Sunday, April 17, 2011

New, But Any Damn Good? Granville Island Brewing Imperial IPA

The word "Imperial" gets tossed around a lot in beer circles these days. Imperial IPAs (okay), Imperial Bocks (fine), Imperial Oktoberfests (yes...), Imperial Pilsners (now hang on a sec-) and Imperial Hefeweizens (say what?) are all styles that have just sort of popped up over the last little while. The original "Imperial" designation, as all we pedantic beer-types know, was originally reserved to describe
stout porters brewed at high alcohol concentrations in 18th century Britain and shipped to the Russian Imperial court.

Nowadays, "Imperial" just means a stronger version of a style of beer that wasn't as strong before. Personally, I blame the communists.

As such, when @jantweats implies that an Imperial India Pale Ale is an "imperialization of an imperialization," he's not quite correct. Yes, you could point out that IPA was created to be shipped to India, and probably wouldn't exist if not for British Imperialism, but in the truest, stuffiest, hair-splittin'-est way, he's wrong. I know he's got a fancy, big-city newspaper column and what-not and I'm just a drunkard with a laptop, but this is the internet, chums, and guess who's got two thumbs, an opinion and no pants on.

This guy right here.
Anyway, just sticking "Imperial" in front of something doesn't necessarily make it better. For example, if you take a regular, battle-hardened Stormtrooper with nerves of steel, intensive weapons training and killer instincts and then go and make them an Imperial Storm trooper, they will be unable to hit a eight-foot tall Kokanee Sasquatch with fully automatic blaster fire, and then get shot in the face by a lady with two cinnabons taped to her head.

What's more, brewing an Imperial IPA is not like suddenly coming out with an Imperial version of, say, an ESB, for which there're not a lot of yardsticks out there against which you might be measured. Bring out an Imperial IPA and you'd best be ready to bear comparison against almost every other brewery out there. So, Granville Island Brewing, do you have what it takes?

Yes. Damn it! I'm not very good at this suspense thing. But, quite frankly, this is a very good beer, probably even nicer than I was expecting.
GIB is, like Vancouver Island Brewing and others, a bit more conservative in its styles than some of the young breweries out there. There's a wide base of appeal for its microbrew and they maintain said customer base by producing beers that are consistent, and delicious, but by no means challenging. I mean, I like Brockton IPA, but it's not really a beer that I would seek out. I'd choose it over, for instance, Beacon IPA if given the choice, but if Red Racer, Fat Tug or Hop Circle are available, then guess what I'm ordering.

So I wasn't expecting a challenger to Southern Tier's Un*Earthly Imperial IPA, and I didn't get one. What I did get was a smooth, very balanced beer with big citrus tones and caramel malts. Just lovely. There's apparently 100 IBUs here, but don't let that scare you, oh knock-knee'd lager-lout, this is such a well-crafted brew, you don't need to be anything like a hop-head to appreciate it. It's a single-varietal (all chinook) and that seems to have eliminated the "bag o' grass clippings" chewiness you get from some of the Yankee IIPAs. I give it four and a half out of five moons. Wait, that's no moon!
Granville Island Imperial India Pale Ale:
Recommended if:
-You're looking for a great beer. Simple as that.
-You favour balance over outright intensity.
-You've got a case of Brockton in your hand and you're staring at the 650ml section.

Not Recommended if:
-You're a little short for a Stormtrooper.
-You're not an IPA fan.
-You use your lawnmower to make salad.

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