Brewery: Ridgeway Brewing
Ah Oxford. The city known for its dreaming spires, university boat races and Inspector Morse. It is also my home town, where I spent the first 25 years of my life before moving to the northern wilderness that is Umeå, Sweden. It really is a beautiful city and if you get the chance to visit you really should. I wanted to put something from the old stomping ground into the beer tasting so I looked around and I came across Ridgeway Brewery. Named after a famous and ancient trade route that passes through Oxfordshire, Ridgeway Brewery was founded in 2002 by Peter and Vanda Scholey. They have a fairly extensive range but it was their tradition English IPA that caught my attention. I think sometimes people are so used to modern IPAs being so crazily overhopped that they forget that there are a lot of beers in the genre that are much lighter in hop aroma and tend more towards the bitter side of the taste spectrum. I wanted a beer that I could compare against the mega hopped Sierra Nevada Hop Hunter and I believe I found the perfect brew for the job.
The beer was light copper in colour with a slight cloud that is probably due to the bottle conditioning. It had a head that failed to hold for very long as there was fairly low carbonation in the glass. The smell was exactly what I hoped for from a traditional IPA, with the main focus being sweet malts and a nice rich biscuit base. There were slight citrus and grass notes but they took a back seat. Balance is definitely the word here to describe the taste, as the sweet caramel malts were measured to match the floral hop bitterness nicely. Honey and a light lemon zest were also found permeating the palate. A dry bitter note lingered on the tongue and came through in the aftertaste but it was never overwhelming like so many other IPAs.
I went looking for an IPA that remained rooted in the classical roots of the style and I was pretty happy to find it. I enjoyed this beer quite a lot. I enjoyed the nice balance of the flavours and it made a nice change for a beer in this genre to focus more on the malt side than the hops. I can understand some fans of IPA might be disappointed by it as maybe they are used to having bit more bite in their beers, but I think this is absolutely worth a look.