The Cat's Meow
You're probably seeing breweries across the country releasing new beers with the label “New England Style IPA" more often these days. This beer style (though an unofficial declaration) is booming, and most of us know the characteristics by now: opaque, murky, thick, juicy, fruity, and generally pretty damn enjoyable. I’ve had my fair share of New England style IPAs, but ironically enough, I’ve never tried one from New England until very recently.
When a friend told me that his buddy was visiting from Massachusetts, and that he’d be sharing some of the wonderful beers from MA with me, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on an authentic “NE IPA." Which I guess raises the question: do New England breweries label their IPAs as such? Or are they just... IPAs that happen to be brewed in New England?
Knowing that I’m borderline-weirdly-obsessed with cats, one of the first beers set aside for me was The Cat’s Meow by Exhibit ‘A’ Brewing Company. Complete with a sketched cat face on the front, and accompanying tail on the back, the can boasts that it’s “Catnip for people.” Its simple yet tongue-in-cheek can design, alongside the name of the beer (meaning “something highly admired" in 1950s era parlance, essentially), creates a feeling that the brewer was confident in the product inside because nothing about this can oversells the beer.
The label states that it’s simply an India Pale Ale – I had my answer. Pouring the beer into the glass, though, the unmistakable pale straw-yellow cloudy characteristic of the “New England style” IPA emerges with a thick, bright white head on top. The smell of the beer is essentially straight up pineapple with a hint of a candy-like fruit sweetness akin to those peach gummy rings I used to live on as a kid.
This beer really is the cat’s meow. Some might even say it's almost purrfect.”
I may not be drinking this in the intended environment – late October, still hanging around sixty degrees, and pouring New Jersey rain outside, The can reads: “Where are we today? A lush hop farm, the late summer’s warm moist air, and the full aroma of freshly picked hop cones on your hands. Take time to savor moments like this. Smell. Taste. Consider. Enjoy. Repeat.”
I look outside and for a moment try to think about what this beer would do for me on a hot summer day. But then I realize that’s not what the purpose of the description is. I should take the time to savor the moment that I’m in. Sure, I’m stuck inside in a sweatshirt watching the rain splash on leaf-covered grass, but it’s actually pretty beautiful. I take it all in and am grateful for the moment. Not bad advice from a beer can.
It took one sip and I was hooked. Sitting at what I consider to be the perfect IPA alcohol by volume, at 6.5%, the beer drinks incredibly smoothly and lightly despite having a pleasantly bold mouthfeel. The flavor delivers on the aroma’s promises. It’s brewed with Citra, Mosaic, and El Dorado hops and the flavors from each present themselves and balance each other out. Slight citrus from the Citra comes first, followed by the ripe, tropical pineapple from the Mosaic. However, the El Dorado hop finish is what really sets this beer apart.
I find myself loving the NE style IPAs but always longing for the bitter finishing bite at the end that made me fall in love with IPAs in the first place. The piney El Dorado hops linger after the fruit flavors but do not overpower them, similar to the slight hint of booziness presented by the 6.5% ABV... it’s there, but so is everything else that you’d want to taste. Any more El Dorado hops and you may have a hop-bomb... any more alcohol content and the booziness would overthrow the delicate subtleties of the fruit flavors.
The top of the can claims that “8 out of 10 cats say their owners prefer it”. My two cats would certainly agree – this beer really is the cat’s meow. Some might even say it's almost purrfect.
Sorry. I couldn’t resist.