Everyone brews an IPA. When most brewers first start out, an IPA is one of the first two or three beers they sell. It's a popular style of beer, one that sells well even when it isn't perfect. Lots of hop flavor can hide minor flaws.
So it's not surprising that the Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project, which produces a line of nearly flawless beers, waited so long to brew their first IPA. Why make an IPA when you can make great beer in less traditional styles? When Dann and Martha Paquette started the brewery in December of 2008, they debuted with Jack D'or, a saison. A Belgian quad called Baby Tree followed. Pretty Things brews some remarkable seasonal beers, as well as beers from historical recipes. The Lovely Saint Winefride, a European style dark lager, is my personal favorite. All of the brewery's beers are quirky, balanced, and anything but standard.
That introduction is a long way of saying I had high hopes for Meadowlark IPA, the brewery's first, which debuted on June 28. The last thing I wanted was a typical IPA. Meadowlark is anything but.
The beer pours a light copper color in some light; in others it's mostly golden. Some head gathers around the edge of the glass as Citra, Bravo, and Galaxy hops combine to make a floral nose. A whiff produces mangoes, grapefruit, and other tropical notes.
Take a sip, and you realize it's not a typical IPA. The hops are there, but the sweet, fruity flavors only delicately so; mostly you get bitter. There's malt in here, but the beer isn't sweet. Most IPAs with a big hop profile try to balance the bitterness of the hops with sweetness. Meadowlark balances the hops with clean. You get the hop flavor, but it doesn't linger, and the beer finishes dry. That dryness has become something of a Pretty Things trademark, and the balance of the beer is very welcome. This is a beer I can happily drink.
At 7 percent ABV and with 60 IBUs (international bitterness units), Meadowlark is an IPA that's not going to blow away those of you seeking hop extremes. It could be your go-to IPA if it were available year-round. Martha Paquette reports that Dann is brewing another batch of the beer as I write this.
"Dann is throwing [hops] into the boil right now with the air of someone with nothing to lose," says Paquette.
They're planning another release of the beer in August, and after that they might not release more until the Spring, when more hops should be available. The beer is on store shelves now.