York: I've been referring to California and the rest of the coastal states as the Land of IPAs since I got here. Before moving to San Francisco, my primary go-to's for beer were mostly on the dark end of the spectrum. Since landing in the Land of IPAs, I have become completely obsessed with BIG hops and strong IPAs. A lot of these types of beers that I've shared with the guys so far have been the prototypical West Coast IPA with huge floral hops, a very light and clear color, and the crisp finish I love in any beer. While I think it’s pretty clear that this is the best style of IPA, Shane and Pete seem to opt for other styles instead, whether it be the hazy New England Style, or the darker hop brews with a bit of a toastier finish. I designed this set of beers to run the gamut of styles. Caldera Brewing from Oregon has their very own interpretation of IPA that they refer to as American instead of West Coast. They come a bit darker, but still pack a lot of hoppy freshness. The Boo Koo from Mother Earth and the Wolf Pup from Golden Road are both very hop forward but smooth as you go through the drink and finish, and the Booming Rollers offers the classic Citra hop and malt balancing act. The two beers from Local Brewing are personal favorites of mine and bring us back to the more typical West Coast IPA in all it’s high ABV, super hoppy, assertive goodness. For those not already having trouble deciding, I included a collaboration beer from Eagle Rock (CA) and Flagship Brewing (NY) that is possibly the best interpretation of an East-meets-West version of the IPA. Cheers to hops!
Pete: It is summer, I am in DC, it is perilously hot…so, York was good to get us all some nice refreshing IPAs. What I liked about this batch looking at it from afar was that it had a nice variety of IPAs. It wasn’t just West Coast IPAs or doubles or sessions, it was everything. And it is nice to have some crisp refreshing IPAs to drink in the summer, because for some reason I want that bitterness when it's really humid out. I also like how York is shaking up the breweries, but also providing a nice consistency with beers from Golden Road. We are getting a nice mix of new and unusual with some nice familiarity to fall back on.
Shane: I think this is the first group of beers we’ve reviewed that have shared a common theme, and I have to say I love the idea. So many different styles of IPA from up and down the West Coast--how could I not get excited? This batch contains a few breweries I’ve already come to appreciate (looking at you, Modern Times), as well as a few that I’m excited to try, like Local and Caldera. West Coast IPAs have been somewhat hit or miss for me, and I suspect that’s because I’ve become so accustomed to the New England style. With that in mind, looking at a huge spread like this has me pretty excited and ready to get a fresh new perspective!
York's Thoughts: I love a good collaboration story, and this one is especially fun since it’s from near my original hometown and my current hometown. Eagle Rock is a revolutionary-style Los Angeles brewery that worked with Flagship Brewing in Staten Island, NY, to show a level of harmony between West Coast and East Coast IPAs. You very clearly get elements of both, with lots of hop forwardness and a good amount of that resin laced maltiness. It's got a little bit of citrusy/juicy undertones, but the highlight is definitely the high-malt, high-hop combo that they pulled off without muting either in the process
Pete's Thoughts: I am going to be honest, when you look back at the evolution of the IPA, the traditional divide of East Coast vs West Coast is very hard to pin down sometimes. West Coast is usually classically golden color, dry citrus and bitter pine flavors/aromas, crisp, and clear. East Coast seemed a little more malty, darker amber color from the malts, and generally earthy pine balancing out fruit components of the beer...but more balanced than the West Coast. However, trying to keep too closely to dictionary definitions of styles is boring: beer doesn’t fit in a box. So you can find East Coast beers that walk and talk like West Coast beers and vice versa. This beer is very, very citrusy. It reminds me of biting into a nice grapefruit or orange. I can’t quite place it. But it has some reserved pine flavor of bitterness without going too dry or too bitter. It’s more of a rich gold than a straw gold color. Great hops, great aroma, pleasure to drink. Classic east meets west.
Shane's Thoughts: Well, they describe it as neither fully East Coast nor fully West Coast, and this beer lives up to that description. It’s got a really nice fruit head to it, with a nice malt backbone. I’m not typically a fan of overly malty beers, and this beer uses just about the perfect amount for me. It’s well-rounded, crisp, and (relatively) clear. This is a beer I could easily see an East Coast brewery attempting, but filling with heavy haze. Likewise, I could easily see a lot of other West Coast breweries attempting it and over-malting the hell out of it. Instead, what we get here is a delicious IPA with an almost perfect balance between a lot of different styles. If I had access to this beer regularly, it would easily make it into my rotation as a nice change of pace.
