Be Careful Where You Buy IPA and How You Store it

I got excited about IPAs because of the flavors that hops bring to a brew. More recently I started to notice the difference freshness makes and how quickly the hop flavors fade. Thanks in part to Stone releasing their Enjoy By IPA series, which expects people to drink the beer within a month of release, general beer drinkers are starting to understand how important freshness is. Follow the Enjoy By link for Stone’s explanation of this. But simply having bottles at home that are fresh is only half the battle. You also have to store those beers properly to avoid losing those hop flavors.

I am not going to go on about specific temperatures but I will simply keep things as simple as possible. Refrigerating your IPAs once you get them home in a bottle (like I know you would with a growler) ensures that your beer tastes as good as it did when you brought it home when you open it the following week. This is only half of the battle though. The other part is making sure that you purchase your beers from a shop that stores their beers properly, or go direct to the source.

There are a lot of steps a beer takes from when it leaves the brewery until you find it at your local shop. Thankfully a lot of the big breweries in San Diego that bottle their beers distribute through Stone. Stone takes the necessary steps to ensure that until they drop the beer off at the next step it is properly refrigerated. Read about how Stone explains it on their distribution site. However, you don’t always know how properly the beer was stored by a particular company before putting it on the shelves.

Sometimes finding beers from certain breweries in a shop is a good indication that the shop stores the beers properly. Russian River is known for being very strict about how their beers are kept both during shipping and once on display. Alpine is also strict so if you can find beer from either brewery at a bottle shop you know that they store the beers properly. Alpine has a list of places where you can find their beers on their website. One thing to look for is coolers that don’t have bright fluorescent lights on the beers.

More recently though, I’ve found that it is worth going direct to any local brewery and buying the beer from the source. That way you are guaranteed that the beer you are buying is as fresh as possible and stored properly. Stone has a few smaller tasting rooms where you can buy bottles without trying to park at one of their big restaurants. But for beers from out of state or out of county proper storage makes all the difference and helps ensure that you enjoy the beers as they were meant to be tasted.

In summary, make sure that you keep your IPAs away from sunlight and/or fluorescent lights and that you store them in a cool place. You should notice the difference right away. Because some of the things I discuss here is based on discussions I had on Facebook with fellow beer friends, if something here is inaccurate, please let me know in the comments. If you think I am making a big deal about something that is not very important, also let me know.

If you are interested in some of the science behind how light affects beer, check out this article from Mark Dredge on Pencil and Spoon as well as a more detailed article from someone in The Bruery’s lab.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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Noble Ale Works, Orange County CA

A few miles from The Bruery is Noble Ale Works, a brewery that knows how to make a fantastic IPA. My first introduction to the brewery was a double IPA that I tried down in San Diego. I immediately took notice and wanted to stop by for a visit. I didn’t make it to the brewery itself until a few weeks ago when I stopped by both The Bruery and Noble Ale Works on September 27, 2014 on my way home from LA.

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I tried five beers while there, Rosalita (a hibiscus infused pilsner), pale ale, Big Whig IPA, a coffee milk stout, and man’s milk. The Rosalita was not particularly impressive. There was very little hibiscus flavor and if it wasn’t pink in color you probably wouldn’t even know it was flavored. I didn’t finish this taster. The pale ale was quite impressive with a nice juicy flavor that set it apart from most piney pale ales out there.

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The Big Whig IPA is a powerful IPA that really shows that Noble understands the West Coast style of IPA. It has a lot of citrus flavor and a bit of resinous flavor as well to balance it out. I had this beer on tap down in Mexico pretty recently as well and every time it hits the spot. The coffee milk stout was a bit sweet and strangely light colored. It had plenty of iced coffee flavor to go nicely with the sweetness. The Man’s Milk was pretty similar with a little more syrupy sweetness going on and a lot more caramel in the flavor.

