Thursday, January 29, 2015

Ballantine India Pale Ale

   AROMA 7/10   APPEARANCE 4/5   TASTE 7/10   PALATE 4/5   OVERALL 15/20
Chad9976 (1270) - Albany, New York, USA - JAN 29, 2015
Everyone that knows craft beer should know by now that what we call an American IPA in the 21st Century bears little resemblance to the original British IPAs of the 18th and 19th centuries. That doesn’t stop breweries from making and marketing beers that claim to be old school as Pabst has done with Ballantine India Pale Ale. It’s clear this beer is inspired by some of the most popular mainstream examples of the current style with its citrusy hops and big body. I highly doubt this is based on an old recipe, but for a new brew it’s not bad at all (especially considering who makes it).

I poured a 12oz bottle into a tulip glass. It was bottled on 10/22/14 and cost $2.45 ($0.20 per ounce).

Appearance: Extremely hazy shade of dark orange/rusty brown. Particulates can be seen floating in suspension. Pours to a large, beige, frothy head which laces and retains pretty well.

Smell: Yellow lollipop sweetness plus orange juice concentrate. Some pine needles.

Taste: I could probably list off a dozen IPAs that have a similar palette to Ballantine India Pale Ale. It’s pretty traditional for the style: an emphasis on citrus aroma with a distinct malt presence. There’s actually a lot of malt here, so much so that there’s genuine sweetness. It reminds me of lemony yellow lollipops, though that’s often an indication of oxidation. Little in the way of specialty malt except for some toasted notes and caramel. Otherwise, the hops dominate with a strong presence of orange. Light piney/earthy flavor on the backend is also nice. The bitterness is dry through the middle and finish, which isn’t surprising considering the beer is 70 IBUs. Alcohol also plays a role here; it does seem a bit under attenuated. As a straightforward IPA, this beer succeeds.

Drinkability: I was surprised to see the 7.2% ABV indication on the label, as I figured a macro brewery making a supposedly vintage recipe would be much lighter. The weight of the brew is present throughout; the mouthfeel is tepid, chewy and warm from the alcohol. It goes down smoothly and the hops do linger and leave a dry, pasty aftertaste. This would be a good beer to experiment with food pairings, and considering the price it wouldn’t be much of a risk to do so. 
Grade: 7/10


  1. I wanted to reply to this earlier, but Anonymous commenting was broken, or maybe my browser :-)
    Ballantine IPA is a recreation of an old recipe, to the extent it could be done. seems fairly accurate. I'm an old guy and drank this years ago. The IPA's quality deteriorated over the years as it moved from brewery to brewery due to Ballantine's declining fortune. Don't confuse it with the more popular XXX ale, which was OK, but nothing special. Even when the IPA was popular, it was hard to find. I haven't had it in many many years, but the new IPA matches up with what I remember.
    Dave S

  2. Recently read about this in Steve Hindy's(of Brooklyn Brewery) "The Craft Beer Revolution" and mentions this being tasted as far back as 1970 so this isn't exactly a new beer. I've had it myself recently and actually liked it a lot.

  3. Pointless update, I suppose: I saw, purchased, and drank XXX. Not easy to find here. Worth it? If somebody offers you one for free, and you really want to try it, do so. The taste wont last long. It was famous in the old days for a metallic/coppery start. That got lost along with any distinctive flavor. Except a bit of skunk (green bottle? Saaz hop?). Bottle dated OCT2615.C08081339 I still like the IPA. Perhaps Ballantine could revive this one.

    Dave S