Sunday, November 20, 2016

Saint Benjamin Inca (India Cream Ale)

This is a local interest review for people who live in, work in, or visit the Philadelphia area.

Those who know me particularly well can tell you that I used to be a big beer drinker, and that I took full advantage of living in Philadelphia, a great city for beer in a great region for beer. But those who know me particularly well can also tell you that I stopped drinking beer for a while because it's really not great for me physically. But then again, those who know me particularly well can tell you that I eventually resumed drinking beer in small amounts. Over the years, I've enjoyed offerings from many local breweries, but Saint Benjamin Brewing Company is one I'm not particularly familiar with.

A few stones' throws away from that brewery is Standard Tap, one of THE places to go for local beer in "The City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection." At the Tap and its sister restaurant Johnny Brenda's (also a prominent music venue), all the beers and hard ciders are on draft and local. So I was at the Tap and saw Saint Benjamin's India Cream Ale listed on the blackboard. I thought, "What the hell is that?" After all, I'd heard of and had India Pale Ales, and I'd heard of and had Cream Ales. But India Cream Ale? I asked the bartender about it and he simply offered me a sample. After tasting it, I had to have a glass. And another. And then I stopped because again...beer in small amounts.

Things get a bit confusing with this one! Saint Benjamin's website mentions "India Cream Ale," but lists "Inca," which is identified as an "India Style Cream Ale." When I Google "India Cream Ale," I get numerous results for Inca. Saint Benjamin's "Flagship Beers" page lists Inca at 5.4 % ABV. My bartender at the Tap told me that what I was drinking was 6.7% ABV, which we both found surprising. Philly Tap Finder states explicitly that Inca (or the acronym-styled INCA) is the India Cream Ale, and lists it at 6.7% ABV. 

I'm certain that there is a miscommunication somewhere. Obviously, Inca/INCA and "India Cream Ale" are the same beer in Saint Benjamin's case, but I do not believe that the beer I drank at Standard Tap was 6.7% ABV. 5.4% is much more realistic.


Color: Bright gold with hints of Indian yellow and yellow ochre. 

Nose: Hop-forward, but otherwise not distinctive to me. However...

Palate: Nice! Crisp, hoppy bite. Creamy (yes, creamy) underpinning. The bitterness from the hops is assertive but kept in check by a light, smooth mouthfeel and profile. Tangerine back notes in the entry give way to faint lemon custard. Some malty notes in the finish and a fruity, bright aftertaste with ripe cantaloupe and more lemon custard. Impressively well-rounded for something so light!

Overall: Excellent. I need to visit the brewery and try some more of its offerings. In limited doses, of course. 

Thank you for reading, and as always...Happy Drinking! 

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