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My wife and I recently took a day trip to Ipswich, MA to take in some sights and, appropriately enough, I came home with a mixed pack of beer from the Ipswich Ale Brewery.  The brewery itself was not open to the public on the day we were in town, but the facility was visible from the store where I made my purchase, which I suppose is the next best thing.  What I picked up was their India Pale Ale Variety Pack, featuring the brewery’s flagship Ipswich IPA along with two beers that were new to me; the S.I.P.A. Session IPA and Route 101 West Coast IPA.  The box contained four 12 oz. bottles of each beer and was in the $14 range if I recall correctly.  I was curious to try this out since the price was right and this is a brewery that has dropped a hidden gem or two in its day (if you haven’t tried their Oatmeal Stout, go for it!).

I’ll start things off with the Ipswich IPA.  Most beer drinkers from Massachusetts are probably aware of this beer.  While it is not as ubiquitous in the bar scene as Sam Adams Boston Lager or Harpoon IPA, it is certainly widely distributed and is a staple of local liquor stores and even supermarkets.  What we have here is a nice, solid 6.5% IPA offering a balanced taste of sweet malts and earthy, piney hops.  On the finish there is a bit of a roasted caramel taste that lingers along with the bitterness.  It’s not aggressively hopped or super juicy like the IPAs that get all the attention these days but it is a solid beer in its own right and fits in well with the rest of the box.

Next, we’ll look at S.I.P.A., the IPA’s little brother.  At only 3.9%, this is one of the more “sessionable” Session IPAs I have come across.  This is a style I haven’t exactly warmed up to yet but I did find myself enjoying this beer.  Taste upfront is sweet malts and tropical fruit hops that change to more of a piney taste on the finish.  The hop bill is listed as Simcoe, Mosiac, and Ella and I must say they do blend together nicely.  Overall this was a very flavorful beer that was easy to drink and would make an excellent beach beer.  In my research for this blog, I drank three of these while grilling and found them an excellent companion to being outdoors.

Saving the best for last, we have the Route 101 “West Coast Style” IPA.  A burst of piney hops greats you upon opening up the bottle.  Like two previous beers, it has a sweet malt base but pairs this with a much more pronounced hop presence that kicks in right from the start.  The hops are a resinous piney/citrus combo and really compliment the malts (perhaps one of my favorite flavor profiles).  The beer had a nice medium mouthfeel with a slight stickyness and perfect carbonation that made it a pleasure to drink.  I was a little surprised that it was “only” 6.0% as it has the flavor and taste of a larger IPA, but all in all everything came together quite well in this one.

Looking back on it, this pack was a solid pickup and something to keep in mind as the season for outdoor gatherings and drinking starts to arrive.  While the beers might not knock the socks off a hardened beer seeker, I enjoyed having this box around.  I have a new-found respect for the IPA and will likely pick up sixer of the Route 101 at my next opportunity.  The SIPA, while I liked it, I don’t imagine grabbing on its own but only because I don’t normally drink Session IPAs.  If I do find myself in the market for one this would get consideration.  My only complaint about the box, and its more of a nitpick, is that I could have done with a fourth offering, perhaps something with a little bit of a different taste profile to mix things up a bit more.  That said, I was very happy with what I got out of this box and none of the varieties ever felt like they was going to hang around the fridge for too long.  Nicely done and exactly what you want out of a box like this.

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