I have nothing against malt, but I really love hops. India pale ales are among my favorite brews. While some turn to that style only when the weather warms up, my favorite winter brews are also hop-driven efforts like Celebration Ale or Laughing Dog's Cold Nose. If you're a fellow hop head, here are three new releases you'll want to try, all bottled in 22-ounce bombers:
Deschutes Hop Henge Experimental IPA
This beer opens with surprisingly elegant aromas of herb and pine-laced hops. Even more surprising is how smooth and creamy it is. It's hard to believe they crammed enough hops in to bring this one up to a whopping 95 International Bitterness Units. Thanks to the rich and fruity caramel-laced malt, those hops have been toned down. The result is a beautiful brew with amazing persistence.
Full Sail Slipknot IPA, Brewmasters Reserve
The employee-owned Full Sail has always produced reliable offerings. The Reserve line is intended to amp things up. This 2010 Slipknot is definitely worthy, with a bit more body than previous incarnations and lots of resiny hops on the nose backed by a nicely floral fruitiness. At 80 IBUs, it definitely has a resonating hop bite but it's balanced by smooth malt, with the bitterness lingering nicely on the finish. Great on its own but this one shines with food--try spicy Asian.
NINKASI TRICERAHOPS DOUBLE IPA
This Eugene, Ore., brewery is named for the ancient Sumerian goddess of fermentation. Tricerahops is the first brew I've tried from Ninkasi, and it's certainly true to its name with taut citrus and pine-laden hops coming through on the nose. That resiny pine carries over to the palate with a hop kick that's just lightly masked by smooth malt. There's a nice bitterness throughout, but it's so well integrated that it would be hard to guess this one tops 100 IBUs.