Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sunday Suds: Sly Fox Route 113 India Pale Ale

With the occasional exception made for limited edition pours or situational necessity, most of my beer exploration and consumption this summer has centered on the broad category know as session beer. Beer writer Lew Bryson and the rest of the crew over at The Session Beer Project™ loosely define the genre to include any beer, in any style, clocking at 4.5% alcohol or lower. I tend to be even more generous, sliding my own scale up to 5%, not because I feel it gets me better beer, just because it offers more in the way of off-premise options while still keeping things on the drinkable — by which I mean more than one can/bottle/pint — end of the spectrum.

That means that all summer long I've been enjoying kolsch, pilsner, sour ale and pale ale, categories that by and large still often make the session beer cut. With the weather turning abruptly autumnal in the last week, though, my hankerings have wandered to the more assertive realm of India Pale Ale, or IPA for short, a stronger, hoppier breed of pale ale originally developed as a means to help beer survive the arduous sea voyage from England to India, where ale was considered a necessity of life by the British colonialists of the 18th and 19th Centuries.

In more modern times, and particularly in the last decade or so, it's IPA that has most widely captured the imagination and experimental spirit of craft brewers in the US, leading to a veritable explosion of heavily hopped ales. It's a style that's particularly popular on the left and right coasts, and one that's been very successful for many of the Philadelphia area's local breweries. Here's one of my current favorites:

Sly Fox Brewing Company "Route 113" India Pale Ale
16.4 OG, 113 IBUs, 7% ABV.
Orange-hued amber, bordering on opaque, with a rich, creamy though modestly proportioned head. For those that care about such things, it laces up the glass quite nicely, too.

Pretty classic IPA aromas, albeit bordering toward the rich end of the spectrum: peach preserves, goldenrod, moist ganja bud, and spiced orange peel. The beer's creamy appearance is echoed in its texture — clean, dense and bready.

Though it's hardly shy, it pulls off its 7% ABV in fine style, with balance, drinkability and depth of flavor. It gets there without relying on the overt sweetness that's often used to counter the natural bitterness coming from high hop levels and without falling into the soapy/weedy trap that the IPA category can present. The fact that head brewer Brian O'Reilly and the rest of the team at Sly Fox are now offering "113" in 12 oz. cans rather than just in 22 oz. bottles is an added bonus. Session beer it's not, but at least one can manage two without being pushed over the top.


Tim said...

Love this beer! So glad they started canning it. Perfect with spicy food.

David McDuff said...

Hey Tim,
Thanks for stopping by. Haven't tried Rte. 113 with spicy stuff yet but have found that IPAs tend to work splendidly, with Thai food in particular. In the wine world, there are few things aside from low alcohol, lightly sweet Riesling that can come close to being as good a match.

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