Great Leap Brewing: Chesty Puller A-IPA (China: IPA: 6.3% ABV)

Visual: Clear gold. Creamy white head that leaves suds.

Nose: Creamy. Gooseberry and kiwi. Banana. Moderate creamy hop character.

Body: Gooseberry. Light apricot. Good hop character. Light greenery. Light brown sugar.

Finish: Slightly oily. Apricot and greenery. Kiwi. Light dry golden syrup. Good hop character and bitterness. Lightly earthy.

Conclusion: My first IPA of the trip! I tend to find IPAs good go tos for judging a craft beer brewery as they are often the mainstay of a range. So short version – good hop use, average malt body. Boom. Notes done!

Ok, more detail – hops first. The hop use, while not show stopping, mixes American style apricot notes with NZ gooseberry tartness. Despite being named an A-IPA, it feels like it leans harder on the tarter notes to my mind, if I hadn’t been told they were aiming for American IPA I would have guessed it as a more NZ inspired beer myself. Then again, there are plenty of tart American hops, so its probably just my own preconceptions. Anyway, there is a lot of greenery, hop oils and even slight earthy hop character leading out in the finish giving a much more rustic styling to the ending against the tart main body. Lots of hop influence going on then, not raw bitterness, nor clean fruit, this is instead beer that seems to exploit a wide range of the available IPA styles for influences, which is cool.

So, onto the malt – the base could do with bit more body early on, though it does develop fairly nicely as it warms. Nothing too out of the normal though – It comes across slightly harsher that feels right – more a dry golden syrup style that a smooth sweet backing – but it doesn’t overly hurt the beer. It makes it feel like a rounded, characterful beer rather than a super polished expression, so in some ways the odd notes actually add to that.

So, average body, good hops – not a super stand out IPA but a solid pint, Rough edged but good flavour – a fair entry in their range but doesn’t insist on being tried above other IPAs.

Background: I am embarrassed how long it took me to realise A-IPA stood for American IPA. Anyway….. This was a hard wee Brewpub to find – they had several stashed around Beijing, but the one I hunted out was “Original 6” – the first they set up – tucked away in a hutong. I was glad that I a) had a map I had printed out on how to get to it and b) had maps in the hutong itself to compare it to, as this was tucked right in the backstreets and I was worried I was completely in the wrong area. I was not alone in this – while waiting for it to open I ran into two tourists looking at their smartphone map and wondering if they were lost, so I volunteered to show them where it was. Anyway, this was the first beer I tried, kicking back and relaxing after vast amounts of walking at the Great Wall the previous day. 1000 steps just to get to the wall. I earned this beer.