10 Top California IPAs
It appears that the IPA (India Pale Ale) bubble refuses to burst, unless you count beers bursting with more and more bitterness with each passing year. There are single hop, white or black, Imperial, Double and Belgian to name just a few of the variants available. Then there are the new hop varieties, one year Nelson, another Citra, and this year it’s Mosaic.
Luckily for hopheads, California is ground zero for this hop explosion. To the point where IPAs from Colorado or Oregon seem practically British in their moderate hop usage.
I have combed through my personal beer ratings, the RateBeer Top 50 as well as what keeps popping up on the lists for the L.A. Beer Blast to select 10 brewed in California IPA’s that are readily available (or will be soon, in one instance) on tap or in bottles across L.A. County.
I won’t expand the list past ten choices, but I will say that by next year (or even in the next month or two), I will probably have a slightly different list with additions from Ohana Brewing and Haven Brewing on them. Sadly, this list does not include my absolute favorite Cali IPA because it is a seasonal. I will leave you to guess which it is in the comments.
10. The Bruery – Humulus Lager. Technically, yes, it is not an IPA but any Top 10 list must include the Bruery and this hoppy lager is the antidote, aperitif, appetizer for the wide range of big and barrel aged beers that this Orange County brewer has in its arsenal.
9. Smog City – Amarilla Gorilla. Porter won Great American Beer Festival gold for his Groundworks Coffee Porter and Little Bo Pils has quite a fan base, but his Amarillo hopped IPA is their equal in my eyes. A well balanced beer that delivers the hops.
8. Ballast Point – Sculpin. A mere few years ago this San Diego IPA was in such high demand that you would only have rare sightings. Now, it is in cans and bottles and may even have jalapenos in it. But it is still a classic. Great stone fruit and citrus notes.
7. Strand Brewing – Atticus. I keep seeing this around town in the distinctive bottle shape and the classy beach tower label. A strong IPA that is at the edge of wrecking the palate but pulls up at the edge of that cliff.
6. AleSmith – IPA. Yup. No pun filled name. Just IPA. And you can find it at Trader Joe’s for a killer price. Value wise it is incredible. This floral and peppery IPA is good any time of day.
5.Firestone Walker – Union Jack. Another classic. You could make a case for Double Jack but the “single” is simple and classic and on shelves throughout the year. Very much in the vein of the AleSmith IPA (and also a screaming deal at Trader Joe’s).
4. Russian River – Blind Pig. The beer snobs may sing rapturous praise over Pliny the Younger but for my money, Blind Pig is the better pick. Not only because you can find it (usually at Blue Palms Brewhouse). And not only because you don’t have to stand in line and wait for a 4oz pour.
3. Kern River – Just Outstanding. Their Double, Citra, is a world class beer but hard to acquire unless you trek north to the brewery. Their “plain” old regular IPA is Outstanding. No hyperbole here.
2. Alpine Beer Company – Duet. Alpine has signed an agreement to have some of their line brewed at the much larger Green Flash facility in San Diego. So I have ranked this one here in the sole effort to get more of this tremendous beer up here in Los Angeles. Even the hop uninitiated can discern the two hops that are working in concert here.
1. Beachwood Brewing – Melrose. This one is a bit of a cheat. Julian Shrago has a seemingly endless stream of IPAs on tap in Long Beach. Thrillseeker, Hopular Mechanics or Citraholic would fit the bill just as well. All show off the character of the hops and don’t bombard the tongue into a bitterness submission.
Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.