Monday, January 31, 2011

Battle Royale No. 3: The Glass Jaw Joe Edition

Phillips Hop Circle IPA vs. Alexander Keith's IPA

Round One: Fight!

Last post, some folks thought I was being a little hard on poor ol' Alexander Keith's IPA. Let's be clear: the real Alexander Keith had a beard like a rhododendron bush and looks like he ate lightly boiled babies at breakfast. Comparing his Masonic magnificence to the current Labatt-run accountant-brewing is one way to highlight the insipidity of Keith's "IPA". I've got another.

But hang on: when I twittered about this upcoming battle, the responses from the beer-swilling cognoscenti were universal in their confusion. "Is that even a competition?" one asked. Another compared it to a "viscous (sic) lion taking on a timid mouse." Wasn't this B.R. going to be as one-sided as Mike Tyson fighting a man composed entirely of ears?

Oily felines notwithstanding, we're talking here about a huge, multi-nationally owned brand that sells thousands of hecta-liters of beer and has essentially limitless resources and funding, going up against a beer brewed by a guy who started in the business by maxing out his credit cards and making deliveries in a crap-can Subaru GL. You're damn right it's unfair.

Still, we've got to handicap David so that Goliath doesn't get the bejesus kicked out of him in the first round. As such, I'm tying one hand behind Hop Circle's back by drinking both beers right out of the bottle. I regard myself as against the winification of beer and deplore aping the oneophiles with their snorting and snuffling into their glasses like a pig after a truffle, but beer tastes better when you can smell it while you're tasting it.

I'm also going to attempt to remove Phillip's home court advantage by creating a sort of East Coast ambiance through the use of selected props. Having thought about it for a while, I planned on using a Sou'wester, a cod, a bottle of screech rum, and a Rita McNeil CD.

Unfortunately, by the time I got home today I didn't have the opportunity to get any of those things. Therefore, I reached in the freezer and pulled out a trout I caught myself (which is why it's so pathetically small), created a sou'wester by sticking yellow Post-Its to a baseball hat, and "found" an authentic Rita McNeil CD. For some bizarre reason, we had the Screech already.

All right, down the hatch!

Y'know, it's not terrible. There's an old joke that goes: "Nothing is better than Budweiser. Given the choice, I'd take nothing." That's not the case here. On first taste, the Keith's is almost like a real beer. Now the Hop Circle.

Oh. Oh wow. Okay, so what happened there in my commentary on the Keith's is that I had a problem with my brain being missing. Keith's is not beer. This is beer.

In comparison to the robust (resisted a temporary urge to say "out-of-this-world") flavour of the Hop Circle, Keith's IPA is an IPA the same way that Chinese air-to-air missile footage is real. Real IPAs are exploding with hops. Keith's has less hops than a squashed grasshopper. Less hops than a kangaroo with polio.

Less hops than a white basketball player.

Round Two: Fight?

What's the point?

Look at this man here:
This be-joweled chap is an East India Company Officer: the fat bastards that IPAs were originally brewed for. Does he look like he'd be satisfied with a watery yellow imitation? No, he Does Not. Try sending these guys Keith's IPA in the 1800s, and their reaction would make the slaughter of the Sepoy Mutiny look like high tea at the Empress.

On the other hand, if you Fedexed them a coupla six-packs of Hop Circle, I think we could all breathe easy. Just like the historical IPAs, Phillips has created something packing a far more intense experience than your everyday beer. If you think the six-packs are good, just try growling it sometime!


Anybody want a Keith's 5-and-a-half-pack?

Post-Battle Review

No surprises here, but Keith's IPA got hammered like a myopic carpenter's thumb. What a bloodbath: even with the extras it wasn't close.

Just so you know, I bought both sixers at Liquor Plus between Douglas and Blanshard: and the Hop Circle cost me all of fifty cents more. For my small investment, I got a real beer, and let me just say that the beauty of living in Canada, with all its back-asswards semi-repealed prohibition nonsense, is that you can buy a craft beer, brewed by people who are striving to produce the very best thing they can, and it's going to cost you pennies more than the heartless, soulless, greedy, conniving, cut-throat, incompetently-produced corporate swill.

Phillips Hop Circle IPA
Recommended if:
-you like a hoppy west-coast IPA (who doesn't?)
-you're going to see this movie
-you want something one step lighter than Red Racer's IPA

Not Recommended if:
-you've been probed
-you don't like hoppy beers
-you own a REAL sou'wester

Alexander Keith's IPA
Recommended if:
-there's a fire and you need to pour something on it
-that's pretty much it

Not recommended if:
-you own a working tastebud
-you understand that IPA doesn't mean International Police Association
-Zima is also available


  1. You owe Rita MacNeil $9.95. She'll also accept a dime bag of B.C. bud in lieu of cash.

  2. The Keith's IPA is about as east coast as Kokanee (Labatt started brewing Keith's at their Creston Brewery about 3 months ago).

    Also there was a great article about how the Keith's IPA recipe has changed over the years. Going from a bonafide IPA to just another macro-brewed lager (sorry can't find the article)

    Loved the handicap!