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Because I had already been to The Bruery and was going to dinner when I got back to San Diego I didn’t try the Galaxy Showers, a seasonal double iPA using just galaxy hops. There was another seasonal double IPA called Chinook Showers as well but I didn’t try that one either. Noble was fairly crowded as well and overall is worth a stop if you like IPAs. If you can’t make it up to the brewery look for their Big Whig IPA on tap at local beer bars.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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The Bruery, Orange County California

The Bruery has been open for a few years now but I hadn’t heard of it until I went to the Beer Bloggers Conference this year in San Diego. Though they have a few year round beers, when you visit the brewery you can tell that they are really focusing on sour beers and barrel aged imperial stouts. Many of the sours and barrel aged stouts are limited releases and the bottles are a bit more expensive than usual.

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Though I did taste a few barrel aged beers while I was there, I mostly focused on the core brews that sounded interesting. I was heading to Noble Ale Works (only 7 miles away) next so I couldn’t try more than a full five taster flight. A number of the interesting sounding beers were described as hoppy so I hoped that I would find something that would satisfy my hop cravings.

In total, I tried the double dry-hopped red, hoppy belgian golden, india pale lager (IPL), dubel with cacao nibs and vanilla, and a bourbon barrel aged stout with cherry and vanilla.

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The double dry-hopped red ale was interesting for two reasons. First, it didn’t really have much malt flavor to speak of. Second, it was mostly light bodied and taken over by floral hops. Thus, it really tasted more like a floral session IPA than anything else. It was a solid beer but I found the floral hops to be a little too overpowering leaving just a light citrus background.

The hoppy Belgian golden was a solid Belgian gold though the hops were very light, mostly serving to balance out the typical spice flavors a Belgian beer makes. The IPL was pretty disappointing overall although I have a hard time pinpointing the specific flavor that I didn’t like. Based on the description on the website, it seems the herbal flavors were a bit overpowering in this one.

The dubel was a very tasty chocolate beer and totally different than what I usually get. Rather than a thick full-bodied stout, this was a lighter bodied Belgian beer that displayed the chocolate flavors quite prominently. Finally, the bourbon barrel aged stout with cherry and vanilla was quite nice. The bourbon flavor came through nice and was balanced with a light amount of tart flavor from the cherry.

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I was generally disappointed by the lack of lower alcohol dark ale offerings. Though they have a bunch of imperial stouts, there is no porter or stout anywhere near the 5% alcohol range. They also didn’t have an IPA, which it seems they were purposefully avoiding. Though many of the beers I tried were described as hoppy, they didn’t really satisfy my cravings. An IPL when done right would take the place of a solid IPA but the IPL here was purposefully avoiding the West Coast style of IPA. By contrast, Ballast Point makes a delicious IPL that I am a huge fan of.

If you like sours, there are a lot of options to try at The Bruery. They also seem to be doing a great job with the barrel aged imperial stouts and special limited release bottles. What they weren’t able to do is satisfy this hop-head’s cravings for the West Coast hop flavors. If you really like floral and herbal hops then you might enjoy their hoppier options a little bit. Otherwise, I suggest you head over to Noble nearby for your hop fix.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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Quantum Brewing, San Diego CA

Quantum Brewing Company has been open for a little bit as a test but just recently opened officially. I stopped by on September 19, 2014 for a few tasters to see what it was like. I had already gone to Council Brewing before hand so I had to limit my tasters. I decided to try the Uncertainty red, Antimater IPA, Yellowcake double IPA, and Singularity stout.

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The uncertainty red was an interesting combination of floral and fruity flavors that I don’t normally taste in a red. These flavors were most likely from added hops, though they didn’t bring any heavy bitterness. The Antimater IPA was a bright tropical fruit beer with a light amount of citrus and medium bitterness. Yellowcake double IPA was again strongly floral and had a solid bitterness that didn’t taste like what the board said. So far the beers were solid but not particularly exciting.

