Megan, born and raised in Connecticut but living in Lima for many years, once told me that every time she went back to her country and ordered an IPA, the bartenders failed to understand what she wanted. The reason, she explained, is that she used the ‘Peruvian way’. In Peru ‘IPA’ rhymes with the British pronunciation for ‘deeper.’ Maybe it was how suddenly the style caught on that made us turn the ÁIY-PIY-ÉY pronunciation into a more approachable ÍYPAH. Whatever the reason, we cannot deny that India Pale Ales became the favorite kind of beer for many because they felt like the exact opposite of the golden and brilliant lagers that smell as boring as an empty glass left to dry on a drain rack. To give the celebrated IPAs the spotlight it deserves in Peru, we have created the first edition of Larga Vida IPA and chosen the 5 best IPAs made in Peru.
This initiative started as part of an interest my friends Mohammed, Olivier, and I share. We had previously gotten together to sample and rate as many Belgian tripels available in Peru. Other beer styles followed using blind tastings. When we were in the middle of discussing the possibility of a new get-together to blind taste IPAs, I came up with the idea of fetching IPAs brewed in Peru using only water, malt, hops, and yeast and publishing the results today precisely on IPA Day. After many much needed phone calls and text messages, 17 Peruvian breweries agreed to send us their samples with no cost neither for them nor for us. Such exciting news encouraged me to register the event to have it sanctioned by the BJCP. In order to give our judging staff another experienced set of taste buds, we managed to convince Megan to join us. She is perhaps the Peru-based beer judge that has participated in the most competitions abroad.
This being a BJCP-sanctioned mini-tournament of American IPAs made in Peru, we must play by the rules. That means we will not publicize the scores given to each beer nor will we reveal the names of the 14 participating breweries —three breweries did not meet the dealine set for sample delivery. Observing the rules, each of the participating breweries will receive the beer score sheets filled out by all four judges including final assigned scores. Without further ado, here are the 5 Best Peruvian IPAs determined through blind tastings by Megan Garrity (Certified BJCP Judge), Mohammed Reza (Certified BJCP Judge), Olivier Díaz (Provisional BJCP Judge), and José Alberto Castro (Recognized BJCP Judge).
5th Place: It is a little funny that my first article on IPAs (Catering & Gastronomía, January 2016) included this beer by Planeta Bierra. Undoubtedly, Diaplipa‘s first appearance in the year 2014 has given this Double IPA not only the chance to position itself among beer drinkers in Lima but also to get better batch after batch. This new version of Diaplipa, you will notice it features a new label, deserves a place on this list due to its intense bitter flavor, its balance between caramelly malts and citrusy and resiny hops, and its powerful dry finish.
4th Place: I must say I would have felt weird not to see this beer among the best IPAs from Peru. Inti Punku has been one of my favorites of all times, just like Brewery of the Sacred Valley. So every time I find myself at a taproom, I set the goal of finding a place near the taps, keeping an eye for a proper service, and then enjoying it. As you know, Init Punku is only available in kegs, so Juan and Carlos got out of their way to bottle three samples of this bitter delight filled with assertive flavors of citrus fruits and pine wood.
3rd Place: If a beer-drinking region such as Cusco deserves a place on this list, it is only fair that the region of Arequipa should have a spot too. Seis Mistis by Melkim proves that the medals that Peruvian beer tournaments have recently awarded to the brewery owned by the Quispe brothers are well deserved. This refreshing IPA brewed in Arequipa has made it to the top three thanks to its dry profile showcasing a great balance between tropical and resiny hops and caramel-scented malts complemented by subtle touches of peaches and apricots.
2nd Place: I feel more than pleased that another of my favorite IPAs has made it into this select group. Though I must admit this is not the same memorable Cat IPA by 7 Vidas that I tasted on draft at the CAPFest 2015, this IPA made in Tacna is among the best I have tried in the six years I have been drinking good beers. The hand of Marco Málaga, the experienced master brewer that has started to collect medals with his Argentina-based craft brewery Okcidenta, is becoming more and more obvious. I love how intensely this Cat IPA drinks, but I like the hop-driven touches of white onions and garlic even more.
1st Place: This beer is also among my favorites from the CAPFest 2015, the year when Invictus released their well-known Alquimista and Ilusionista, the best Peruvian IPA of 2019. And it is the best because its bouquet is tropical and resiny, because its body does not wear out the palate, but most of all because its aftertaste leaves a delicious and long taste of mango skin and because it is so totally easy to drink. In a city so intense as Lima, on a night like the one we will have in just a few hours when so many bars will join the IPA Day celebrations, it does us well to have an American IPA that helps us to leave it all behind and makes us remember all the reasons you also made IPA your favorite beer style.
All that is left to do is to announce there will be a Larga Vida IPA 2020 and that second edition will allow entries for all IPA styles, old and new. We will have every American IPA, English IPA, session IPA, red IPA, New England IPA, and hoppy beer that Peruvian (and foreign?) craft breweries and home brewers choose to enter. And remember that if you prefer to celebrate IPA Day drinking these beers at home, La Cerveteca has put together the Larga Vida IPA 4-pack with Ilusionista, Cat IPA, Seis Mistis, and Diablipa. May the night be in your favor.