There’s a trend amongst craft brewers to make “extreme” beers. An extreme beer is basically when you take an established beer style and brew it well outside established style guidelines. For example, take an IPA and make it insanely hoppy or brew it to a stronger than normal alcohol content. While this author sometimes questions brewers doing extreme beers solely for their own sake, it occurs that many of today’s established styles could once have been considered extreme beers themselves.
Take India Pale Ale for example. In the mid 1700s when beer was shipped from England to India, any average beer would have spoiled by the time it reached its destination. English brewers were sending a style of beer to India called October beer which was a slightly stronger, hoppier beer similar in its way to English pale ale. Listening to the feedback they got from troops in India, brewers made alterations to their product.
What evolved was a beer somewhat like an English pale ale higher in alcohol and significantly more bitter. Which, at the time, would have defined IPA as an extreme pale ale. Russian Imperial stout shares a similar history, but that’s a story for another review. The Fuller’s India Pale Ale is an alias for their Bengal Lancer IPA, available in the UK.
This product is one of many that Fuller’s bottle conditions. Which simply means they leave a small amount of yeast to provide natural carbonation. Bottle conditioning also helps provide a softer flavor profile in many beers as the beer continues to react with the yeast to produce new and interesting flavor profiles.
Pouring a glass shows a deep amber, almost burnished gold colored ale. Light, pinpoint carbonation supports a dense, cream colored head with decent retention. Fuller’s IPA boasts a very hop forward aroma full of English character. Here we get wood and peppercorns. These qualities end with slight grassiness. Malt character provides support giving the ale a definite caramel backbone.
Fuller’s IPA is a smooth, medium bodied ale offering lots of malt and hops up front. Flavor is caramel in its maltiness, with slightly toasty qualities flanking my palate. Center lacks the juiciness offered by many English IPAs, leading directly into that delightfully assertively bitter finish. Finish is very bitter and very English in its hoppiness. As with the nose, we have an earthy, woodsy, whip crack of bitterness leading into a lasting finish.
Overall, a pretty decent offering. Fuller’s IPA does lack the juiciness in the center many English IPAs possess these days. However, many of the best examples don’t have that juiciness either. It’s malty, bracingly bitter, straightforward, and still full of character. Worthy of an 8.4 out of 10.