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Then I tried the stout and I was quite happy. Though it is only 5% and quite mellow it has a good amount of flavor and was served on Nitro. Flavors in the stout were a nice combination of roasted malts and light coffee. I ended up ordering a pint after the tasters and enjoyed it quite a bit. The brewer happened to be wearing a Guinness shirt that day so I expect he was trying to create the proper Irish experience of Guinness which everyone says is better in Ireland. Though I haven’t been to Ireland yet I expect he did a pretty good job here. It hit all the right points.

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Quantum is still in the early stages and so still exploring new beer styles. Others have been more excited about the IPA than I was because everyone has different preferences for hop flavors. Quantum is off to a good start with a solid stout as their standout and should hopefully start to nail down a few of their core beers soon.

Have you been out to Quantum yet? Let me know what you think in the comments.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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The Six-Pack Project Southern California

Bryan Roth, of the blog “This is Why I’m Drunk” started a massive collaboration project to explore beer styles in different states. Max at The Beginner’s Brew did a profile of California beers in 2013 focusing mostly on Northern California. To explore a different side of California beers, I volunteered to provide a look at Southern California beers, which will mostly focus on San Diego because it is the biggest.

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I tried to make this list explore what makes San Diego different in the beer scene.

1. Alesmith Brewing, Speedway Stout
San Diego, CA
Speedway Stout represents the big bold flavors San Diego is known for and created a style that has become popular with breweries throughout San Diego, the coffee imperial stout. Though there are now many coffee stouts in San Diego, Alesmith has always had one of the best and most popular. Despite its premium price, in part due to the costs of using that much coffee in a beer, it always draws in people because the flavors are so rich. If you happen to visit the brewery in person, they often have special varieties of Speedway made with different types of coffee. The brewery also did a limited bottle-release made with Jamaican coffee.
Sold in 750ml bottles and available year-round.

Alesmith Speedway Stout small

 

2. Ballast Point Brewing, Sculpin IPA
San Diego, CA
Though there are many beers that represent the west coast style Sculpin always manages to stick out from the pack. It has many imitators but the blend of hops used gives this beer a unique flavor. Other San Diego IPAs are closer to what I consider the true west-coast style but Sculpin is one of the more balanced ones. Thankfully, Sculpin has largely stayed consistent over the years. Make sure you get a fresh bottle of Sculpin by looking for the coded numbers on the front. If it says 14265 that means that it was brewed on the 265th day of 2014.
Available year-round in 22oz bottles and six-packs. Occasionally available in different varieties, including Grapefruit Sculpin and Habanero Sculpin.

Ballast Point Sculpin

3. Modern Times Brewing, Fortunate Islands Hoppy Wheat
San Diego, CA
Released just about the time when the “Session IPA” was gaining popularity, Fortunate Islands uses two hops, citra and amarillo, that provide a big citrus punch that San Diego brewers love to explore. The varieties of malts used provide a subtle background that gives the hops plenty of room to shine. Since this was first released, it seems that most local breweries have some form of session IPA on tap. What sets this apart from other session IPAs is the fuller body. While other session IPAs tend to taste like hop water, this one feels more like a proper beer.
Available year-round in 4-packs of 16oz cans. Watch for enjoy by dates on a sticker.

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4. Stone Brewing Enjoy By IPA
San Diego, CA
Enjoy By IPA is a seasonal beer in a way but it gets released so frequently throughout the year that it is essentially a year-round beer. Stone is one of the biggest San Diego breweries and they decided to send a message of how important it is for IPAs to be served fresh by making a beer where the enjoy by date is so large it is actually part of the name. This beer also represents the style of double IPA that has become quite popular throughout San Diego from a number of breweries. Though the hops change frequently, this is usually a light-colored beer and yet quite strong at 9.4%. The date on the bottle is usually set about a month after bottling so you can get an idea when it was released.
Available in 22oz bottles released fairly regularly.

