When I first got into craft beer in the late 1990s, it was all English-style ales and lager derivatives. Pete’s Wicked Ale brought us its namesake ale, a superb ESB, Summer Brew and, my favorite, a winter seasonal. These were the days when craft and microbrewed beers occupied less than an eight-foot section of cooler space at my local supermarket.
As such, it was tough to learn about different brewing styles. Pete’s Wicked Ale was a nutty brown ale, very much in the tradition of Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale, but not much different than the Newcastles in the imports area. Learning about different beer styles meant grabbing one of Samuel Adams seasonal packs.
There my college friends and I had our first winter warmer (Old Fezziwig), our first lambic (the long departed Cranberry Lambic) and our first Octoberfest, among others. The variety pack was an introductory course on what we didn’t know about beer.
Never once did we ever drink an India Pale Lager. Sure, there were IPAs, but no IPLs.
And, with good reason: the IPL did not emerge as a thing until the past five years. Truly an American brewing style, though not one recognized by the Beer Judges Certification Program, the IPL is more of an ale variant than lager. Both styles can share the same grain bill and hop profiles, but the difference is in the fermentation. Lagering yeast is added and the beer is cold fermented to produce a hopped-up lager.
The beer becomes more aggressively hop forward but it does not necessarily mean that the beer will be high in alcohol content.
I try to keep a couple of four packs in the fridge, particularly during the summer months.”
Jack's Abby had their first foray into the style with Hoponius Union, debuting in 2011. It’s a lovely beer and is certainly one of the defining beers of this style and I’m not the only one that thinks so as it earns a 94 from The Bros at BeerAdvocate. The malt backbone is defined here, with sweeter notes that balance out the hop bitterness.
The Framingham, Massachusetts brewer took it a step forward and spun the style on its side in 2015 with the first release of the splendid Excess IPL. The hops in this beer are assertive, with notes of pine and citrus with a malty balance. And, it’s lighter than the average lager or IPA, giving it the characteristics of a dangerously drinkable summertime brew.
As excessive as the hop content is the size of each serving; the brewer is packing this 7.2% alcohol by volume, 80 IBU beer in 16-ounce cans.
Your amber-to-gold pint of Excess IPL offers aromas of tropical and citrus fruit with notes of pine. A vigorous hopping delivers flavors of of grapefruit and pineapple at the open. The malt base comes into view towards the middle, right around the same time that the resinous pine kicks in.
The finish brings a well-balanced blend of both that washes off the palate and leaves you wanting more.
I came late to the game on this beer, grabbing only a can last summer during a delivery to the bottle shop nearly my office. When I went back to get more, it was all gone. It was the last time I made that mistake. I try to keep a couple of four packs in the fridge, particularly during the summer months, when the kid’s in bed, the neighbors want to get boozy on the front porch.
Jack Abby’s Excess IPL is not a thirst quenching beer, but it is eminently flavorful. This was the beer I was searching for all those years ago back before I was smart enough to know what I needed.