Ipas are the latest big craze in the craft beer world. Reports on large increases in the costs of hops suggest that hops aren’t being grown as fast as would keep up with demand. But how does this affect ordinary consumers?
According to an article on Slate, the hops that provide fancy aromas and delicious flavors have been growing in the demand. This is as opposed to the hops used to simply add some bitterness to a brew. I tend to primarily drink IPAs for these flavors and it is the most popular varieties of hops that are becoming harder and harder to get. This means that the mozaic, cascade, columbus, citra, and nelson hops are becoming especially difficult to come by.
First off we might see the cost of hoppy beers increase, especially the extreme ones. Just as thick coffee and chocolate beers are priced higher we might see the double and triple ipas costing a lot more. This is expected because breweries have to make a profit. Beers like Green Bullet and Stone Enjoy By rely on these popular hops for the distinct flavors.
Second we are likely to see more breweries changing their recipes and experimenting with different varieties of hops. Though this will likely mean some of your favorite beers are going to taste a little different, it should also mean that new and exciting flavors will be explored by some of the smaller breweries. Don’t be too hard on a brewery when they tell you that they delayed your favorite beer or modified the recipe because they couldn’t get the right hops. They are likely telling the truth.
I am excited to see what new varieties of hops become popular in this new hop shortage because it could lead to some flavor combinations that are even better than the beers I already love. The next time you are enjoying a big hoppy beer remember that getting those specific hops you demand is not easy. It might make you appreciate that beer a little more.
I am not exclusively including beers that were first introduced in 2013 but I limited this to San Diego beers because otherwise I would never be able to come up with 10. I also excluded any specialty versions of existing beers. This means cask or nitro versions of certain beers are not eligible, nor are barrel aged beers that are only available on tap for a day or two and then gone.
1. Green Bullet – Green Flash (Triple IPA)
This is my new gold standard for insane hops in a beer. I was lucky enough to try this when it was first debuted in late 2012 for a very short time at the brewery. For most people though, this is a 2013 beer because it was made much more broadly available in bottles. It is pure New Zealand hops all the way and gives me all the hop flavors that I am addicted to.
2. Stone Punishment (Double Bastard barrel aged and infused with spicy peppers)
This is the only barrel aged beer on the list and it counts because it was bottled and made widely available. Though it would be a favorite simply because of how spicy it is what gets this on the list is the complex flavors that it has besides the heat. Some sweetness is present from the barrel aging as well as all the complex flavors of double bastard itself. Though this was the most expensive beer I had all year it was totally worth it.
3. Stone Enjoy by IPA (Double IPA with a clear enjoy by date)
Though half of what makes Enjoy By so good is that it is going to be fresh when you have some, it is also just a deliciously balanced double IPA. The brilliant thing about this beer is that the batches are kept small enough so that it sells out pretty quickly. The next batch comes out pretty soon so make sure you grab a bottle of the first Enjoy By batch of 2014.
4. Humbly Legit IPA – New English Brewing
I wasn’t expecting this to blow me away as much as it did. When I first had it on tap I just loved the hop-forward flavor of this beer. For a brewery that originally focused on English styles of beer, this one is up there with the best IPAs in San Diego.
5. Perseus IPA – Intergalactic Brewing
One of my favorite IPAs comes from a newer brewery that knows how to satisfy those who prefer a lighter colored IPA. Because the brewery is fairly small, it doesn’t last long enough to become skunky. I had quite a few growler fills of this beer throughout the year and can’t wait for the next batch to show up.
6. Blazing World – Modern Times (Hoppy Amber)
I left the brewery with a four pack of cans as soon as I tried this one and I already bought a few more since then. The nelson hops are prominent and give this a delicious flavor that would satisfy any hop head.
7. Evil Dead Red – Alesmith (Imperial Red with some strong hop flavors)
It was a toss up between this and the Winter Yulesmith. Both gave me plenty of hops in a satisfying darker brew. I ultimately gave the spot to Evil Dead Red because it was so unexpected. If you liked this one, make sure you get out and buy a bottle of My Bloody Valentine, already in stores.
8. Hop Therapy Double IPA – Rough Draft
I really enjoy a lot of the IPAs Rough Draft makes but I ultimately gave the spot to the double IPA because it is nice to see a solid double that is always around. There is a huge difference in taste if you have this one fresh so if it doesn’t have enough hop flavor for you give it another try.
9. Ballast Point Victory at Sea Imperial Porter
Though I love a lot of different Ballast Point beers, this one got the spot because the coffee flavors were just what I needed. Another favorite that almost made this list was the Fathom India Pale Lager, which has now become a mainstay.
10. Green Flash Symposium IPA
I’ve always found the West Coast to be a bit too heavy on the malts so this lighter colored IPA was just what I needed. I hope to see it available in bottles with a fresh batch in 2014.
I live so close to Green Flash that I only stop in when there is a food truck I am interested in. I can pick up most of my favorite beers at the store so that is good enough for me. Tonight I stopped by Green Flash to taste the food from God Save the Cuisine and I was glad I did. While I was there, I figured I would re-visit some of the regular beers in taster format. The photos are a bit darker than usual because it was night and I hate flash.
I had tasted each of these beers before but it always helps to give them a fresh look after all the beers I’ve had since then. All four impressed me and later I added a taster of the Serrano Double Stout to round out the evening. I found the Imperial IPA to be nice and refreshing. It is best to compare it to the Le Freak. While both beers have characteristics of both Belgian style beers and IPAs, the Imperial IPA is more on the IPA side and Le Freak more on the Belgian side. Both have great flavor though the Le Freak is a little bit sweeter. Grand Cru has a lot of that Belgian flavor as well though it is more on the darker side. Grand Cru and Le Freak were both favorites of mine at different times. Last fall when they first put out the Grand Cru I was hooked on it for months.
I then went for the Green Bullet, which I have been a huge fan of from the start. This Tripple IPA is really hoppy and just blows you away with the pine flavors. It is in my top five beers of all time and is a true achievement for Green Flash. The Serrano Double Stout was decent but not very spicy. Though I do enjoy the double stout on occasion, the Serrano flavors were not particularly strong here, nor was the beer very spicy.
To go with these beers, I ordered the smoked salmon flatbread sandwich and my mom ordered the lamb. Both were quite tasty although the lamb was a bit more spicy than we expected. The salmon had some bitter greens in there, perhaps even arugula. The capers and cream cheese rounded out the salmon nicely, giving it a fantastic flavor. I will certainly be trying this food truck again soon.