Founder's Centennial IPA: Balance Makes the Beer

Photo by Peter Anderson
Photo by Peter Anderson

National IPA Day is Aug. 6, and Alcohol Professor is celebrating the days leading up to the “holiday” with posts on a few interesting IPAs, some of which may be familiar and some of which may not.

A Founder’s Brewing Company PR rep sent me a couple of cans of the brewery’s well-traveled Centennial IPA in advance of Aug. 6, which is National IPA Day. Hey, I’ll bite – er, drink. I’d had Centennial before, but only a couple of times. And why not start celebrating early? (Heck, I might start celebrating on Aug. 7 for next year.)

The cans were wrapped so tightly in plastic sheets that it took me a good five minutes to liberate the two beers I was sent, and of course I then had to cool them. But it was no surprise at all to find that the beer was well worth the effort.

I poured one of the IPAs into a hand-made glass designed specifically for IPAs by Pretentious Beer Glass Company. It was a hazy red orange color with a medium to light tan-white head, and the aroma spoke immediately to the slightly caramel-sweet malt backbone of the beer, but with a light citrusy quality – it isn’t as floral as many IPAs, but the nose is quite inviting, assuming you like the style.

The beer is finished with all Centennial hops, so there’s no competition for dominant hop character other than the base. It’s a dry-hopped beer, and the initial drink first brought the malts an earthy tone, followed quickly by the dry, crisp finish and moderate bitterness – in fact, they came forward more quickly than I had remembered, but I wasn’t disappointed. The truth is, it’s just a really drinkable and refreshing IPA, perfect for when you come back from that bike ride or jog and sit down to cool off with a beer. It is bitter without being over-hopped (65 IBU), and the piney accents aren’t overstated.

As an APA guy, with the IPA a close second on my list of favorite styles, this one really hits home – the single hop makes it instantly accessible, and the moderate IBU level means it’s balanced, and not trying to overdo the hop profile to impress the bandwagon hop snobs.

Sometimes people look for the multi-hop complexity in earnest IPAs and double IPAs, and that’s OK, but there’s nothing wrong with seeking something a bit more accessible. This one is in the latter category, and it’s kind of in the neighborhood of Three Floyd Brewing’s Zombie Dust APA, which is just one of those perfect, drinkable beers in my book. (OK, in a lot of people’s books.)

Anyway, I sipped and enjoyed the Centennial IPA slowly, and it did not disappoint. The balance in this beer is on point – not too sweet, not too bitter. It’s the drinkable crispness that wins me over. I love the mouthfeel and how it relates to the citrus-meets-bitter flavor, followed by the slight acidity from the hops.

Looks like I’ll have to keep a better eye out for Centennial IPA in my hometown from here on out. (By the way, if you ever come to my home state of Kentucky, try West Sixth Brewing’s IPA – if you like Centennial, you’ll love West Sixth’s take on the style. And if you can get your hands on some Jai Alai from Cigar City Brewing in Florida, DO IT.)

Interestingly, word is Founder’s started with a different IPA recipe that wasn’t well received. In fact, the brewers asked for feedback and heard such negativity that they “went back to the wheelhouse” according to the aforementioned Founder’s rep, Kate Schwab, and created Centennial. It may be folklore, but it makes for a good story to tell the press. Hey, and they created a really nice beer in the process of learning lessons.

Now the only question is: How long will I sit on that second sample can before I finally drink it? Some beers are worth saving.