The early part of the year is a damn fine time to be alive if you’re a fan of hoppy beers. And, as has been documented on numerous occasions, I am exactly that. When the ball drops on New Years Eve and the pomp and circumstance of a fresh 365 days gets ushered in by people making out all over Times Square like their plane is going down and Jenny McCarthy expertly proving she’s not a comedian, hopheads (at least on the east coast) get a slight tinge of excitement for a few other reasons.
It’s been a yearly tradition of mine to pick up a case of Troeg’s Nugget Nectar when it first hits the shelves ever since I discovered it, and 2016 was no different. Equally as awesome is the arrival of Fat Head’s award-winning Hop Juju Imperial IPA. Since its release at the beginning of January, I’ve already made a couple trips to the Fat Head’s pub in the South Side to sit and enjoy a few Jujus, as has become tradition as well.
And if that’s not enough hoppy awesomeness, Bell’s Hopslam will be creeping into the market in the very near future as well. This year, this epic hop bomb will only be released in cans and on draught. And that’s…that’s OK.
In an effort to stay consistent with the early-year hop theme, I embarked on a mission to find a local IPA to feature as February’s Beer of the Month. And, since Rock Bottom Brewery & Restaurant is featured in this February’s Craft Beer Spotlight, it was only fitting to put their High-Level IPA center stage. This incredibly crushable American IPA is brewed with Bravo, Centennial, Citra, Columbus, and Simcoe hops. It’s a very juicy beer with notes of pine and just the right amount of bitterness.
To get us all better acquainted, I bugged Rock Bottom Brewmaster Meg Evans one more time for the lowdown on the High-Level. All January long, Meg’s been answering my questions and sending me photos. I guess I owe her a beer. Thankfully, I know where to find some.
Meg, the floor is yours.
In your own words, tell us what we need to know about High-Level IPA.
I approached this beer with a couple things in mind: 1) I wanted to create flavorful IPA and 2) I didn’t want to create an overly bitter IPA. With that in mind, I tackled the challenge with High-Level IPA as the result. ENJOY!
Where did the inspiration for High-Level IPA come from?
It’s pretty evident that IPAs are one of the most adorned styles of beer. They are also a versatile style. With that being said, I sought out to create a house IPA that could be an IPA lover’s go-to, but also stand up next to other IPAs we may have on draught – session IPAs, DIPAs, Belgian IPAs, etc. – and not take away attention or hide under its fellow draught mates. So, besides going into creating this beer with that in mind, I truly prefer when IPAs aren’t too bitter. I enjoy a full flavor profile, so I went after that in this beer, too.
What characteristics should we know about High-Level IPA?
ABV: 7.3% | Original Gravity (OG): 16.0 | IBU: 75
What particular flavor notes should people expect to discover in High-Level IPA?
High-Level is an American IPA. Expect an amazing aroma filled with citrus (primarily grapefruit and orange), mild piney and resinous notes accompanied by a mildly sweet caramel and honey malt character.
What foods pair well with High-Level?
This IPA isn’t as bitter as other examples, so I find it to be really versatile with food ranging from mildly to very spicy. I enjoy drinking it with Rock Bottom’s Cajun Pasta that has a very mild heat, but also has great spice character. Or, if you’re into tacos like us at Rock Bottom, try one of our three varieties of tacos with a 20oz. True Pint of High-Level.
Any fun, interesting, or crazy stories come from brewing High-Level?
Our team is really eager to always learn from our experiences and grow based on those experiences. Each time we brew a new batch of beer, house or specialty, we note what we taste, smell, and see during fermentation and so on. This allows us to challenge ourselves to do better next time. Our IPA isn’t any different. We are testing our water and making adjustments, we are testing our dry hop methods and we are testing our fining methods. It’s a fun time in our brewery these days.
Can we find High-Level IPA at any craft beer destinations in Pittsburgh or specifically in your taproom?
Not yet! Slowly but surely, we are working our way out of our dwelling and pushing our beer into the Pittsburgh market. Stay tuned. But in the mean time, ask your local bar for Rock Bottom beer!