Pete: East meets West Coast IPA? I’d buy that as a style. 8/10
Shane: Really, really nice. Fantastic balance between a lot of different styles. 8/10
York: Possibly my favorite collaboration brew I’ve had--awesome execution on a style so many have failed on. 9/10
York's Thoughts: Coming to the West Coast as a porter and stout drinker, the world of IPAs is still much less explored for me. Luckily, it’s not only California that makes great IPAs. Oregon grows a huge percentage of the hops used in this country, so it’s no surprise that they pump out some good hoppy beers. The IPA by Caldera is a good example of diversity among West Coast IPAs. This one is significantly more amber in color than most, and drinks with a fuller body. Still a ton of those great fresh hops like Citra and Simcoe, balanced out nicely with a good malt blend. I’m interested to see how the others feel about this one on the spectrum of IPAs we’ve had to this point, since it’s not quite as easy to bucket with one style over the other. My guess is they may rate it a notch or two better if we have any difference at all, just based on the similarity to some of the IPA’s they’ve approved of in prior sets.
Pete's Thoughts: This is a nice, crisp, malt-forward IPA. It is a little citrusy, a little piney, and contains some good hop flower notes. The malt presence is very strong, while not being cloying or overwhelming. It is a little more malty than I usually prefer, but it is very rich and not crisp. This is a beer I remember as an older interpretation of the style. Not bad, and good to see it still around.
Shane's Thoughts: This is a style of IPA that I don’t usually find much of in New England. It reminds me a little bit of the G-String IPA from Funky Bow that appeared in one of my posts a little while back. It’s rich and malty almost to the point of being nutty. A little caramel flavor. I’ll admit that I have a hard time judging malt-forward IPAs because they fall outside of my personal comfort zone, but this is one that seems to work very well. It’s full-bodied and delicious, with a bitterness that is almost reminiscent of an ESB. It’s an interesting beer that turns my expectations on their head, and it’s now the second Caldera brew to make me feel that way.
Pete: It is a very malt forward IPA but still brings a lot of strong hop presence. 6/10
Shane: Too malty for me, but it is still a pretty tasty brew. 6/10
York: Dark in color, huge in hops, good anytime brew. 7/10
York's Thoughts: The first point I need to make about this beer is that I was SHOCKED at the fact that the IBUs only come in at 65. This tastes like a proper hop bomb and I totally dig it. Very light gold in color, and has a nose of hops and pine similar to the Pliny and Pizza Port IPAs that I included in previous sets. The drink is again full of hops and very smooth (fitting its look), and it finishes crisp and clean. Tastes right around what the ABV is, if not a bit higher. I’ve had a few of these now, and I will say that it changes noticeably with temperature. I know I bring this up a lot, but I definitely recommend having this beer extremely cold to really enhance the sharpness of each level.
Shane's Thoughts: This beer is a very interesting hybrid, and one that makes me stand back and scratch my head. It’s definitely a very malty IPA, and the Simcoe hops come through more strongly than the Mosaic in my mind. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a beer that was this malt forward that still allowed so much citrus rind to come through on the back end. I was ready to judge this beer as just another malt forward IPA, but as I sat back after my first sip I was hit with a wave of lemony, rindy flavor that I absolutely did not expect. I’ve got to give Mother Earth props for that. This is an earthy IPA that lives up the brewery name, with a depth of flavor that come out of nowhere. As I said for Caldera’s IPA, malty IPAs are definitely not my forte, and I often struggle to pick particular flavors out of them. Not so with this beer, and I salute them for it.
Pete's Thoughts: This beer is interesting, but ultimately not my favorite of the bunch. It’s got a very strong malt profile and has a very bitter almost grassy nose. There isn’t as much of the Mosaic presence as I was expecting. If the profile didn’t list it, I wouldn’t have picked it out. There is an underlying fruitiness to the beer on the back end, but the beer is dominated by Simcoe and malt. It’s a little bready, good bitterness, and some grapefruit character. Overall, feels like a malty West Coast IPA that was not what I was expecting.
Shane: York nailed it, this beer has a ton of layers. Malty for my taste, but a fascinating beer. 7/10
Pete: A malty west coast IPA that was not what I was expecting. 6/10
York: I love a beer that offers a distinct Beginning/Middle/End. Each one on this beer is its own experience and is deliciously crisp at every level. 8/10
York's Thoughts: Wondering what a West Coast IPA is? Here you go. HUGE hop flavors coming from every direction, starting with a big citrusy hop nose. The drink gives you some more of the floral notes and it ends with a great dank piney finish without sticking too much. That said, this is a bit of a palate wrecker--but it's well worth it for the flavor and complexity. Add to that this this is a double and clocks in at an 8.1 ABV. Hopped at every stage (including my favorite addition: dry hopping) and served ice cold, this may have vaulted into my personal first place of San Francisco proper beers!
