I Love IPA, And I Know Why

HopsOne of the ironies of living in India for six years, as a devotee of IPA, is that IPA is not to be found in India. So, I have it only when I travel, and mostly in the USA where the craft of brewing in small batches has grown radically in recent years.

The book to the right is a tiny drop in a big bucket of evidence of how the craft of brewing has reached far and wide, and it came to my attention when I visited a website associated with its authors:

IPAWhich came to my attention in this post by Russell Shorto, which must be read in its entirety (it takes only a few minutes) if you care about IPA, hops, ethnobotany or just excellent non-fiction writing, and includes these two paragraphs:

…while an emphasis on hops has likewise boosted the business of small-scale brewers, I.P.A. aficionados are known to be among the most fickle of beer consumers, flitting from one label to another in their endless search for new flavor elements. That puts pressure on brewers to come up with new beers, which, in turn, leads to a hunt for new hops varieties.

Enter Paul Matthews, who is to hops what John James Audubon was to birds. He has been involved in the search for wild hops strains from Colorado to the Caspian Sea; from these he teases out flavor components. Spicy, floral, grassy, citrus, herbal, evergreen: the horizon keeps expanding, and still the crowd wants more…

Ha! Top that. Actually, he does. Keep reading it.

I love IPA partly for the reasons cited in that post, but mostly for another reason. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, my go-to favorite of this variety, became my favorite at a very decisive moment in my life. My doctoral work at Cornell was nearly complete. Seth and Milo were in their third and first years of life, respectively.

paleale_0It was summer, 1995 and I had a Ph.D.-mate at Cornell who was a master-brewer and she brought a keg of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale to a party Amie and I hosted; we knew we would be moving to Costa Rica. It was the tail end of one life, and just prior to starting a new one (this one). And it was full of anticipation, the good kind.

I do not remember the details of that party but ever since I have associated Sierra Nevada Pale Ale with that sense of positive anticipation, which must be related somehow to what is called taste memory.

And I have had a stirring recently, of that sense of anticipation, even though I have not had access to IPA, Sierra Nevada or otherwise. Some of it comes from here, and from here and here. Another hint of why could be found here:


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