A few weeks ago we cobbled together a piece for the i-Paper on our choices of the 10 best IPAs money can buy (provided that money could be spent online in the UK). If there’s one topic that’s sure to cause an argument among beer geeks these days (other than the old rage-inducing classic “should real ale have a head or not?’) it’s a debate on what is the best IPA around. So we were naturally keen to see how our choices would be received.
To narrow the vast field we decided to focus on the current vogue of IPAs influenced by the Tropical-American-Hop ales, and ruled out style-twisting offshoots such as session IPAs, double IPAs and dark IPAs. The field was still vast. First to go in were a few of our favourites that we’ve already blogged about – Magic Rock Cannonball, Thornbridge Jaipur and Lagunitas IPA – and a few other favourites we’ve yet to feature. I also got round to trying out one of Rich’s top picks, Buxton Axe Edge, after giving him my previous bottle.
To complete the list we gathered a load more globally popular IPAs and gave them a trial-by-tastebud until our final ten was nailed down.
Inevitably we wobbled over a few choices and feel harsh about some of the great beers that narrowly missed out (Bristol Beer Factory’s Southville Hop was the closest to nudging its way into the reckoning). And, of course, there are hundreds of amazing IPAs that we simply never got round to trying. But we were pretty pleased with our final ten.
And so, it seems, were the beer geeks. With any subjectively produced list, people grumbled about their favourite not being included or questioned the wisdom over some of our choices but generally the feedback was positive with people keen to try the entries that they had yet to taste.
For this week’s BOTW we thought it would be a good exercise to track through those grumbles and suggestions and figure out what the i-Paper’s readers thought was the best IPA we failed to include. After much social media comment searching and number crunching the beer that emerged as the ‘missing brew’ was one I already knew but rejected, Kona’s Castaway. So I got myself a fresh bottle and knocked it back.
The Kona Brewing Company is based in Hawaii and the bottle label announces the beer as a tribute to “brave island explorers” crossing the channel between Oahu and Molokai. For lazy journalists, descriptions of Hawaiian beer lend themselves to oceanic analogies and, as I can be as lazy as anyone, here’s mine.
It’s a smooth ride at first, with citrus fruit aromas and flavours drifting in on a tropical breeze but be warned: you’re soon going to be engulfed by a huge wave of crashing bitterness.
I found it a simple beer (in a good way) and I’m very much a fan of the beer-of-two-halves style: juicy fruit followed by herby bitterness. A lot of the IPAs on our list are to be taken at a steady pace; this one, despite a fair 6% alcohol content, is one I want to glug more rapidly. It’s a great choice for hot summer days and it would’ve been most welcome in our top 10. But there are many, many more IPAs that would’ve been welcome in our top 10 so we won’t be changing our mind. If you’ve worked your way through our list already and are looking for another then we’ll cast our vote to Kona.
My bottle of Kona Castaway came from Beer Merchants
Brewery: Kona Brewing Co, Hawaii
Beer name: Castaway