York: I cannot wait to hear the write ups for these beers from the other guys! I couldn't get away from the idea of including a lot of different types of beers, but I did include 2 really solid Double IPAs. The rest run a huge range of the spectrum--a sparkling ale that I bet will be something completely new for all of us, one of my favorite sours from one of my favorite brewers, a local honey brew, and an amazingly refreshing wheat to round it out. Pliny the Elder has the reputation of king of IPAs in a land completely dominated by hoppy brews, and I had to make sure it made it into an early set. It's a bit soon for repeat breweries with so many good options around, but we all liked the Almanac and Golden Road beers from the first set of beers so much that I stuck with the winners and included another from each. I like every beer on this entry a ton, and even the lower rated ones come from really exciting breweries that I can't wait to get more from.
Shane: I see you, York, with your talk of "repeat breweries." I doubt Bissell Brothers and Garrison City will be missing from many of my posts in the near future though, so repeat away! York has hyped this group of beers pretty hard, so I'm excited to dive into them. I’m eager to try Pliny the Elder in particular, since I feel like that's a glaring gap on my beer résumé. York, I feel like your love of sours is a little stronger than mine, so I’m very curious to give the Wakatu Sour a try. Your extremely high rating has me really intrigued, and I wonder if it will translate to someone a little less enthusiastic about the style itself. There's a really great blend of beer types in this group, which I also appreciate. Drinking in New England can get you bogged down in IPAs, so seeing a wide variety of styles is exciting.
Pete: Pliny, pliny pliny pliny. Pliny. Pliny? Pliny. Ok, now that that's out of my system, this is a really cool collection of beers that I was really excited to try. Pliny is of course a must try, a legendary beer in its own respect. I am also happy the Brian’s batch had another Almanac beer because I have only heard really good things about them. More west coast hops and IPAs can’t be a bad thing, and it isn’t. It is also nice that we were able to try some California wine grapes in beer form and a fun sparkling ale.
York’s Thoughts: Hard to argue with the king right? Pliny is objectively a great beer. Perhaps THE representative of a West Coast IPA with lots of hop layers that run across the entire plant biome from floral to earthy pine. The hop combination works perfectly and gives you just enough of the bitterness a DIPA should have without wrecking your palate. I had only even seen one single place in DC that had a one time shipment of this beer so it was something I sought out pretty quickly in SF. It’s available fairly regularly at a couple of my go-to stores and bars so luckily I’m able to get in on this more than once in awhile.
Shane’s Thoughts: I have a confession to make. For some reason, I always thought that Pliny the Elder was a stout. I have no explanation for this, but I wanted to get it off my chest. Anyway, I’ve been drinking New England style IPAs for so long that I almost forgot what it’s like to drink a really great, classic IPA. There is no cloudiness to this beer. In fact, it’s one of the most beautiful pours I’ve ever seen. It’s very aromatic and comes out so bright it’s almost orange. It’s a hoppy beer, but the hops are not overly assertive. By that I mean that while the bitter hoppiness is still there, it doesn’t hit you in the face. The maltiness that the beer has definitely helps, and it’s not really something I was expecting. Overall this beer has incredible balance, and while I wouldn’t call it one of my personal all-time favorites, from a technical standpoint it’s almost flawless.
Pete’s Thoughts: This beer started the entire double IPA craze. The myth is that Russian River founder Vinnie Cilurzo was working at another brewery with substandard equipment and created this hop bomb by doubling the hops and malt to cover off any off flavors that might be present in the beer. Necessity is the mother of invention. This beer has been the top dog for so long that some might think it’s not worth the time to seek it out. Those people are insane. Huge hop nose with bright citrus and floral character. Flavor is crispy citrus peel, perfect balanced sweetness to enhance the fruit character and some nice herbal undertones to balance everything out. There is no real detectable bitterness, crisp and refreshing…no wonder this was considered the best beer in the world for so many years.
Shane: Really fantastic. This is how you do a traditional beer the right way. 9/10
Pete: The myth, the legend, is real. This beer started the whole IPA craze, a must try for any beer geek. 9/10
York: Everything a beer drinker could want in a straight up beer that doesn't try to be flashy. 9/10
York’s Thoughts: I couldn’t resist something that had so much going on in it. The local, world renowned grapes plus elements like dark cocoa make for a HUGE flavor range. Taste changes with temperature noticeably as well. I’d recommend it colder than not, but I tend to be on that side of the argument for most drinks anyway. Love the layers on this and even though it’s certainly not what comes to mind when I crave a beer, it’s got too many cool taste and story elements to look past. It’s very local and not distributed much, so I feel a bit of a cool factor on this one too. I also can’t help but think of Pete showing up with this to a party where he was charged with bringing wine. Wouldn’t hold it against him of course.