Enjoy By 02 2014

5. Green Flash 30th Street Pale Ale
San Diego, CA
As it says right on the bottle, a 6% pale ale is only considered a pale ale in San Diego, where beers seem to constantly push the flavor and alcohol content thresholds. Green Flash has been one of the breweries always in this game, with their recent change of the recipes of two mainstay beers, West Coast IPA and Hop Head Red to a delightful yet pretty insane 8.4%. The 30th Street pale has a very floral flavor due to the variety of hops used.
Available in 24 packs and smaller. 

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6. Alpine Brewing Nelson IPA
San Diego, CA
Though one of the smaller breweries in San Diego, Alpine has a bit of a legendary status among locals. Like Russian River, they go for exclusivity over broad availability in an attempt to make sure that their beers are always fantastic. There may be something to this idea that going big causes a loss in quality and if so, you will always find good beer from Alpine. The Nelson IPA was the first of its kind to focus locals on the flavors of the Nelson hop. Since then, many other breweries have tried their hand at making something similar. Council brewing is a smaller brewery that doesn’t bottle but found success by early on with their own Nelson-hopped IPA. The Nelson IPA may not be the easiest to find but there is a certain allure to scarcity that Alpine is counting on.
Available in 22oz bottles.

Nelson IPA

If you are interested in reading some of the other posts in the Six-Pack Project, you can find them at the link above. There is even a post about craft beer in Italy!

Narrowing down San Diego to six beers is difficult but not as hard as you think. I didn’t want to make it just a list of IPAs that are all very similar. And because it has to be both year-round and in bottles that makes things a little easier. Still, if you think I am crazy and left out your favorite beer then please let me know in the comments! After all, people reading this can always appreciate more selections of what locals consider the best.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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Council Brewing Drink Like a Pirate Day

September 19 is international talk like a pirate day. Council Brewing brewed some special versions of their Pirate’s Breakfast imperial oatmeal stout to celebrate. I stopped by in light pirate garb to try the three different stouts. Council served one with coffee and vanilla, one with tart cherries and American oak, and the other with hazelnut, cacao nibs, and vanilla.

Flight of stout tasters!

Flight of stout tasters!

The coffee version used a Malawi coffee, giving it a really light nutty flavor that balanced well with the vanilla. This was my favorite of the three. The cherry one I was not expecting to like but I found the flavors were very balanced. It was neither too sweet nor too tart with just the right amount of cherry flavor. It reminded me of a cherry pie or some chocolate filled with cherries. Finally, the hazelnut version I couldn’t get into. It smelled and tasted to me like those buttered popcorn jellybeans. Though one of my friends really liked the hazelnut one and drank most of the taster.

Me (left) and my mom (right). She really gets into this holiday!

Me (left) and my mom (right). She really gets into this holiday!

Before I left I had a little taste of each of the three IPAs so I could decide which one I wanted to get a pint of. The Gavel Drop batch they had was fantastic, not too sweet and good medium amount of bitterness. The new batch of Chizzam is intensely floral, too much for my tastes. If Societe IPAs tend to give you a mouth full of perfume, this is even more intense.

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Did you get to drop by and try these stouts? If so, which was your favorite?

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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Arcana Brewing, Carlsbad California

In my previous post, I mentioned how close together Arcana and On the Tracks are to each other. Arcana has a much bigger selection of beers to choose from and a bigger tasting room as well. I was surprised by the beers I enjoyed here because some of them were not what I normally like.

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Arcana had so many beers on tap that I didn’t get to try them all. It was early when I stopped by and I had things to do later. I ordered a flight of six beers and then was brought some small tastes of two others. I got to try the Honey Pale, the Headbasher Wheat IPA, the Voyager English ale, the coffee Anabelle, the coffee Marley,  the Infinity Milk Stout, a special mix of two beers, and the Mead.

Taster flight at Arcana Brewing.

Taster flight at Arcana Brewing.

