Oh my god, I just realized that I have never yet written about how freaking much I love Saint Arnold's Elissa IPA. Please let me correct that oversight now.
I guess I've failed to write it up thus far because I've only developed my addiction to it this year. The first few times I tried it, I wasn't knocked out by it. I think that's because I'd been accustomed to the punch-you-in-the-mouth overload of hops that you get with some other IPAs, most notably the Dogfish Head takes on the India Pale Ale style. For this same reason, I had also dismissed Sierra Nevada's seasonal IPA as well. But as I worked my way through a six-pack of the Sierra, I began to appreciate the more subtle hop approach. I then took this frame of mind into a reassessment of the Elissa, and I dare say this is becoming my very favorite beer right now.
Now, that doesn't mean Saint Arnold is shy with the hops. If heavy hops give you the "bitter beer face" from the Keystone Light commercials, then Elissa still won't be the beer for you. Saying Saint Arnold uses less hops than Dogfish Head is like saying something is less hot than the sun. There is indeed a wonderful snap of bitterness in the Elissa that lingers on your tongue long after the beer has left your mouth. There's a bit of spiciness in there, a cinnamon taste. And maybe a faint hint of … what … some kind of fruit. Peaches? Plums? The Saint Arnold website says that comes from Cascade hops, "a distinctive American hop noted for its citrusy flavor." That flavor, which manages to not be overwhelmed by the hops, makes this beer very drinkable – indeed, I can put away way too many of these in a single sitting. (Compare this to Dogfish Head's 90-Minute IPA – although it's an utterly magnificent IPA that more than one reviewer has rated the best in America, its huge strength and high alcohol content usually limit me to only one in a sitting.)
And if you're in one of Texas' finer beer bars (such as the Gingerman), seek out this special treat: A select few places get special shipments of a cask-conditioned version of Elissa, which I've had, and now that I've developed a love for this brew, I need to try it again.
Now, you're surely curious about the Elissa name and the sailing ship on the bottle. Here's Saint Arnold's explanation:
"This beer is named after ELISSA, a tall ship now moored in Galveston. Ships like ELISSA were used in transporting IPAs to India. Saint Arnold Brewing Company donates a portion of the proceeds of this beer to the Galveston Historical District for preservation of this ship."