Just kidding. The creative, experimental nature of Good People's activities these days should make Birmingham citizens proud. They are keeping curious palates satisfied with a steady supply of world-class beers, and that's a trait common to many of the most sought after breweries in the world.
The (limited edition) Brewer's Reserve IPA is an excellent illustration of why IPA is my favorite style of beer. If you know anything about the GPBC portfolio, you may be wondering why they have released a special edition "Brewer's Reserve" IPA when they already have an IPA in their year-round lineup.
The answer is that this new one is a completely different beer, in spite of being the same style. I recently ordered one of each and tasted them side by side at The J. Clyde, probably the only place in town that has both on tap simultaneously.
To offer some context, the year-round GPBC IPA features Willamette as the dominate hop, which is an American-grown version of English Fuggles. In other words, the standard IPA is defined by a hop that has predominantly English characteristics. English hops tend to be floral, earthy and herbal. The Brewer's Reserve IPA is dominated by three distinctly American hops: Columbus, Amarillo and Simcoe. American hops tend to be piney, citrusy and sometimes spicy.
The two IPAs live up to their hops' lineage. The standard IPA is quite floral and earthy. Although it has plenty of bitterness from the hops, it finishes a bit sweet. It has the best characteristics of an English IPA, but without the boring timidity. It's as intense as many American IPAs, yet it has a very unique flavor profile (with just a touch of American citrus).
The Brewer's Reserve IPA is stronger (7.5 percent ABV rather than 6 percent), and it finishes dry instead of sweet. It has a classic American IPA flavor profile: full of citrus intensity, including grapefruit, orange and pineapple.
I've heard more than one friend express a wish that the Brewer's Reserve would replace the standard IPA in the GPBC lineup. With all due respect to these distinguished beer geeks, I think that sentiment is very misguided. While the Brewer's Reserve is a fantastic IPA, the difference between it and several other excellent American IPAs is one of degree, not of kind. In contrast, the difference between the year-round GPBC IPA and most other American IPAs is quite large. The hop profiles are very different.
To sum up, the Brewer's Reserve IPA is a wonderful beer which you should absolutely go seek out at the usual places around Birmingham that have exceptional beer selections. But don't forget about the "non-reserve" IPA that deserves a second look.
Hopped Up is a weekly brew review by Danner Kline, founder of Free the Hops and co-organizer of the annual Magic City Brewfest. Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org