The first beer I tasted was the Honey Pale. I don’t normally like honey beers but this one is made with honey malts, not actual honey, so the flavor is not as intense as it is in other beers. It had the perfect amount of sweetness and went down really nice. My husband really liked this one as well. For those curious, honey malts are not simply malts flavored with honey, but a variety of malt that has a sweet flavor that is similar to honey.

Part of the tap list when I visited. Specialty beers were on a smaller board.

Part of the tap list when I visited. Specialty beers were on a smaller board.

The Headbasher Wheat IPA was also quite nice. It had a lot of tropical fruit and citrus hop flavors with a good light sweetness from the malts. The Voyager was a bit plain for me. It was mostly a heavy malt flavor with a little bit of bitterness. The coffee Anabelle was a special version of the Anabelle made for Bacon Fest the day before. By the time I got to try it though, the coffee had mostly gone. I would have liked to have tasted it the day before.

The coffee Marley was also a bit light on the coffee flavor but it had some really great caramel and vanilla flavors. I wouldn’t have been surprised if this one was barrel aged because it had an oak taste similar to many barrel aged beers. My husband finished most of this taster before I got to try more because he loved it. The Infinity Milk Stout was also quite nice. Flavors were mostly roasted malts with a light sweetness.

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Before I left, my server brought over a special mix of two beers. She combined the apple ale and a cherry beer, resulting in a nice combination of tart apple and sweet cinnamon. This would be a nice drink to have for dessert. The mead was also quite interesting. It reminded me of a sparkling white wine and would be fun to share a bottle with friends.

Considering that Arcana has only been open for a little over a year and a half, I was quite impressed by their lineup. They are working on a rye IPA for the future, which should be a nice balance to the wheat IPA. I could certainly see the honey pale becoming very popular. Have you gotten to try any of the beers from Arcana? Do you disagree with me about some of these beers? Let me know in the comments.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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On the Tracks Brewing, Carlsbad California

In Carlsbad there are two small breweries very close together. In this post I will write about the beers at On the Tracks. In the next post I will write about Arcana Brewing.

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The two breweries are so close together that you could park in the middle of the two and walk to both without moving your car. On the Tracks has four regular beers on tap, a ginger beer, an ESB, a double IPA, and a porter made with black pepper. Though they have been open since October of 2011, the tasting room has remained small.

Taster flight at On the Rails.

Taster flight at On the Rails.

The Ginger Beer is an interesting way to do the lighter style of beer that most breweries have. The flavor is light enough that the ginger doesn’t get offensive. I mostly enjoyed the ginger beer as a palate cleanser in between the other beers. The ESB is quite balanced and has a light sweetness and a light bitterness, just as it should be.

The double IPA was very surprising because it was well-balanced and also very enjoyable. I tend to not like overly malt-heavy IPAs but this was the perfect balance of tropical fruit and citrus flavors from the hops and a light sweetness from the malts. My husband found this one to be drinkable as well.

Tap handles at On the Tracks, using those giant iron nails from train tracks.

Tap handles at On the Tracks, using those giant iron nails from train tracks.

To end things off we tried the black pepper porter. This is certainly to be a polarizing beer as the owner indicated. There is a serious back-of-throat burn that you get as soon as you take a sip, reminiscent of habanero beers. The owner said that we should get some chocolate and roasted malt flavors once we get past the pepper but my husband and I both had a hard time getting past the pepper.

On the Tracks has some solid beers and would be worth stopping in once if you are in the area. Plus, you can easily hit Arcana in the same trip, where you will also find some different beers. Have you gotten out to On the Rails? Do you like their beers? Let me know in the comments.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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Live Blogging on Twitter

One of the interesting things about the Beer Bloggers’ Conference was getting us to write about beers as we taste them. But for those of you who weren’t following along on Twitter, lets take a look at how this looked to someone following the feed.

One thing I enjoy doing is comparing a beer on tap vs the bottle. Even though I had already tried the Citra Session from Green Flash, I hadn’t had it in the bottle.

I say that the flavors are balanced here because so many sours to me are a little too intensely sour.

