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April 17th, 2013 MARTIN CIZMAR | Drank
 

Drank: Hop Project (10 Barrel Brewing)

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Is IPA the new Amber? Though still the top-selling style of craft beer in Oregon, lately it’s seemed as though brewers have exhausted every possible permutation of suitable hops and malts. For forward-leaning beer geeks, IPAs have grown just as tiresome as the honey-colored former king of craft. WW staffers couldn’t find an IPA that excited us last year, which is why our list of the best beers of 2012 didn’t include one. Oregonian beer writer John Foyston took offense, and points to this mix-pack of four different IPAs from Bend’s 10 Barrel to make his case. “A treat for hop lovers—and a resounding rebuttal to WW’s premature obit for the style,” he calls it. Hop Project is an interesting experiment, but the real innovation is on the marketing side. Mixed 12-packs are hot, and this is a clever use of artfully lo-fi labeling to sell four otherwise mediocre recipes at once. Inside, there’s a slightly tweaked version of 10 Barrel’s other IPA, a standard Black IPA, and a wheat IPA in the style of Shock Top. The best of the bunch is a brown IPA with a sturdy malt structure to support the hops—but Dogfish Head has made a similar (better) beer for 14 years. There is a way forward: terroir-based sourcing, new strains of yeast and new hop varieties, which Oregon farms are well-positioned to develop (see “Beer of the Future,” WW, Feb. 15, 2012). Will there be enough lasting interest in IPAs for the style to benefit? I’m not so sure. Not recommended.

 
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