Pete’s Thoughts: Wine and beer hybrids tend to be very wine forward, but this one is much more reserved than that. I like the crisp textual and maltiness, which really cleanses the palate after every sip. I usually want more grape character in the mid palate, but there is an nice sour grape finish at the end that is very nice. I could see this being a great food beer for the summer because it’s light but the grape character gives it enough weight to hold up to things like steak and chicken.
Shane’s Thoughts: This beer exceeded my expectations substantially. I expected something resembling an overcarbonated shandy, but that’s not what this is at all. In fact, the carbonation takes a major back seat, and although it has some nice fizz to it, I would say no more than an average bottle of wine. The fruit flavor is there, but it isn’t the sharp, front-of-the-tongue kick that I was expecting, instead making its presence felt in a gentler way. Overall I could have stood for a bit more fruit flavor, and while I would be tempted to give this beer an 8, I’m forced to bump it down a notch for its “tart and jammy” characterization. There really isn’t anything “tart” about the beer, and while the soft grape flavor could maybe present an argument for “jammy,” I’m just not sure I’m seeing what the brewers saw.
Pete: Very interesting wine beer combo, but I want more balance from the grapes. 7/10
Shane: Really nice and refreshing, but lacks the tartness that the label promises. 7/10
York: Not what you want if you’re craving an end of day beer, but an awesome drink for now and then. 7/10
York’s Thoughts: It’s going to be very hard for me to NOT include an Almanac beer in every round. I promise to try and find some alternatives but this one was too good to pass on. First, hopped sours are probably the coolest tasting beer in my mind. Gives you all the fun funk flavors with the hopped element that a beer needs to be a beer. Second, who can argue with “lemon, pineapple, tangerine, white wine” as descriptors. Third, they sell it as tasting like pie. Key lime pie, at that. If you’re going to sell a beer described as pie, it damn well better be good. Bonus points include the oak aging for body, the dry-hopping, and wine barrel maturation. Can’t say enough good things.
Shane’s Thoughts: Well. York has talked this beer up quite a bit, and I can see from his review that he isn’t planning to stop anytime soon. I’ll admit that I’m not the biggest fan of sours in general. They’re something different from the standard beer offerings, but that’s about where my interest usually ends. I don’t think I’ve ever had a sour that I immediately wanted to drink again. Almanac may have changed that. I don’t have the same over-the-moon reaction to this beer as York, but it’s by FAR my favorite sour I’ve ever had. After my first sip, I was prepared to write it off as just another regular sour, but after a beat I realized that the finish on this beer has none of that funk that puckers you up. Instead, it finishes with a blast (I really can’t think of a better word than “blast”) of citrus that really does evoke that pie flavor that Almanac talks about. Again, I’m not as high as York on this beer, but it blew away my expectations and I think it probably made me reevaluate my stance on sours in general.
Pete’s Thoughts: Very fun sour. I am really starting to like this dry hopped sour trend. You get some nice bright sour character coupled with the fruit of the hops. They blend well to give you a juicy citrus feeling with wonderful hop character on the nose. Really enjoyed it too because you get to taste the hops, the wine barrel, the funk, and the combination of the three long after you finish a sip. Really fun sensation and a great beer overall.
Shane: Originally I gave this an 8, but on reflection I just can’t see how it could be much better. 9/10
Pete: Really fun and unique beer that showcases the Wakatu hop. 9/10
York: One of my favorite beers I’ve ever had. 10/10
York’s Thoughts: I’ve really struggled to find much good dark beer from California. These guys caught my eye with a bunch of awards and lots more dark beers than most breweries out here. I searched for the darker stuff for a while and wound up pulling the trigger on this wheat ale instead. It’s got some cool elements, but just doesn’t have quite enough oomph in it for me. Would love to see all the flavors they added be twice as strong. The honey rounds it out nicely but the beer smells much more flavorful than it tastes. I’m looking forward to getting some more of their stuff and visiting the brewery in the near future. Will be sure to update then.
Pete’s Thoughts: This is a solid drinking beer. The honey is nice because it adds a lot of body and a nice herbal note. Most honey will ferment out in a beer so there is not a lot of sweetness present. What you are left with is the note from the honey that was used so you get some nice floral notes that add an interesting flavor. The wheat was a good choice because it counters what the honey will do to the beer when it ferments out.
Shane’s Thoughts: I don’t want to kill this beer, because I’m just not the right audience. I don’t love honey beers, because I generally find them to be too sweet and too syrupy. This beer isn’t going to change my stance on that, but there is one interesting effect it had on me: it made me appreciate the wheaty element. Because make no mistake, that goes a long way towards countering the syrupy sweetness of the honey. I can absolutely see how someone who is more predisposed to like this type of beer would be a fan. It just personally isn’t my style.
