Schlafly_Barl.IPA.Pump.XMASSchlafly is a brewery based out of St. Louis, MO which I have written about before (use the search bar to your right!). I’ve had quite a few of their beers in the couple years I’ve lived in Kansas City, but have written about a lot of them as they pre-dated my blog.

Schlafly brews a lot of beers, many of them seasonals and their “Special Release” line of beers that are also basically seasonals, too. One such beer is their Special Release India Pale Ale.  This IPA comes out every May and, interestingly, Schlafly is one of few breweries I know of that doesn’t have an IPA in its year-round lineup.

For those who don’t know, IPA is a British style dating back to the colonial times when beer was brewed in England and shipped by sea to soldiers and expats in India. Through trial and error, British brewers figured out that beers with more hops and higher alcohol content fared well on their long voyage than other beers. We now know this is because both alcohol and hops have preservative and antimicrobial properties.

IPA’s, then, have a lot of hops and relatively higher alcohol. IPA’s run the gamut from the somewhat mild traditional versions to the West Coast style bitter bombs. Schlafly’s Special Release IPA is 8.0%ABV with an IBU level of 66, using three different hops and four different malts. Schlafly’s website suggests a 6-month shelf life for this beer.

As far as IPA’s go, I would consider this more of an English style than a US/West Coast style. Our Midwestern IPA’s are a little more balances than the West Coast’s, and the Schlafly IPA fits that mold. It pours a hazy honey color with a butterscotch head. Aroma is mostly hops, but doesn’t assault your nose like some IPA’s. I get a little bit of “cat pee” undertones, which sometimes comes through with Simcoe hops, one of the varieties used in this beer. Don’t let that descriptor turn you off, as it doesn’t affect the beer negatively, but it is something you’ll pick up on from time to time.

There is a fair amount of hop bitterness throughout the flavor, but it really builds toward the last half of a sip. I get a fair amount of malt and alcohol early in the taste, then the malt dies down and the hops really come forward with more alcohol yet, then dissipates into a nice aftertaste.

This is a pretty balanced beer, but my only complaint is that the hops are a little “muddy.” I can’t really pick out the resiny, piney, or citrusy overtones that color hops, just the bitterness. I like this beer, but at 8.0% it’s hard to put away more than a couple and it doesn’t offer me what I do like in an IPA, which is a nice, colorful hop aroma and flavor. I appreciate the bitterness and overall balance, but compared to a lot of the other IPA’s I’ve been having it isn’t one of my favorites right now.