Shane's Thoughts: Well, I’ll tell you what. This is maybe the best West Coast DIPA I’ve ever had. Maybe that’s because the blast of fruit flavor that meets your tongue when you take a sip of this beer reminds me of all the things I love about New England IPAs. Make no mistake, this beer is a peach explosion. From the moment you pop the top, you’re met with a delicious, peachy aroma that almost makes you feel like you’re about to drink a glass of sangria instead of beer. Even if I didn’t know it, I’d have guessed that this beer was dry-hopped with mosaic, because the amount of citrus flavor that comes through is immense, without any of the added bitterness that you expect. I’m actually shocked that this beer comes in at 80 IBUs, because it doesn’t taste bitter at all. My only--ONLY--complaint is that while the clarity of the pour is gorgeous, it allows you to clearly see the floating hop resin. I’m a fan of hazy beers, but I was a little surprised to see that in a West Coast IPA. No matter, though--this is on my Mount Rushmore of California beers right now.
Pete's Thoughts: Peaches come from a can, they were put there by a man (or woman) from Local Brewing Company apparently. This beer is very peachy and dank. Shane is right that this beer has a lot of the fruit forward quality of a New England IPA while still being very crisp and clear. This is really juicy and makes my mouth water. I also dig the individual canning which helps this beer to be very fresh even though it is a couple weeks old. Very good to see that the West Coast can appreciate the New England style.
Shane: Absolutely incredible west coast beer. 9/10
Pete: Oh yeah, there’s the peach bomb flavor I like. 9/10
York: I can’t come up with a single fault for this beer. 10/10
York's Thoughts: I was completely set on getting only the Mambo until I tried this. I knew it was a good sign when I was struggling to choose between the two despite their extremely different styles. The Mambo is a big, layered hop bomb that draws on distinct placement of specific hops throughout the brewing process. The Big One is single-hopped, but the Hallertau Blanc is added during the mash, wort, boil, and dry hopped at the end for good measure. I don’t have much experience with Hallertau Blanc but is very bitter-end-citrusy and reminds me much more of the New England-style IPAs than it does West Coast, so I’m looking forward to seeing if the others flip my ratings between the two Local Brewing Company beers.
Shane's Thoughts: I wasn’t really sure what to expect going into this beer, because Hallertau Blanc has always been a bit of a mystery to me. Now I get it, though. The white grape flavor on the back end of this beer is really prevalent, which represents an element that I am wholly unfamiliar with in beer. I don’t think I’ve ever had a SMaSH beer before, so this was a very interesting combination of flavors. One of the things I’ve always loved about single-hopped beers is that it allows you to focus on a specific range of flavors to bring out, and I have to imagine that the single-malting has a similar effect. This is a beer with direction, and I think Local successfully achieved exactly what they set out to do. While it’s not my favorite beer I’ve ever had, it represents something off the beaten path, and I really enjoyed it. I hope York is able to get his hands on more Local beers, because these two have been absolutely outstanding.
Pete's Thoughts: This is a very interesting take on a SMaSH beer, because most expressions are very much focused on the “cool” hops of Mosaic and Citra. Hallertau Blanc has always fascinated me, and German hops in general, because they seem to be trying to forge their own identity instead of keeping up with the Joneses by using American and Australian/New Zealand hops. I get a tone of white grape out of the nose and the palate of the beer. That is most likely what the Blanc represents and there is a ton of that going on. There is some nice subtle guava and pineapple too but I really get a lot of the grape. This ends up being a very smooth IPA with no bitterness, all flavor. Excited to try more from these guys.
Shane: Haven’t really had anything like this before. Tasty, but can't top the Mambo. 7/10
Peter: Really different hop variety in a Smash beer. Like trying this on its own. 7/10
York: Great interpretation of an Imperial IPA that doesn’t conform to WC style. 9/10
York's Thoughts: I know, I know, I said I’d take it easy on the repeats, but Golden Road has become such a staple in my personal arsenal that I feel the need to share the wealth. I went a different route this time, and instead of the big Wolf Among Weeds IPA or the seasonal Citra Bend, I stuck to the season and am including Golden Road’s take on a session IPA. Hops all the way here, with the juicy Mosaic and Galaxy really showing through in the taste profile. While I’ve always been a bit of a naysayer on the session front, this definitely fits the bill as a crushable light summer beer.
Pete's Thoughts: This is really, really limey for a beer. It is not lemon or orange, it is lime. Usually I would not say that, but it’s definitely the pronounced character. It has a floral nose and some nice bitter character on the palate. Very refreshing. A little thin, but I am not sure that I am going to hold it against this beer. It has a lot of flavor. Really reminds me of the Wolf Among Weeds. I would love this for the beach.
