Three pale ales from Michigan brewery Founders today. I'll get to the more usual styles, but first up is something called All Day IPA: 4.7% ABV and proclaiming itself a "session ale". I'm immediately wondering what the point of this is, as distinct from the regular non-India pale ale. It's a darkish gold colour and smells heavenly: ripe mango, pine resin and a little bit of toffee. The flavour is quite straightforward, showing a light acrid dankness, fading to grapefruit and then tailing off, leaving a dry and slightly metallic green aftertaste. There's a certain wateryness behind the hop wallop which I guess helps to take the sharper edges off and which, coupled with the light carbonation, makes it sessionable. I could certainly drink this all day. But I still don't know what makes it an IPA rather than a non-I PA. We have to go deeper.
Founders Pale Ale is paler, for one thing, and also a fair whack stronger at 5.4% ABV. The aroma is quite minerally and little carbonic, with no sign of the dry hopping. Nicely smooth again, but the flavours are extremely muted, showing just a little bit of waxy bitterness and candy caramel. It doesn't stack up at all well next to the All Day IPA and I really can't see why they make it, when they can turn out an infinitely better pale ale at a lower strength.
Could it be that the Centennial IPA is just as pointless at a higher strength point? It's a familiar orangey gold and the aroma speaks more of toffee than hops. While it's certainly sweet and sugary, there's a decent hit of pith and peach amongst the toffee, and even some friendlier pineapple high notes. Best of all there's no harshness, no strong bitterness: just enough to balance the big malt. It's damn drinkable for 7.2% ABV, but in terms of flavour intensity it's not a patch on the All Day IPA: more a slow smoulderer than a quick exciting fling.
Founders, it seems, appear to reckon that as long as it's hoppy enough it's fair game to call it an IPA. This backseat brewery manager would be badging the All Day as a pale ale, and probably abandoning the Centennial hops for something more complex in the IPA. And it would definitely be a case of All Day in my back seat going home from work each evening.
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