Durango’s best IPAs, explained

by David Holub

If there’s one place in town that seems to knock it out of the park each time with its rolling menu of IPAs, it’s Carver’s. Their recent string of IPAs – Main Ave., Twilight Peak, Vapor Trail and Bike Bike double to name a few – have hit an unparalleled level of balance and drinkability.

We talked with Carver’s head brewer Patrick Jose about his process, what he looks for in an IPA, what he thinks about when tasting beer and how we can all enjoy beer more.

What are you doing that no one else around here seems to be doing with IPAs?I don’t know if we’re doing anything different than anybody, we just try to make sure we’re using the freshest hops for our IPAs so that’s coming across. Drinking it on tap is the best way to maintain those aromas and flavors. Once you start packaging it and it starts sitting out for a while, that definitely starts to calm down, But we’re right here on tap and our tanks last maybe three weeks on an IPA. It’s really, like literally, the freshest IPAs you can get in town.

What do you look for in an IPA?I try to find and look for the new and interesting flavors and aromas that you don’t get in most of the IPAs that come around. I tend to stay away from hops that are kind of on the grassy side, like a Columbus. Sometimes when you use Columbus to dry-hop, it tends to comes across as a little more grassy than it does piney. And I try to avoid using things like that and when I seek out IPAs, I’m seeking out things that are using new hops and that are using flavors that we haven’t had yet. In particular the Main Ave. we used – two-thirds of the hops in that were from New Zealand. So we used Rakau and Nelson. And the Twilight uses a significant amount of Nelson. And they’re pretty new on the market so most of those flavors we haven’t really had any experience with in the last few years. It’s interesting because their hops tend to be more on the tropical fruit side. We used – it doesn’t even have a name. It’s called XP7270. Makes you feel like a secret agent or something.

What do you not like in an IPA, as a drinker and as a brewer?Sometimes you get some pale ales that breweries like to just over-hop too much. I like a little bit more even-hand with them. There’s a time and place for a heavily-hopped beer, and a lot of the times, people are hopping it because they can, because they had a lot laying around of something and they can just throw a bunch in there and really cram it in. I mean, we put a lot of hops in our pale ales for sure, especially in the dry-hopping, but some people are taking it to that level beyond and it’s a point of diminishing returns for me. You get to that level and it’s like, “Yeah, it’s hoppy but why is it this hoppy?! Does it really need this?”I think a lot of times, if those guys just scaled it back just a little bit, it would be that much better because then you’re just blowing out the beer with hops.

It’s a hard way to describe pale ales, but like a juicy IPA, it tastes like you took a hop flower that had been soaking in beer and just wrung it out. Those can be really good. But that’s kind of a technique, I guess. It’s a learned thing when it comes to making good pale ales.

What are some things you hope people think about the beer before drinking?I guess, above all, I want people to respect what we do as craft brewers and not as large, blown-out macro breweries. Like the big three: Bud, Miller, Coors, those guys and their attempt to get into the craft beer industry. They’re buying up breweries left and right. It is a bit important for me for people to come in and recognize that we are independently-owned and everything we sell in house is made right back there. We don’t sell guest beers; we don’t bring beers from anywhere else. We try to keep things simple and delicious.

What advice do you have that would help us enjoy beer more?Take the time with the beer. Get to know it. Start breaking it down. When I drink beer, we start with how it looks in the glass, how it’s presented to you at the table. Is it in a nice clean glass with a nice head on top and looks delicious? Is it cloudy like it’s supposed to be or cloudy and it shouldn’t be? Those are things I like to know. And then beyond that, take advantage of the aromas before you actually start drinking it because the perception’s a little bit different after you start putting it in your mouth. I take a distance, sniff from about the chin to the nose and try to get those aromas that are real light and like to float up high. Then you can get a little closer and start getting different aromas, different flavors and really try to put those with something. It smells fruity. OK, what kind of fruit? OK, what kind of citrus? Keep taking it down and really home in, like Meyer lemons. Why not? You can absolutely do that. It’s a fun part of the beer.

David HolubThis interview was lightly edited and condensed.

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