This traditional IPA from Leeds, at 6% ABV, was chosen for us by David Bishop, AKA @broadfordbrewer, who says:

It’s one of those beers that folk regard as an unsung hero of British IPAs. I think I’ve become accustomed to the juicy banger IPAs and often forget IPAs like this. I drink a fair bit of the cask version of this beer – the weaker Dissolution IPA. The Extra IPA comes in an unfashionable 500ml bottle, it’s at the maltier end of the IPA scale, it’s quite strong, and the Ratebeerians don’t seem to think much of it, which makes me like it all the more.

We bought our bottles from Beer Ritz at GBP3.28 per 500ml.

(A spot of disclosure: when we launched our book in Leeds Kirkstall supplied a beer with our names on the pump-clip. They didn’t pay us, we didn’t pay them, and we’ve had no dealings since. Having to do this every time gets exhausting but in for a penny, etc.)

We get a little bit excited about this kind of English IPA — not the 20th Century version which is generally indistinguishable from bitter but the revivalist, retro, BBC costume drama variety. The Protz-Dorber sub-style, if you like. They’re generally made using English hops in quantities substantial enough that you can taste them but with an emphasis on bitterness and flavour, rather than extravagant aroma. They don’t demand to be drunk fresh, now, quickly, drink me now! In fact, a bit of age often does them good. And, because there are so few around they feel different and interesting, sufficient to tickle the novelty receptors, while still being rooted in tradition.

Kirkstall Dissolution in the glass.

On opening the bottle we got a whiff of hot marmalade. After pouring, it looked slightly hazy, and a rather beautiful shade of orange. With noses in glasses we found more marmalade and orange blossom, as encountered in the clear syrup they used to sell in our local Turkish supermarket in London.

The initial impression of the taste was more of the same, along with some ripe strawberry and a general hedgerow leafiness. We kept talking about oranges but it wasn’t citrusy in the sense of bright breakfast juice — more like candied peel and intense oiliness. The bitterness was turned low in the mix but probably about right, holding it back from being cloying. It’s a round beer, not a spiky one; robust, not rough; mellow.

We think it bears a strong resemblance to Meantime’s take on historic English IPA but it’s years since we had a bottle of that, and it is pricey these days, as well as being stronger again at 7.4%. Marston’s Old Empire is probably the best budget alternative, usually available in supermarkets for less than GBP2 a bottle and great at its best, though sadly variable in our experience.

Though we liked Dissolution Extra a lot, and found every mouthful demanded another, we don’t quite think it earned its ABV, drinking more like a 5% beer. We’d really like to try the weaker version David mentions in his note. Overall, though, it was a big hit with us and we will probably buy it again. If you think these modern IPAs smell like bloody air freshener, but also think Greene King have a bloody cheek, and so on, then you should definitely give it a try.

There’s only one more MMP post after this in the current series when we’ll be writing about Wold Top Marmalade Porter with a side serving of Samuel Smith Taddy Porter for reference.

7 Comments

  1. neil, eatingisntcheating.co.uk

    Meantime’s IPA is probably my favourite example of the historic British IPA style that’s readily available, though I can’t agree with you about Marston’s Old Empire. Not a bad beer, but too pale, too one dimensional and far too ‘clean’ to work in the same way as Meantime or Kirkstall’s within this loose ‘style’. Old Empire tastes more like that daft (but often delicious) beer style India Pale Lager to me.

  2. Not tried this one yet , but , I’ve got a little list and this beer’s on it!!.
    Marston’s Old Empire: Good in both forms in my experience.

  3. Cracking beer, OK I live 1/4 mile from brewery and also know where I can pick it up at two quid a bottle. ???? I’d see it as less an old school English ipa, more as sitting at mid point between that and us ipa tradition.

  4. I’m always a little bemused by this sort of reaction to Dis Extra. I used to brew it, and can assure that inspite the old timey label, it aspires to be a proper US IPA. American and Aussie varieties, at least during my tenure, and high-ish t90 dry hopping. I’d agree that it doesn’t achieve that, settling for something more pleasantly marmalady. The very attractive label does seem to have helped establish this old school rep though. One notable beer writer described it as the closest thing to cask, in bottle. Ironic, given that it’s contract packaged; force carbed and sterile filtered. As a side note, it’s younger sibling, Dissolution is quite a different beer, but no less new world, in hop terms.

  5. Don’t be bemused! Authorial intent vs. what’s in the glass, I guess.

  6. Well quite. Bemusement in the mildest sense, and less at your review (accurate, by my lights), than at the question of what it means to accidentally make an Old School English IPA with exclusively hens tooth, NW hops.

  7. Well, a lot of the Victorian/Edwardian/pre-WWII recipes Ron Pattinson digs up use Cluster, it’s just that they all go in at 20-30-60 minutes from the end of the boil. I’m no expert on the nuts and bolts but I’d guess that, to make Dissolution Extra taste more American, it’d need less bitterness, a slightly lighter body and a lot more very late or dry-hopping. If that’s already going on then the process needs tinkering with. I also wonder if the American IPAs it’s modelled on are the 1990s/2000s versions which, to palates battered by Punk IPA and the like, don’t taste all that different to old school UK pale ales. (See also: St Austell Proper Job.)

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