The Hops: Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA & New Belgium Ranger IPA

Much like buffalo wings and fixed-gear bicycles, IPA has a mystique I cannot understand.

Everyone loves it but I have no clue why. When I asked John’s Grocery bier guy Joe Hotek to explain it, he shrugged his shoulders. Is it the invigorating and refreshing citrus? The strong, bitter bite? Hotek mentioned its very minor THC-like chemical effect, so perhaps it is that. (Note: IPA will not get you stoned.) Regardless of the reason, though, it is good brew.

Following my “introduction” to hoppier brews last month, it is time to venture away from the shallow end of the hop spectrum toward the deeper middle (à la the City Park Pool) for India Pale Ale. Hotek gladly built me a custom IPA sixer, which ran the gamut from tame and well-balanced (Goose Island India Pale Ale and Lakefront IPA) to bitter and well-hopped (Founders Centennial IPA). Founders Red’s Rye PA was a solid brewski, too, but the two beers I am recommending for May impressed me the most: Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA and New Belgium Ranger IPA.

Neither beer will provide a fix for raging hopheads, but both offer invigorating citrus, adequate bitterness and a solid malt base. Both can be poured into regular pint glasses, but to get the full effects of the aroma I recommend using a tulip glass. In color, both are a medium/golden copper. Torpedo is the definition of balanced: Scents of caramel, toffee and toasted malts are tinged with a hint of pine spice and grapefruit, lemon and orange citrus. The flavor is smooth and the hop citrus and spice shine, providing an even zest and astringency. Ranger is a touch more bitter and citrusy. Its malt base is overshadowed by floral hops, pine and enticing citrus. Overall it offers a bitter hop experience with a blend of grapefruit, tangerine, lemon and orange.

  • Serving temperature:  45-50º F.
  • Alcohol content: Torpedo: 7.2 percent ABV. Ranger: 6.5 percent ABV
  • Food pairings: Both pair well with any kind of spicy food (like Thai or curried dishes), pepperoni pizza and fried seafood.
  • Where to buy: Most area supermarkets and beer retailers will have them.
  • Price: Both cost $8-9 per sixer. Twelve-packs are available at select locations for around $15.