty damn good."
So as Hamlet once famously said, "Floatie bits or not floatie bits?" That is the question." To which I reply, "Why not both, you candy-ass Danish D-Bag?"
|Even Superman couldn't see through this beer. It's|
thick, dirty and opaque... but dammit, it's delicious!!!
Okay, for starters, I should point out that Kansas City is smack-dab in the middle of the good ol' USA, exactly 4,870 miles (7,840 kilometres) away from the Atlantic Ocean. So the east-coast style is something that's clearly transportable across state lines, unlike illegal firearms, some plants, minors and a dead body. But how does it taste? Well, as Garage Project head brewer Pete Gillespie also famously said of their Party & Bullshit, "It's fugly but it's delicious." That would be a damn accurate description for The Calling IPA, as well.
|Let's go from a (Notorious) B.I.G east coast style|
IPA to an even B.I.G.G.E.R west coast style IPA.
Stone Brewing's Ruin Ten Triple IPA. Yeah, it's
a lot cleaner looking but way more deadly. Two
great examples of the same style done differently.
Tons of citrus, orange and grapefruit on the nose, the pine and some solid malt bounced off the tongue. The 8.5%, 75 IBU (international bitterness units) beer may look like a dog's breakfast but it's all filet mignon in the mouth. I gave co-worker Jay-Dawg a couple and he reported back, "It was really tasty but... it nasty (looking)!" In fairness, I did warn him of its visual similarity to raw sewage. This is highly recommended to all hopheads and other people willing to put ugly things in their mouths. (All at once, everyone stares at the Kardashian sisters.)
So let's take a trip to the west coast and have a look at that IPA style for a moment. Stone Brewing out of Escondido, California is an excellent place to start as they brew my favourite, most-easily-accessible American brew, Stone Ruination Double IPA. By easily accessible, I mean simply that they distribute coast-to-coast so a quick trip to Niagara Falls, New York (45 minutes down the road) is all I need. Heady Topper and the equally-elusive Pliny The Elder by Russian River Brewing are only available in their local regions. If you're in the right place. On the right day. At exactly 10:47 am or 2:26 pm. (Times are subject to change at the whims of the Ancient Gods.) Yes, it's that tricky getting those two crown jewels.
|Muskoka Brewing does not filter any of their beers but|
as you can see here, it doesn't look like something that a
yak... well,.. yacked up. Like many craft brewers, they
rely on a centrifuge to separate the solids from the beer
Okay, so back in 2012, Stone decided to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of their beloved-by-all-but-especially-me Ruination Double IPA with a special edition that they dubbed Ruination 10, in which they upped the hops and the alcohol. (That noise you hear is the villagers cheering.) So they threw a full five pounds of hops into each barrel and goosed the ABV from 8.5% to 10.8% before declaring to the hop-starved masses, "Hear ye, hear ye... This now be a Triple IPA!" (More cheering, yadda, yadda, yadda.) The new beer was so popular that they have made it every year since, always releasing it once-a-year in June and now simply calling it Ruin 10 Triple IPA.
Now this beer came to me courtesy of Beer Bro Glenn, who seemingly does these illicit cross-border runs as often as I spark up another smoke. (What? Were you under the illusion I only had one bad habit? Seriously? I can count 12 before I butt out a ciggy and that's with forgetting to include the smoke itself as one. I'd deep-fry smokes if it didn't make them hard to light.)
So that Ruin Ten Triple IPA? How was it? Well, on a scale of one-to-Gal-Gadot-As-Wonder-Woman, this one fought alongside Superman. On the bottle, Stone calls it a "stage dive into a mosh pit of hops." At 10.8%, that's more realistically "a slurry stumble backwards off a stage" but hey, semantics. An absolute bomb-blast of tropical fruit on the nose, the brewery was wise enough to give a rock-solid malt backbone to counter the bitter orange peel on the tongue. A deliciously dangerous beer! When I posted it on Instagram, Polkaroo piped up instantly, "I love this beer! I only bought one and almost headed back over the border for more!" Just wait a bit, Polk. Glenn should be crossing that border in another... *looks at watch*... 10 minutes ago. So, Glenn, thank you! This was outstanding.
But bringing this screaming and yelling back to the filtered vs unfiltered debate, Stevil drank tons of unfiltered beers during his trip to Canada last Summer. That's because many of our craft brewers employ a centrifuge to separate the solids from the beer. It's a form of filtering, to be sure, but it leaves beers just a little hazy rather than funky-chunky. As you may remember from high school Science, a centrifuge spins at a high rate, separating the beer from, well, the bits that make it beer. But I'll let Muskoka Brewing out of Bracebridge, Ontario, explain the advantage and appeal of the centrifuge over traditional filtering, as none of their beers are filtered, not even their Craft Lager.
On their website, Muskoka says, "Unlike filtration which strips out yeast, hops and protein particles, a centrifuge relies on centrifugal force for beer clarification. Since the beer is never passed through a filter, you may notice a slight haze. We feel that more essential hops oils and proteins contribute to an improved hop flavour and mouthfeel."
So the final verdict? There is none. Hung jury. Enjoy the style you like best. As for me? Well, my motto of "Drink all the beers!" seems to work well. But to be honest, more than a few customers at my Beer Store have brought back Muskoka products, thinking they had gone bad due to little particles floating around like glitter on a sorority girl's eye-shadow. So what do I say with these customers? I blind them with Science, baby! Centrifuge Science! By the time they walk back out with their product still in hand, they are convinced they are about to consume the protein shake of craft beers. Not to mention, several customers now think I'm a little more Bill Nye The Science Guy than I actually am. My high school Science marks would attest to the truth. But hey, guys and dolls, that's it, that's all and I am outta here!!! Until next time, I remain, as always...