Charles Wells IPA: in name alone, but more drinkable than Alexander Keith's monstrosity
Charles Wells IPA
One of the many things that annoys the hell out of me is supermarket food. Now obviously the 'developed' world needs supermarkets to survive. But I mean prepared supermarket food. Ready to heat, serve and forget, because it's dumbed down for the mass palate.
Garlic bread is a classic example of this problem. Supermarket garlic bread is like buttered baguette with a piece of garlic waved at it from across the room and a bit of parsley ground onto it. I like garlic bread to keep any vampires with 50 miles well away from me. So it goes without saying that garlic bread in pre-packaged form is very disappointing to me.
You may already have made the leap to where I'm going with this. Charles Wells IPA is as close to a decent IPA as that arthritic janitor with a sheet over his head in the old Scooby Doo cartoons was to an actual poltergeist.
Here's an 'IPA' that's as annoying as shop-bought garlic bread. It's initially a pretty good mimic, with a decent colour, quite a reasonable nose (with that unmistakable spicy hop smell that makes your tongue curl up at the edges in preparation for the dry, bitter beer to follow) and a relatively lively head.
As you drink -- and you will probably finish your pint-and-a-bit despite the disappointment to come -- you'll see a good sticky lace follow your pint down the glass.
But, and it is a big but, Charles Wells IPA will ultimately let you down less than a second after you taste it. Yes, for a fraction of a second, it even TASTES like an IPA. And you'll briefly think, WOW, finally, somebody brave enough to actually mass-market this testing style of beer. Good on you.
But then the disappointment kicks in. Following one blink of joy, a depressing slide takes this beer into the realms of almost a mild, or certainly a very benign bitter.
The initial hop bite never achieves true IPA dryness. It meanders off into a kind of melancholic ending, finishing with some soft, juicy, fruity notes, for fuck's sake. Soft fruity notes... IPA... bullshit.
This is certainly not a bad beer. I don't mind it at all. Just don't sell me an "IPA" that tastes like a reasonable mild/bitter. This would be a perfect alternative session beer if you can't find a decent microbrew at the IGA. It would also be a great beer to give to a person who is afraid of the extreme hopped beers, something to get them on the ladder to eventual IPA heaven.
For additional beers in a series of non-IPAs wearing marketing masks, see Alexander Keith's IPA, for starters. This is perhaps even farther from the true nature of IPAness, but it's more drinkable than Keith's, in my book.
Even the impossible can be found on eBay, if you are patient in your searching.
Try searching for Russian River
(you'll need to narrow down by beer name, ex. Pliny, Damnation, Temptation), Black Albert
or any of the BIG beers. Don't overlook eBay's Belgium Beer results either...