Audience survey: Have any of you reading this ever had a really great India pale lager, or IPL? Have you ever had one that you loved more than a solid IPA? Because I’m not sure I’ve found that sort of IPL just yet, and it’s not for a lack of sampling.
It’s a pseduo-style that has become common-ish in the craft beer world over the last few years, as breweries seek to diversify their hop-forward portfolios and add more “IPA-like” entries to their seasonal calendar. With IPA remaining by far the most vibrant and lucrative style in craft beer, IPL is just another entry on that hoppy family tree, which has already given us offshoots both legitimate (black IPA) and pointless (“red IPA,” a term that has no need to exist, given that amber/red has always been an acceptable shade for IPA). They exist in a weird realm of the lager world beyond “super hoppy pilsner,” typically differentiating themselves through the use of fruitier, non-Noble hop varietals, so as to avoid being labeled as “imperial pils.” As a result, the term “IPL” is now well enough understood by the average craft beer geek, without receiving any kind of “official” acknowledgement, such as a BJCP category.
One does wonder what led Stone and Maine Beer Co., two breweries obviously associated with hoppy beer prowess, to make their new collaboration beer, Dayslayer, an IPL. Drawing upon heavy metal imagery that makes the can look a bit like something from Surly or Three Floyds, they describe the beer as an “aggressive, amplified onslaught of pure metal.” In reality, it can’t quite live up to the colorful nature of its billing.
On the nose, Dayslayer displays lightly tropical fruitiness (passionfruit?) and an unexpectedly spicy and herbal quality. Intensity of the hops isn’t particularly high, which lets the drinker appreciate some of that clean, bready or grainy lager malt profile. It’s balanced, but that’s hardly what one would expect from a can bedecked with fanged skulls, which makes for an odd tonal disparity. Looking at the hop varietals, it’s one of the weirdest combinations I’ve seen in a while: Old-school continental (Perle), nouveau fruity noble hops (Saphir, Aaramis), American classics (Amarillo) and New Zealand hops (Motueka), all in the same beer. Complexity is the obvious goal, but confusion is the unintended result.
On the palate, Dayslayer is simultaneously complex but lacking in vivaciousness. Clean, crisp malt is the backbone, but it doesn’t grab me in the way a great, bready helles lager might. This may be because Dayslayer is quite dry, amplifying its thin body, which does enhance drinkability. Hard-to-place tropical fruitiness leads off in the hop profile, chased by herbal and spicy character that seems much more noble hop-driven in origin. Bitterness is firm, slowly building over repeated sips, and I wished there was more intensity of hop (or malt) flavor to balance it out. In profile, you’d have to say this beer is more Stone-like (where it was brewed) than Maine Beer Co.-like, given that the classically bitter IPA remains more of a Stone staple than a MBC one, although Stone has also evolved quite a bit in its IPA game in the last few years.
All in all, there are times when the concept of Dayslayer peeks through and I can see what it’s trying to achieve, but I feel like this beer is too often getting lost on the way. The noble hop influences make for an odd tandem with fruitier, funkier New Zealand hops, although there’s probably a drinker out there who has been waiting for this profile for years. I’m not sure if simply changing strains to an ale yeast would have helped, but hopefully if these two breweries collaborate again, they’ll give us something slightly closer to the center of their respective wheelhouses.
Brewery: Stone Brewing and Maine Beer Co.
City: Brewed by Stone in Escondido, CA
Style: India pale lager
Availability: Limited, 22 oz bottles
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident beer guru. You can follow him on Twitter for much more craft beer content.