Blind Taste Test – Pittsburgh IPAs


As mentioned in a previous post, I wanted to do a blind taste test of Pittsburgh IPAs and my friend Sandy was happy to help. Here is the link to the podcast we recorded while we were tasting. Right click on the link and Save target as… for best sound quality. There’s no video, I just have one still picture of what our breakfast table looked like, so feel free to start the recording and then read along with the notes below.

Here are the links to all the beers we had in this test:

As you listen, here is the order that Tiffany was tasting them in:

  • East End – Big Hop
  • Full Pint – Chinookie
  • Fat Head’s – Head Hunter
  • Church – Thunderhop

And here is the order of the beers Sandy was tasting:

  • East End – Big Hop
  • Church – Thunderhop
  • Full Pint – Chinookie
  • Fat Head’s – Head Hunter

At one point in the recording, I’m referencing what I call a hop chart. Here is the picture that I’m referring to:

hop chart

The night before this recording, I took some not-so-blind tasting notes of three of the beers:

Thunderhop – floral hop flavor – 121 IBUs – they dry hop with Glaciers which are listed as earthy/grassy on my hop varieties chart – darkest in color with caramel undertones – following the Head hunter, this one falls a bit flat – the hops are a really subtle flavor even though the IBUs are higher. Floral comes through even more as it warms up. Some pepper notes come through too. Need to try this side by side with Ithaca Flower Power. I would pair this with food. Even though I like floral IPAs, I have to say this is my least fav of THESE three. That is not to say that I don’t love this beer.

Big Hop – a very malty beer –maybe it’s just the ‘low’ IBUs – 70 – Centennial and Cascade hops – listed as citrus – I don’t pick up on those notes but do get some sour – may not be considered an IPA by anyone accustomed to the west coast style. This would be the one I would start with if I was having multiple IPAs in one night and let’s face it, that totally happens. Fans of double IPAs will appreciate the balance in this one.

Head Hunter – this seems the ‘hoppiest’ in flavor meaning the most bitter but it’s in between the other two at 87 – Columbus (Herbal), Simcoe (Evergreen), Centennial (Citrus) hops – lightest in color – this one ‘smells’ the most like gym socks and what I would put up as ‘typical’ for an IPA – punch you in the mouth bitter with an after taste that stays on your tongue. Considered a west coast style IPA. This is my favorite and that was before I saw that it had a 98 BA score. This is an exceptional IPA.

Other beers mentioned in the recording:

We discussed IBUs and at the time neither one of us knew what IBUs were measuring or what a higher number of IBUs actually meant. I did some research and it is in fact measuring the acid (specifically the alpha acids) in a beer. It is not measuring perceived bitterness but rather the concentration of chemical compounds from the hops. No tasting is involved when measuring IBUs. So my reference to being surprised at how smooth Thunderhop is at 120 IBUs is irrelevant since the measurement has nothing to do with how the beer tastes.

Finally, I couldn’t find any recommendation anywhere that eggs worked to cleanse the palette, so you heard it here first.

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2 Responses to “Blind Taste Test – Pittsburgh IPAs”

  1. North Country Brewing – Slippery Rock, PA | Hoppy Hoppy Joy Joy Says:

    […] Talking to a stranger about beer isn't as weird as offering them candy. « Blind Taste Test – Pittsburgh IPAs […]

  2. 9th and Hennepin | Reviewing Beer - 9th and Hennepin Says:

    […] on the variety of the hops. The chart below summarizes the flavors of different hop varieties. The chart was obtained from Tiffany’s HoppyHoppyJoyJoy […]

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