Sunday, April 10, 2011

East-West IPA Smackdown: Brooklyn "East India" vs. Sierra Nevada "Torpedo"

I've had Brooklyn Brewery's East India Pale Ale before, and published my tasting notes on it here. Seeing it on the shelf at Key Food near the Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA made me want to do a comparison tasting, though -- New York versus California, the storied rivalry, and all that. Here are my notes:

Brooklyn East India Pale Ale:

Color: rich golden amber.

Head: ample and long-lasting.

Aroma: I detected the same herbes de provence as before, but this time also a hint of vanilla along with yeasty undertones.

Flavor: hoppy, as an IPA should be, but the hops don't overpower the malt. My earlier notes had malt dominant at the finish, but this time hops prevailed, though not overwhelmingly. Kind of like a tart rhubarb pie, with malt playing the part of crust.

Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA

Color: orange-amber.

Head: medium; collapsed quickly.

Aroma: evergreen and citrus, with malt undertones.

Flavor: citrus and pine rosin, with a strong malt base. Grapefruity finish.

The envelope, please.

And the winner is, for all-around drinkability, Brooklyn's East India. As I noted the last time I tried it, this is a well-balanced IPA with the assertive hoppiness characteristic of the type but with the malt not utterly overpowered by hop bitterness. It could be enjoyed with many kinds of flavorful food (though, as with all IPAs, not with anything with too delicate a flavor that would be overpowered by the hops' bitterness) or by itself.

Sierra Neavada's Torpedo reminded me of wine pooh-bah Robert Parker's description of what he likes: a "hedonistic fruit bomb." On the whole, I prefer the Alice Feiring kind of wine; subtle and complex. Like a Parker-favored wine, the Torpedo packs a punch: 7.2% alcohol by volume compared to Brooklyn East India's 6.9%. All this isn't to say I didn't like drinking it. I think it would make a great companion to very spicy dishes, like vindaloo curries, as well as being enjoyable on its own from time to time.

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