Shane's Thoughts: I agree with Pete on the lime. I’m not sure I’d have picked that out until he said it, but once it’s in your head it comes through pretty clearly. I find that session beers are another category that make it tough to stand out, and while I think that this beer has a ton of flavor, it also suffers from that slightly watery quality that most sessions have. That’s not a knock on this beer in particular, and it’s definitely not a knock on Golden Road--it’s just the reality of the style. But as far as session IPAs go, I would drink this again in a heartbeat. It’s the perfect beer to grab a case of and head straight to the beach, and if I lived in California I think this would make it into my regular summer rotation.
Pete: A little watery, but also has all the flavor. 7/10
Shane: Boatloads of flavor. It’s a light version of Wolf Among Weeds. How can you go wrong? 7/10
York: Hoppy and smooth from start to finish. Only docked from a 9 because I find myself fundamentally opposed to intentionally dropping the ABV. 8/10
York's Thoughts: I love Modern Times. Love their can art, love their story, and love their beer. This beer is one of my favorites amongst favorites. Booming Rollers is definitely brewed for fans of the dank side of the spectrum with those New Zealand hops and an aggressive bitterness. The Citra hops balance that out really nicely, and leave you with a really great crisp finish. I’ve had this a bunch of times now, and I think it’s a great staple for the fridge that beer fans can be happy with either one of or a few in a session. I’d recommend having this beer extra cold, as it seems to add to the crispness that makes this brew so enjoyable.
Pete's Thoughts: Nice dry malt backbone, really bright citrus grapefruit. I liked this a lot. It’s more bright than the other Modern Times beers that I have tried. Adding more a citrus backbone to a very dry IPA just makes it better.
Shane's Thoughts: This is what I was hoping for when York introduced us to Modern Times. The first couple of Modern Times beers we had weren’t as fresh as we might have liked, and I have to assume they suffered for it. Not so this time. This is as fresh as it gets, and the Citra hops really come through to give it a nice bite of citrus flavor. It’s crisp, it’s clear, and it goes down very easy. I saw this pop up on Modern Times’ excellent Instagram account, and I craved it instantly. I’m glad that York was able to get his hands on some for us, because it’s everything I want in a classic west coast IPA. It isn’t the most complex beer I’ve ever had, but that’s not a complaint. It’s fruity and hoppy, with just the TINIEST bit of that southern hemisphere dankness thrown in. I could drink this all day.
Pete: Really good clean West Coast IPA with bright citrus notes. 7/10
Shane: This is a West Coast IPA that could get me into West Coast IPAs. 8/10
York: Glad the others got to see what I see in Modern Times. Awesome all around IPA. 9/10
York's Thoughts: Caldera certainly has their own interpretation of IPAs, and much like their other beer above, this one is very dark in color and very heavy to drink compared to the typical West Coast experience. This beer isn’t really East Coast or New England-style either, so I’m not sure I can predict the others’ ratings. I’d have guessed a MUCH lower IBU for this beer, and probably a higher ABV than it comes in at. Almost reminiscent of a strong ale, this one has an extremely full body. I could definitely see this being a favorite of many people, but feel like it may be a bit of a love-hate. That only makes it even more fun to try as a group so hopefully we have some interesting notes to compare!
Pete's Thoughts: This beer really pours like an amber almost. Really, really cloudy, and then it has that nice ruby-orange hue that almost makes you think it is a New England Style IPA. It has a nice creamy head, and the aroma is of grapefruit, grapefruit pith, and pine. Really inviting without making me think that it is too bitter. It has the feel like something that may be a little bitter, because I have definitely had some Centennial IPAs overdo the bitterness. But here, the flavor is really well balanced. There is enough malt to keep the bite of the pine bitterness from being too overwhelming while not too much malt to (again) make me think this is an amber. Very nice darker Centennial IPA.
Shane's Thoughts: This is a really interesting beer. It has a really nice head and an aroma that is pretty malty for an IPA. It also has a good amount of the bitterness that I expect in a West Coast IPA, and while “malty” and “bitter” are usually two words that signify a beer outside my comfort zone, I actually think it works really well here. This beer turned my expectations on their head: I get a really nice, malty richness up front, then it finishes with some slightly sweet, slightly bitter, slightly citrusy grapefruit rind. That’s almost the exact opposite of what I’m used to in New England IPAs, and somehow it all comes together in a really satisfying way. I drank this beer before the Caldera “IPA,” and I have to say it was a really great first impression.
Shane: I never would have guessed it, but I think I’ll be the one giving this the best score. 8/10
Pete: Reminds me of Two Hearted a little. 7/10
York: Not really within my preferences, especially for an IPA. 6/10
Shane: I have to say, Mambo might be my favorite West Coast DIPA I’ve ever had. That said, Not Your Bro, Dawg, Booming Rollers, and Hopportunity Knocks ALL deserve praise. This was a great batch.
Pete: I have to give it to Mambo. Really a great beer.
York: Mambo from Local is one of the best doubles I’ve had out here. Full endorsement on every level, and a great brewery and story only enhance that feeling!
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