I found it a bit hard to jump between styles as you can see from the two tweets about pilsners. The lack of consistency between beers shared made it hard to truly try everything.

The Lost Abbey Deliverance was an amazingly delicious beer. It combined two different styles of beers and had one of them aged in bourbon barrels. If you want a chance to drink those bourbon-barrel-aged beers at home this might be worth the extra high price.

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I have been asking the servers at Rough Draft for quite some time when six packs of the session IPA would come out so this was very exciting for me.

The Mexican Hot Chocolate style stout really tasted very different than all the other stouts Stone has put out so far. Stone brought this for us in their modern-looking growlers you can now get at the tasting room. This collaboration beer will be available in 22oz bottles in stores starting September 8, 2014.

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We were blessed with so many breweries showing off their bourbon barrel aged beers. I have seen this becoming popular lately but I am not sure that you can easily go back to more subtly flavored beers after something so strong.

If you enjoyed my post about live blogging, consider following me on Twitter where you can see all the photos I take on Instagram and possibly catch my next live blogging attempt.

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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Beer Roundup Round 2 – Beer Bloggers’ Conference 2014

I’ve written elsewhere about the general experience of visiting the Beer Bloggers’ Conference (BBC) and may go into more detail later about certain aspects of the conference. But I know one thing that many of my readers want to know is, did I try any interesting beers while I was there? The answer is a resounding yes, thanks to many breweries bringing a solid lineup of beers. Though this is not anywhere near all the beers I got to try at the conference, after a certain point your palate becomes shot to the point that you are not going to be able to pick out individual flavors.

Belching Beaver – Rabid Beaver Rye IPA
Rabid Beaver is so light in color that you might wonder where the rye is. The beer has a strong citrus hop flavor at the front with some spicy rye in the background. This one reminded me of the Helm’s Brewing Company Wicked as Sin Rye IPA. Though Wicked as Sin is a bit darker, they both have a nice blend of hop and rye.

Goose Island Licorice Stout
I really enjoyed this beer for the same reason that many licorice fans will probably hate it. You can’t really taste the licorice. As a stout, the beer was very smooth and I found the licorice mostly in the background behind more prominent plum malt flavors.

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New English Brewing – Humbly Legit IPA
I’ve written about this one before but it helps to revisit a beer occasionally. Compared to the Rabid Beaver, this one was certainly much more dry and bitter. A very enjoyable IPA.

Hess Solis Occasus IPA
I don’t remember being a fan of this the last time but it always helps to give a beer another try. Served in a can, the Hess IPA poured a nice light color and had plenty of pine hop flavor and a strong bitterness. The interesting thing about the Solis Occasus IPA is that the brewery is very open about changing the recipe for each batch as a way of experimenting with different varieties of hops. This is all the more reason that you should keep trying the Solis Occasus even if you don’t like it the first time.

Firestone Walker Wookey Jack Black Rye IPA
A black IPA is another way of saying you added hops to a stout. In this case, the Wookey Jack is solidly smoky and has some caramel malt flavors that balance well with some spicy rye. Everything is balanced out nicely by the addition of the hops, which I couldn’t really taste, but gave it a solid level of bitterness.

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Firestone Walker Double DBA
More recently, Firestone Walker has been releasing a number of special barrel-aged beers. I reviewed an earlier beer in this lineup called Stickee Monkee. The Double DBA starts with a double version of the double barrel ale and includes aging in oak barrels and later a year in a bourbon barrel. I really loved the caramel malt flavors and the boozy bourbon I tasted. The sweet flavors combined and reminded me of roasted coconut. This one was even more impressive than Stickee Monkee.

Have you tried any of these beers listed here? If so, what do you think? Let me know in the comments!

Paul McGuire

Paul McGuire is a craft beer enthusiast. He likes to travel with his husband and enjoy the great outdoors. In his day job, Paul is a divorce attorney focusing on serving the San Diego LGBT community.

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