These days I believe we are finally reaching a saturation point in the market for West Coast/Cascadian IPA’s. The inundation in recent years of quadruple hopped, extra hop with hop juice added IPA’s is hopefully going to slow down, as I for one rarely go out of my way to try any new IPA’s. There are a number of excellent IPA’s that I enjoy and return to from time to time, such as Red Racer, Fat Tug, Nasty Habits and Switchback, but when I try a brewery’s fourth different IPA I begin to wonder why I keep drinking all these good beers that don’t stand out in the crowd instead of only drinking the excellent ones. English IPA’s however are another matter, being generally lower on the IBU scale with other flavours concealed within the brew. I happen to be a big fan of Samuel Smith’s India Ale for example, and would recommend it over nearly any local IPA, despite being far less bitter. Of course I am aware that different occasions call for different styles, and that sometimes the grapefruit and pine needle flavours of a Red Racer are going to be far more enjoyed than an English IPA. However for those who find most West Coast IPA’s too bitter, I would recommend an English IPA. Or in this case, an Albertan IPA, from Big Rock.
Ever since I returned from Belgium, we have periodically hosted Belgian beer drinking events at our home, each one known as a Stamhuis. I came up with the name by taking the Belgian term “Stamcafe,” which is a way of referring to one’s local pub, and then replacing “cafe” with “huis,” the Dutch word for house. We originally hosted several “tasting Stamhuizen” with friends who were interested in expanding their knowledge of Belgian beer. A typical tasting session involves 4 people each trying 1/4 of 8 different Belgian beers from 7 or 8 different styles. After several of these tasting events, we were able to invite people over for a”drinking Stamhuis,” where instead of having people taste specific beers, we would simply hang out and drink any Belgian beer we felt like. At every Stamhuis we use my extensive collection of glasses, serving trays, coasters etc. to create a temporary Belgian beer cafe inside the house. Stamhuis 20 was a combination of a tasting and a drinking event, with several certified tasters and 4 new recruits in attendance. Other than a bottle of Westvleteren 12 being shared between 10 people (silly I know!) the highlight of the night for me was trying the Fantôme Saison for the first time!