After thoroughly enjoying a seasonal commercial IPA with a hop blend I have been interested in trying, I searched for a clone recipe, but was unable to find a reliable version.
So, I began working to create one on my own using the published brewer's notes, which listed the names of three malts (Pale, Crystal 40, Honey) and the two types of hops, a standard bittering variety and the hop blend for flavor/aroma. The OG was 15P, FG 2P. The IBU (65), SRM (16) and ABV (7%) are all pretty standard for an American IPA, but I was impressed at how very smooth and quite drinkable it was for a 7% brew.
I used several different brewing software programs, but found it was nearly impossible to match the SRM and ABV without resorting to adjustments far out of the normal ranges for efficiency/attenuation; or bumping the crystal malts far over the already high 20%; or adding malt extract or sugar.
I am aware of the many techniques available to a professional brewer which would not be evident in the basic brewer notes. That could certainly be the case in this situation. Or it could be a mundane event, where ingredients are left out to protect a recipe.
But I am not the only one who has noted the remarkable smoothness and drinkability of this 7% brew, so I had a more intriguing thought: The IPA market has a strong preference for higher IBU's and ABV percentages, creating a clear incentive for a brewery to cook the brewer's notes to make them hit numbers they know the public is buying.
Would a state regulatory agency have an issue if a brewery was selling beer at a lower than published ABV? Are there independent agencies that test commercial beer for truth in labeling?