Episode 5: A Style Spotlight of Syrah and India Pale Ale

Everything you need to know about Syrah and the indomitable IPA. OK, maybe not everything, but some good stuff.

Whatchu Drinkin?

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Trackers Crossing 2015 Shiraz: This a decent enough cheap bottle of Shiraz. It’s light red and slightly translucent, tastes of cherries and red plums with an oaky sweet finish. I was looking for a value over a high end wine (I paid 5 dollars for this Shiraz) because I used it in one of my favorite recipes – wine jelly!! Since you’re adding an ungodly amount of sugar and boiling the wine for the recipe I don’t suggest spending too much on a bottle, just grab a varietal you like! Great for parties and gifts this savory sweet jelly recipe is included below!

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Scorpion Bowl IPA by Stone Brewing Co.: Long a leader in the IPA movement, California-based Stone Brewing Co. is known for its hoppy beers. With this one, Stone was on trying to make a fruited IPA without using any fruit. The tropical and citrus notes in aroma and flavor come from the Loral, Mosaic and Mandarina hops used in the brew.



English IPA vs. American IPA

According to legend, the India pale ale was conceived in 17th century England. The beer makers of Burton on Trent were shipping beer to the British soldiers stationed in India, and to make sure the beer would keep by the time it arrived, brewers put in more hops than they used in a traditional English pale ale. (Hops contain certain acids and oils with preservative qualities.) The IPA was a little paler, bolder and stronger than the typical pale ale — and it was wildly popular.

Fast forward a couple centuries and fervor for the IPA hasn’t waned. In fact, it is the most popular beer style in America, according to Nielsen.

But the IPA of modern day tastes very different from the way it did when it was originally coined a style. Thanks to American brewers, the style received a makeover that took the hoppy and bitter aspects of the beer to an extreme.

The traditional English IPA is a light to medium-bodied beer that has a bitterness, but is overall well-balanced between it’s malty and hoppy characteristics. Specific English hops used in the style are low in alpha acids (bitterness), but highly aromatic. The American IPA is a super bold, in-your-face style that showcases its hop profile and is very bitter. It’s often darker in color and flavors can be off-putting to those not familiar with hops.

On the International Bitterness Units (IBU) scale, which measures a beer’s bitterness, English IPAs are generally between 40 and 60 IBUs. American IPAs range from 40 IBUs up above 100. Those on the higher end of the scale are said to “shock” or “wreck” the palate, meaning you might not be able to taste much after drinking one of these. They can have a similar effect to eating sour candies. (Info via the Beer Judging Certification Program style guidelines.)

The American IPA can be hard to peg, however. Brewers’ experimental spirits have pushed IPAs into several sub-genres, including West Coast IPA, New England IPA, fruited IPA, black IPA, imperial IPA and others.

For more reading on the oh-so-hot New England IPAs, see my recent story Is the beer haze craze just a phase? Texas brewers dish on the oh-so-popular New England IPA.

Syrah vs Shiraz

Much legend surrounds this humble grape – was it written of by Pliny the Elder, spread through the old world by the Romans, does it reign from an ancient Iranian city? Well as we learned from the podcast, DNA doesn’t lie! A study conducted in California in the 90’s led by Dr. Carole P. Meredith found that Syrah can trace its lineage back to the French Rhone-Alps region.

It’s unsure whether Syrah is the outcome of deliberate or accidental cross-fertilization, but we do know that it hails from parent grapes Mondeuse Blanche (from the Savoie region) and Dureza (from Ardeche). The grape came into its own during the 18th century and is still the top produced red grape in the Rhone Valley today.

So how did Syrah evolve into Shiraz? Well in truth it didn’t, they are the exact same grape. No one is really sure how Syrah got the new world name change. When horticulturalist James Busby brought the Syrah cuttings from France to Australia in the 1830s he labeled the vines Scyras and Ciras.

The vines were first planted in the Sydney Royal Botanical Gardens (beautiful grounds I have been lucky enough to explore recently!) and spread through Hunter and Barossa Valley to become one of the top produced grapes in Australia. Some believe its a combination of the historical mislabeling of vines blended with the strong Australian accent with that shifted the fruit name.

As the vine gained ground through the new world into current day, the names Syrah and Shiraz speak largely to the style of the varietal being produced, regardless of where it’s from. If a wine is labeled Syrah buyers can expect to get a wine in the classic French or Old World style (acidic, earthy, and herbal). When the label reads Shiraz however, buyers can expect a more Australian or New World approach (typically rich, ripe, and fruit forward).

Wine Jelly Recipe

1 – 750ml Bottle of Wine (Red and white both work!)

1/2 Cup Fresh Lemon Juice

1- 2oz Package of Dry Pectin

4 1/2 Cups White Sugar

Optional – Mulling Spices for Red Wine or Citrus Zest for White Wine

Combine wine, lemon juice, and pectin in a large pot, bring to a boil stirring frequently. Add sugar, stir until dissolved, and bring back to boil.

Boil hard for 1 minute stirring constantly, then remove from heat. If foam appears on top skim it off.

Pour or ladle warm jelly into sterilized jars leaving 1/2 inch of space at the top of jars. Tighten 2 piece lid and place in water bath for 5 minutes. Remove from water with tongs and cool on counter. (Click here for tips on canning in a water bath).

We use this recipe for party dips, marinades, and stuffing all the time – hope you enjoy!

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