India pale ales evolved from British pale ales in the early 1800s — merchants needed a beer that would not spoil on the long journey from England to India. A brewer named George Hodgson figured out that if you made a stronger beer, with more alcohol, hops, and malt, the beer would not only keep for a long time, but it might even get better with age.
British-style IPAs are still around today, as are newer American IPAs, which tend to be brash, more bitter and herbal than their counterparts across the pond.
Brooklyn has three homegrown IPAs: Brooklyn Brewery East India Pale Ale, Sixpoint Bengali Tiger IPA, and Kelso of Brooklyn IPA. The first tends toward the British style, the last two are Americans.
In an idea world, all three would have all been tasted against each other, but it’s difficult to find Kelso’s IPA. The good folks at Bierkraft said they had “no idea who has it right now.” The beer is made with hops from New Zealand, and Kelso’s website says its availability is determined by the whims of those antipodean buds. If anyone does know where to find it, let us know in the comments.
So how do Brooklyn Brewery’s and Sixpoint’s IPAs stack up against each other? We found out today, at two of our favorite Brooklyn bars.
Since hoppy bitterness is a uniting characteristic of these beers, we’re rating their respective bitter factors from one to five. Imagine five as an incredibly hoppy beer like Stone Ruination, and one as a brew with almost no discernible hops, like Guinness.
Brooklyn Brewery’s East India Pale Ale is brewed with English malt, an interpretation of the older, British-style IPAs.
Aroma: Mild, little bit sweet, apricots, ice
Alcohol by volume: 6.8%
Cost: $4 at Canal Bar
Taste: It’s a little bit sweet and malty, almost like apricots, with a medium body and a slightly bitter finish that tapers off quickly. Easy to drink, easy to like.
On tap at: Canal Bar (270 Third Avenue, Brooklyn)
Sixpoint Bengali Tiger IPA is an American-style IPA brewed in Red Hook.
Color: Cloudy copper
Aroma: bitter orange, floral
Alcohol by volume: 6.5%
Cost: $6 at Flatbush Farm and Bar(n) (76 Saint Marks Avenue, Brooklyn)
Taste: This is a much more intense beer than Brooklyn’s. At first it tastes toasty, citrusy, and a little bit sweet, and then finishes with a hit of bitterness that hangs around for a while. After a while, that bitterness is just sitting on your tongue — pleasant enough, but making it hard to taste other flavors. Still, this is a very delicious beer. It has a medium-light body and is probably better for drinking on its own than with food, unless the food can stand up to it.
When choosing between these two beers, preference for style is all — quiet British or loud American?
Sixpoint is far more bitter and punchy, made for slow drinking and strongly flavored food like sharp, pungent cheeses and red meats. Brooklyn is mellow and easygoing. It has a nice, crisp bitterness but one that dissipates quickly. You could drink it with a wide range of foods.
The difference in price is somewhat attributable to the difference in venues, but Sixpoint’s beers do tend to be slightly more expensive than Brooklyn’s.
For a treat to sip in the afternoon, we like Sixpoint’s Bengali Tiger IPA, but for a everyday suds with dinner, we’d chose Brooklyn Brewery’s East India Pale Ale.