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Wednesday, December 12th 2012

Toke Some Malt & Burn That Bush:
A Tale of Two Smoked IPAs

Who would have thought that the mighty, mighty IPA was so versatile? Lining the shelves at the local beer store these days are English IPAs, American IPAs, Belgian IPAs, White IPAs, Black IPAs, Session IPAs, Imperial IPAs, Triple IPAs, and even Coffee IPAs. So where can we go from here with one of America's favorite craft beer styles? How about a Smoked IPA? Hey, why not? Recently two versions of this new, and yet to be recognized, style caught our attention here at CraftCans.Com and yep, they're both in cans.

The first was Golden Road's Burning Bush Smoked IPA, this was the brewery's second offering in their "Custom IPA" series - and previously brewed for the brewery's opening celebration last year. The first thing that strikes you is the imagery on the can, its a picture of the 2007 Griffith Park wildfires and is one of the more vivid can designs we've seen to date. This is the brewery's fall seasonal and fall is wildfire season is southern California. 

According to their website:

"Brewmaster Jon Carpenter had a vision so absurd in scope that it took his brew team tasting the finished Burning Bush to believe that his revelation was divine. The first known Rauch IPA to our knowledge, Burning Bush uses the smoked malt characterized by a traditional German style Rauchbier with the hops of a west coast IPA. This deep copper colored ale has a light smoky aroma that sits atop a generous floral and piney hopping. At 8%, it’s difficult to taste the alcohol in this smooth-drinking IPA. With its wispy smoke character, Burning Bush is also an incredible complement to grilled foods."

The description they give of Burning Bush is pretty much spot on. Not only was the alcohol buried deeply in the complexity of this very smooth and very balanced beer, but the smokiness and the hoppiness were both very present with neither being overpowering. Big citrus and piney flavors are present, it is afterall clocking in at 70 IBUs, and yet so was a very good amount of woodsy smokiness. I've got to admit that this one was one the first true "holy sh*t" beer experiences I've had in a while. The flavor combination here was so unique and after drinking so many beers that fit into defined categories I think my taste buds were pretty shaken up with excitement. This is definitely a beer that I'm going to miss now that my last can has been thoroughly emptied and enjoyed. 

The second Smoked IPA that has come around recently was the aptly named oSKAr the G'Rauch. This was a "CANlaboration" brew that paired Oskar Blues and Ska Brewing together. The two Colorado breweries have become synonymous with canned craft beer over the years and oSKAr the G'Rauch is the product of a joint celebration of ten years of canning. What a name and what a beer! You've also got to love the label they put together that is equal parts Ska and equal parts Oskar Blues - right down to the skull-faced monkey riding a bike and the stars and the black and white Ska checkered background. Oh yeah, before I forget, they also released this beer at the brewery in both 16 oz. and their new 19.2 oz. "royal pint" cans.

From the folks at Oskar Blues:

"What did oSKAr the G’Rauch say to the face? Slap! Aromas of freshly-peeled orange and apricots with a touch of……..smoke? Juicy citrus and fruit flavors dominate but don’t overpower the slightly sweet malt structure. Finish is all citrus rind ping-ponging with some smoky phenols. 8.5% ABV. MANY IBU."

The first thing that caught my attention, after staring at the label art on this one, was the use of El Dorado hops. This is a rather new hop, having just been released in the fall of 2010. As far as hop profiles go, its used as both an aroma and bittering hop and packs some big fruit flavors that might differ a bit from the usual citrus. Think pears, mangos, pineapples, and even watermelon. Now combine a ton of that with some super mellow and delicious smoked malt.

The liquid inside this can is, much like Burning Bush, altogether unique, fun, exciting, and different...and it works surprisingly well. Along with the very well defined smokiness, oSKAr the G'Rauch had a juicy sweet malt background, and a palate tingling and tongue numbing hoppiness too it. This is a bigger beer with some very big flavors, but they all play together nicely. No bullying in this brew. Cheers to both Oskar Blues and Ska Brewing on ten years of canning their beers!

Perhaps these two breweries are on to something. Are Smoked IPAs going to catch on with other breweries throughout the country? Perhaps. Who really knows how the craft brewing world will respond. Most breweries are constantly looking for the next big thing, whether they're coming up with it themselves or trying a style with which another brewery has had success. Regardless of what happens, its always great to see breweries doing new things - and even better when those new things also taste great. Cheers!

Posted by Russ

Labels: Smoked IPAs