Sunday, January 16, 2011

IPA Tasting Night

I was fortunate enough to be invited to one of the famous IPA tasting nights at the Sutherland's in the heart of Oak Bay, and it more than lived up to its reputation. Our task for the night would involve sampling and rating a total of 19 beers including a few from Basement Breweries. The beers to be judged were mostly IPAs with the odd stout, lager, and berry beer thrown in to keep us on our toes. The tasting was conducted blind, without any knowledge of the beer in question. This added an intriguing element.
With no knowledge of what beer was being sampled, apart from my own taste buds, would my proud beer opinions hold true? Would I proclaim Budweiser superb? Would I declare Sartori utter swill? I entered the tasting with a hint of trepidation.

The Sutherland home is a beautiful old house, deep in quaint Oak Bay, but I dispensed with a tour and headed straight to the basement where the action was. John's basement is truly a thing of beauty. Its low ceilings, awesomely over-the-top sound system, giant widescreen, and general tribute to all things beer make it the kind of place I want to hang out. There is a fridge-sized freezer, primarily dedicated to holding obscene amounts of salmon from fishing trips to the Queen Charlottes, but also good for chilling beers on the fly. There are two beer fridges, one for bottles, and one for kegs. John has been getting kegs from Phillips and Driftwood since both breweries opened, and neither charge him for deposits any more. However, before I was able to fully appreciate the grandeur of the surroundings, the tasting began.

We were given a small tasting glass with no knowledge of the beer in question, and asked to rate it out of ten. We started slow and some decent beers received some early low scores, but we soon hit our stride and managed our way through all 19, many with heavy abv %, and were still sober enough to tally the results at the end. Overall, I was happy with the scores I gave. Most of my favourite IPAs that were in the mix I rated high, and I was able to pick out the lager when John threw in an Alexander Keith's to see if we were paying attention. (For the record it ranked dead last) I was also pleased to see that two of my beers, the Frontiersman and the Half Pounder', took 4th and 2nd, respectively. Below are listed the top ten beers as voted on by the 8 of us with my score thrown in as well:

9th place (Tie)
Driftwood Fat Tug IPA                                    Average Score: 7.6
(Victoria, BC)                                                 My Score: 6

Duchy Old Ruby Ale                                       Average Score: 7.6
(Wychwood, Oxfordshire, England)                My Score: 6.5

8th place
Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA                   Average Score: 7.7
(Chico, California)                                           My Score: 7.5

7th place
Phillips 9 Donkeys of the Hopocalypse IPA      Average Score: 7.9
(Victoria, BC)                                                   My Score: 7.5

5th place (tie)
Ninkasi Total Domination IPA                          Average Score: 7.95
 (Eugene, Oregon)                                            My Score: 7.5

Phillips Trainwreck Barleywine                          Average Score: 7.95
(Victoria, BC)                                                   My Score: 8

4th place
Basement Breweries Frontiersman Pale Ale       Average Score: 8
(Victoria, BC)                                                       My Score: 8.5

3rd place
Port Brewing Wipeout IPA                                 Average Score: 8.1
(San Diego, California)                                       My Score: 8.5

2nd place
Basement Breweries Half Pounder' Double IPA   Average Score: 8.15
(Victoria, BC)                                                         My Score: 9

1st place
Hale's Mongoose IPA                                         Average Score: 8.2
(Seattle, Washington)                                          My Score: 7


  1. That Half Pounder' DIPA sounds tasty! Great combo of hops!

  2. Ya it came out really well, I thought at first I might have gone too heavy on the bittering hops (Those Zeus hops are bitter bombs) but it actually is nicely balanced. The Amarillo and Simcoe compliment each other great too, they're becoming my new favourite hop combo. I just made this beer but its running low already, guess its time for another batch!

  3. I found the same thing on my Double IPA. Thought it would be way too bitter. I think with so much Malt you really have to up the bittering hops. Tough to tell on an IBU calculator how far to go with it. Experience and experimentation is the only way to really know. Cheers!