There’s a tale – and it may be true – that the first double IPA started as an accident. Once the hopped-up style became popular, however, brewmasters couldn’t slow down. Doubles yielded to triples and it seemed as if the light, brisk, basic India Pale Ale would be swallowed up in one resinous bite. Blissful Thoughts IPA at Carmel Craft Brewing Company is a throwback. Instead of loading up on hops, owner and brewer Jeffrey Vitalich focuses on aromatics. The bouquet – a term not often tossed around by beer drinkers – is tropical, calming. On the palate, hoppy bitterness is a distant thing, like a pine forest on the horizon. This allows sensations of fruit and grains, cream and a soft earthiness to prod the senses.
“I like light styles – lagers, blonde ales,” Vitalich explains. Along with his brother Joseph, he took the helm of Carmel Craft after it had been down for seven months and reopened quietly. He says the little Barnyard brewery is still in transition, with plans to rebrand and launch a grand opening under a new name sometime in the summer.
Fans of Carmel Craft shouldn’t worry. “We’ll be keeping some of the flagships,” he promises – along with the collaboration with next-door Allegro for pizza and other bites. But his care with new beers on the roster is evident. To keep the IPA in line, he withholds the hops until late in the brewing process. “It’s more easygoing,” he says. “The hops don’t overpower the flavors.”