Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

India Pale Ale

Summit Brewing Company
St. Paul, MN

Style: India Pale Ale (IPA)
ABV: 5.8%

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Drinkable, but flawed)

Greetings fellow Beer Dorks, it's your good mate Nigel here again to offer you some wholesome family entertainment. That's right, I'm gonna review another beer, with plenty of casual cursing and sexual innuendo mixed in. After all, by now we know Nigel is unable to write a simple beer review without ranting and raving about a number of useless topics, making for a painfully long read that causes most of you to hit the back button before actually getting to the review portion. I guess we all need to be known for something.

On a serious note, Nigel was prepared to write a scathing review for Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy this past Tuesday, but certain national events made it a little difficult to be silly. As a recent college graduate and as someone who has very close friends who are still in school, the events at Virginia Tech hit close to home, and were very difficult for Nigel to stomach (a sentiment likely shared by most everyone out there). While this is not the time or place to share my thoughts on such an event, I must say Nigel's English and American hearts (that's right, I have two) go out to Hokie Nation. However, life must go on, and for us Beer Dorks, nothing aids the healing process more than a fine craft brew. Given the circumstances, I will save my Summer Shitty review for a later, happier date. I will instead review Summit's attempt at an IPA, which is, well... different.

Let me begin with a confession that is very hard for my royal English blood to make: in the world of IPA's the American version FAR, FAR outweighs the English version. While I could quickly turn this into a joke by saying that it's only because most Americans far outweigh every other nationality in the world, I will refrain. Honestly, American IPA's have become the standard bearers for what any IPA should taste like: not too heavy, nice and bitter, and very balls-to-the-wall. The English version is weak in comparison, but that's probably only because the American government has brainwashed the British government into following them blindly as they fight their various "Wars on Something" (screw you, Tony W. Blair). But I digress. English IPA's tend to be darker in color, with a granier flavor than the American version. Typically lower in alcohol and much less bitter, the English version is nonetheless flavorful, and still packs many of the qualities that make an IPA so unique, though in smaller doses. Honestly, given the quality of American IPA's, Nigel doesn't understand why any American craft brewer would choose to brew an English version over an American version, unless they are attempting both.

Summit has done the inexplicable, however, as their IPA is an English version, and they offer no American counterpart. This St. Paul brewer has found a niche in the upper Midwest with its signature brew, Extra Pale Ale, which is spreading through the region much like Sierra Nevada's Pale Ale is through much of the country. Summit Extra Pale is pretty good, but not great (not as good as Sierra Nevada), and is actually hoppier than their IPA. While it's unusual to market an English IPA, I would give Summit credit for trying something different if it wasn't for this one minor detail: this tastes nothing like an IPA- English or American. This is, in Nigel's opinion, a full-fledged American Red/Amber Ale/Altbier. Yes, English IPA's are heavier on the malt and less citrusy than American versions, but please. This is a Red Ale, no question about it- a sorry excuse for an IPA, be it English or American.

The beer pours very dark for the style; a deep amber color that is darker than even a Oktoberfest/Marzen or Maibock. It has decent carbonation on the pour that quickly dissipates as any IPA should, leaving a slight white trace- however, it still does not look at all like an IPA in the glass. The aroma is mild overall. The hops in this brew are more aromatic than flavorful, as the smell would seem to indicate a beer that is well balanced between hops and dark malt. Aromas can be deceiving, however, as the taste is almost entirely malt. A dark roasted malt flavor that lacks the sugary balance that many good malty brews have, giving it a very earthy flavor (perhaps a good seasonal Earth Day brew). Hello, hops?? I've often heard about brews that have a "bready" taste, and I always thought that was a pretty lame description. I no longer think that, as bready is the perfect way to describe the flavor of Summit IPA. The dark malt dominates at first, but the overall flavor is very grainy, with a yeasty flavor that is FAR too noticeable. Hello, hops??? Being a somewhat intelligent individual, Nigel knows that grain and yeast are important ingredients in both beer and bread. However, a good beer should NEVER remind one of bread, and this one does. How sad. Far too heavy for an IPA, Summit goes down ok, but leaves a horrible aftertaste that seems to linger forever. Hello, hops???? Honestly, judging this blindly, it's an ok beer (at best), but only in the Amber/Red category. As an English IPA, it's pretty bad, and it's a complete joke when compared to an American IPA, and honestly, where the f--- are the hops??? Any Hopheads out there who should stumble across Summit IPA at a local pub or retailer should run the other way, as this is a disgrace to the fine name "India Pale Ale". For any Beer Dorks out there who like liquified bread, give it a shot, and hey- add a little peanut butter and jelly to spice it up. I'm now going on a search for the hops that Summit forgot to put in my IPA, so wish me luck.


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on April 20, 2007.
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