Sitting here, drinking a bottle of Red Racer Imperial IPA brings back many memories and feelings, not because of the higher alcohol content mind you, but because Marc (the UK half of the TA Brews team) and I used to sit at Central City Brewpub in Surrey, BC after a long days work and go through a few drinks, with IPAs being the main course, and unwind. What better way than with a mate and a pint? Clearly, we can’t be the only ones who have fond memories at this pub or their beer (which was brewed on-site at the time) as they’ve recently expanded to encompass a new, larger brewing facility in Surrey and restaurant in Vancouver, BC.
Central City Brewers & Distillers, as they’re now known was started in 2003 and has become immensely popular throughout North America, especially on the west coast. They make a range of drinks including cider, barley wine, gin, and many, many styles of beer.
What may be as or more interesting than the range of drinks the brewery has, they also host biannual brewmasters dinners where they feature several other brewmaster’s creations and pair them with a several course meal. It’s like having a small beer festival every 6 months and getting a chance to meet some beer enthusiasts and brewers.
How the IPA Came to be
In the late 18th century, there was a rather large business in exporting beer to India of which there were only a few breweries who dominated this. Among them, Bow Brewery October beer was preferred and dominated most of the trade.
Around the same time, the Tsar of Russia banned all alcohol imports, causing many brewers who relied on those exports to scramble and find a new trading partner. Some turned toward India and one in particular, Allsop Brewery, created a beer very similar to Bow’s October beer, a highly hopped pale ale, which pushed out Bow as the dominant exporter to India.
The reason these highly hopped pale ales were preferred choices was the preservative effect of hop oils. This, in-turn, allowed beer to survive long, rough voyages across the seas and ended up being shipped to California, in addition to India.
Now that we have a brief history of the IPA, we can look at the imperial IPA (also called double IPA). This style is quite new and originated in US and claimed to be created by Vinnie Cilurzo, who you may remember from our 4th of July post as the current owner of Russian River Brewing Company.
What distinguishes an imperial IPA from a standard IPA is the alcohol content (above 6.5%) and more extreme and bitter hop flavours. There are also significant differences between westcoast and eastcoast IPAs when it comes to flavor. Since the westcoast is so close to many hop fields, there tends to be more availability and flavor for hoppy beer, whereas eastcoast preferences tend to be more towards a maltier, more balanced flavour.
Red Racer Imperial IPA Reviewed
On opening this powerful 650ml bottle of hoppy ecstasy, the room filled immediately with a swirl of grapefruit and unmistakable north american hop bitterness. As time went on the aromas dissipated into a sweeter smell of peach balancing the harsh bitterness.
After enjoying the aroma, the pour showed a warm-gold colored stream producing a small amount of tightly packed head that began to dissipate quickly, likely due to the 9% abv. By the end of the pour, minimal bubbles and a thin head remained that gave off an aroma that was shockingly mild when compared to the room filling smells present when first opened, but it retained the intensity of the hops. The grapefruit smell given off by the hops was unmistakable and hogged most of the room from other aromas, but a pleasant peach and slight pine attack came through on the second sniff.
The first sip revealed what the nose found; the pine hit the tongue with a fast attack and gave way to the fruity sweetness of peach in the center and then continued with its flood of flavor to the edges where the alcohol took hold with a momentary numbness. Just as I though the grapefruit was nowhere to be found, it appeared in a rapid surge all around the mouth on the swallow, which left my mouth coated moderately with the bitterness and hoppy flavor we on the westcoast crave from our IPAs. The bitterness was persistent and was still present as I took the next sip. The overall on this drink is that it has an amazing amount of hoppy bitterness and flavour, but still managed to pack in fruity and pine flavors that work together.
Lastly, I’d like to mention that Central City Brewers used this particular beer to fundraise for autism research this past April where $5 from each imperial IPA sold and proceeds from special glassware and a fundraiser dinner went to the Canucks Autism Network, you can check it out here.
Full of the wonderful grapefruit bitterness IPAs are known for, but yet surprised the tongue with a bit of sweetness and pine that worked well together.
The hops do tend to leave it unbalanced, but it does well with the style.
Curries, spicy foods, and smoked meats would do well as this beer can cut through all of those strong flavors without effort.
Time of Year
TA Brews rating: 4.5/5