26 February 2014

KOTBR #154 - The Hoosier Beer Geek Indiana IPA Blind Tasting Challenge

Mike writes:  Bias is a funny thing. Over the course of our seven-plus-year history, we have gotten to know and love a beer or two. But we've also formed pretty strong opinions on what we don't like -- breweries whose marketing turned us off, preconceived notions of who has earned their place in the brewing landscape, breweries who we've known and forgotten, or even the occasional beer that ruined a whole lineup for us.

While these opinions are unavoidable--no one drinks in a bubble--they're not exactly fair. With that in mind, we devised a plan to limit bias, to reopen doors, and to encourage you, dear readers, to do the same:  a blind tasting of every readily-produced and packaged Indiana IPA.

Jim writes:  None of these beers were provided on draft. Rather, we wanted to blind taste only beers that are readily available. Therefore, we tried only Indiana IPAs that are currently available in bottles or cans.

We blind tasted the beers in the following order:

Beer 1: People's Mound Builder
Beer 2: Cutters Half Court
Beer 3: Daredevil Lift Off
Beer 4: Mad Anthony IPA
Beer 5: Flat12 Half Cycle
Beer 6: Barley Island Barfly
Beer 7: Upland Dragonfly
Beer 8: Triton Railsplitter
Beer 9: Sun King Fistful of Hops (Blue Can Version)
Beer 10: Figure 8 Where Lizards Dare
Beer 11: Quaff ON! Hare Trigger
Beer 12: Fountain Square Soul Ride

So what was the verdict?

Out of the 12, two beers stood out for us. Six of us picked *Beer 4: Mad Anthony IPA* as our favorite, and two picked *Beer 1: People's Mound Builder*.

What did we like about these two beers? The common theme was balance; neither beer was skewed toward the hops end or the malt end of the spectrum. Rather, both landed pleasantly in the middle.

Our tasting notes (admittedly brief; this is what happens when you taste 12 beers) provide insight into our thinking--

Mad Anthony IPA

Jim: "A great meld of pine, floral, and citrus. Perfectly malty--not too sweet. Well balanced all around. A winner."
Mike: "Fruity and rounded."
Megan: "Solid. Balanced."

People's Mound Builder:

Jim:  "Floral. Bubble gum. Nose is nice. Malty. Faintly sweet. Balanced. Pretty damn good."
Rod: "Smells caramelly, sweet, grapefruit."
Jason: "Sweet nose, sweet taste, some pine."

Some of us also decided to have a second go around with each beer, but with a twist:  we were handed each beer without knowing which number was assigned to it to see if we could match it with the beer we had tasted in the first round. This was challenging; most of us weren't able to match more than a few beers. If memory serves me correctly, Rod and Jake were the winners in the matching department with 7 matched out of the 12.

Jason writes:  When told of this beer-review-turned-memory-game, I knew I would suck at it. My short term memory sucks, my beer judging skills are not all that great, and my short term memory sucks. So my inability to pick out a beer from one blind tasting to the next was not a shock. What was shocking was the one dimensionality of the IPA's we tasted. This isn't a dig at Indiana breweries, but at the American preference in beers.

I enjoy hoppy beers, but they need to have a partner. Without a malt backup, the beer is...well, uninteresting. One beer that had a nice balance was People's Mound Builder. It had sweetness. It had a malt base. And it had plenty of hops without being an all-out bitter assault on the tongue. Mad Anthony IPA was another beer that seemed particularly well balanced.

I think these beers are a bit more connected to the true style of an IPA versus the Americanized version. And while I may have gone for the others a couple of years ago, my preferences have changed and I want something more from my beer. With that in mind, I offer up this elegy in the style of Walt Whitman.

O Brewer! My Brewer! This bottle of beer is done,

The IPA is now a wreck, one dimension is no fun,

No malt is near, just hops in beer, no depth the brew is sharing.

While weary buds are feeling mugged, the bitter bombs uncaring;

But O beer! beer! beer! Once a spicy glass of bread,

Where on the tongue the style lies, fallen old and dead.

A special thanks goes out to Ben and the rest of the folks at the Tomlinson Tap Room for hosting us. Ben was instrumental in helping us acquire the beer for the tasting.


  1. I think I tied Jake at 7 of 12.

    Many may assume that palate fatigue would cause an issue for the later contenders, but even after tasting all 12, I think our most/least favorites were the easiest to identify when doing it blind.

  2. I wonder whether proper glassware might have altered the results. Tasting in Solo cups was convenient but not optimal.