Pete: Really solid beer, nothing over the top but I would enjoy this again. 6/10
Shane: I’m not personally a fan, but I can absolutely see the appeal. 5/10
York: Pretty unobjectionable but lacks the standout that makes you crave it again. 6/10
York’s Thoughts: I know I’ve said this a few times earlier--wheaty beers really just aren’t my thing. I don’t like the chewiness and that planty stick they have, but I’m always open to giving a new beer a shot. Since we all liked the Wolf Among Weeds from these guys so much, I figured I’d give their Citra Bend a try. It’s a tangent from their Hefeweizen so I got this more out of curiosity and respect for the brewery than I did looking for something to include here. I was met however, with a really great warm weather beer that has a lot of IPA characteristics mixed into a wheat profile. A fruit filled nose and a terrific hop combo make this beer drink extremely easy. I was so happy to find something classified as a ‘wheat’ beer that I liked, I couldn’t resist putting it into this set.
Pete’s Thoughts: Golden Road won the day last time, so, I came into this beer with high expectations. Also putting citra in the title only increased what I expected. I love when you pop a can of beer and immediately get a punch of hops without having to put your nose close to the beer. This one absolutely has that nice citrus aroma coupled with some nice pine aroma from the hop blend. I like the mouthfeel of the wheat base and really enjoy the balance of this beer. I was expecting this beer to be all citrus and no bitterness but the change up is nice. Definitely has the dry west coast characteristic that I like in these beers. Golden Road is really doing a fantastic job.
Shane’s Thoughts: I’m surprised that York likes this one as much as he does, because it’s a little on the wheaty side of things for me. You definitely get the burst of citrus that is characteristic of Citra hops, but then it gets a little chewy for me. It’s not quite what I expected, which isn’t a bad thing, but my experience with single hopped beers is that they tend to be a little one-note. This isn’t one-note, but I’m not sure that the wheatiness of the beer does it any favors. Ultimately, it’s a brew I’d drink again, but it’s hard-pressed to stand out against this terrific slate of beers.
Pete: I like the burst of hops you get from the opening and the slight bitterness on the backend. 7/10
Shane: Too wheaty for my taste, but ultimately pretty flavorful. 6/10
York: Great warm weather beer. Hopped perfectly to compliment the wheatiness. 8/10
York’s Thoughts: Pizza Port is a great brewery with shops along the coast in California. While I regrettably haven’t been able to get to any yet, I have it on good authority from a local ship captain who grew up near the brewery that it is about as chill a place as exists. In a somewhat indescribable sense, their beer captures that chill feeling. I tried a few of their IPAs and the Kook DIPA is far and away my favorite. It has a lot of fruit notes throughout with citrus flavors including pineapple and other more exotic sections of the citrus palate. That profile gives it an A+ in the refreshing category and the beer definitely finishes nice and smooth. Perfect strength and bitterness in my opinion. Drink it extra cold and definitely grab a bunch at a time.
Pete’s Thoughts: Any place that has pizza in the name of the brewery has to be good. It’s a rule somewhere, I think. This beer explodes out of the can with great citrus and floral hop notes. Really dry, mouthwatering, fruit, and herbal notes. Pretty much on par for what I expect from any great west coast IPA. I love the blend of hops, not new age hops, just straight delicious hops. Good balance and full flavor, perfect with sushi burritos because that is the food I paired it with.
Shane’s Thoughts: Wow! I have to say, this beer blew away my expectations. This is not the average DIPA that I was expecting. Instead, it’s a flavor bomb. Kook is incredibly flavorful, with a great balance of hops that don’t overwhelm your palate. The bitterness lingers a little bit longer that I would like, but that’s really my only complaint. The tangerine and pineapple flavors show through really well, and combined with the bitterness from the hops they give the beer a sharp edge that I really love. Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that it’s got that little bit of haze to it that almost reminds me of a New England IPA. Maybe we aren’t so different after all, east and west coast. I want to rate this beer very, very high. Foundation’s Epiphany is my quintessential 9/10 DIPA, and this beer doesn’t quite get there...but damned if it’s not close.
Pete: Great melon, tangerine, pineapple and pine flavor. 7/10
Shane: Tremendous hops. Really drinkable. Even on the west coast, this reminds me of home. 8/10
York: Might be my favorite hop combo I’ve had in a CA IPA. Awesome local rep. 9/10
Best of the Bunch
York: I’ve got to go with the Wakatu from Almanac for my top pick here. The Pizza Port DIPA would probably have won most other batches for me, but the Wakatu was just so perfect, I couldn’t pick another over it.
Pete: Wakatu Sour. Really good balance of flavor and offers a lot of characters of different beer styles all packed into one.
Shane: It’s a toss-up between Wakatu and Pliny for me. Since York and Pete went with Wakatu, I’ll opt for Pliny, because once again I just want to say how sometimes a very straightforward beer can be the best. You don’t always have to go crazy with new flavors and inventive hop blends. Sometimes the classics are classics for a reason. I also want to give a shout-out to Kook, which absolutely would have challenged for the top spot in another post. Just a great group of beers overall.
Drink With Us
Three friends. Three corners of the country. One passion for beer.
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