For a long time, I didn’t like IPAs. I lived in San Diego for 3 years while in grad school and had access to all kinds of wonderful, locally-brewed bliss. Yet I found that most of the SD IPAs were pretty hyper-hopped, to the point of being offensive. They didn’t taste the like the traditional British IPAs, which I find to be a little more mild. I’ve heard many people, for example, describe Green Flash IPAs as a “punch in the face.” And my first foray into Stone’s IPA felt the same. Ay. I couldn’t hang. Lots of people like IPAs, and IPAs are quite popular. The highly-hopped and thus usually more-alcoholic IPAs are pretty ubiquitous in SD and California, but up until recently, I stuck with my tried-and-true stouts, British-style ales, and the occasional sweet Belgian ale.
The history of IPAs, or India Pale Ales, has always fascinated me. They’re a style of Pale Ale, which ranges in color and alcohol content. I’m sorta a British lit nerd and get all excited about the fecked-up imperialist history of the India Pale Ale. We have the Brits’ insatiable appetite for thirst-quenching ale to thank for the IPA, as well as the fact that they were, well, occupying India (and other places.) They needed beer that would survive the long shipping trip around the subcontinent to India, as well as the much hotter climate. The added hops increase the alcohol content, acting as a natural preservative. The colonizers would have their beer and drink it, too, even in India.
Ay, what is a critical-thinking, anti-colonialist academic-beerlover to do? Just like I did when I learned about the Austrian-German-Czech colonialist influence on Mexican beers: drink it, but with consciousness! Pliny the Elder, Dogfish Head 90-minute IPA , and Stone IPA are among my favorites. This week, I found a new favorite at Heroes in Fullerton. (http://www.heroesrestaurant.com.) I have to give a big thank you to my two new beer friends, Michael and Chad, the bartenders who were very kind and generous to me at Heroes. I first had a pint of Alaskan Amber IPA, which I thought was pleasant. Then I asked Michael for a second look at their beer list, and my inadvertent tasting began! Michael has a deep appreciation for IPAs and generously poured me four samples of what he thought were much better IPAs: Anderson Valley Brewing Co.’ Hop Ottin’ IPA (Boonville, CA), Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA (Healdsburg, CA), Lagunitas IPA (Petaluma, CA), and Longhammer IPA (Red Hook). [I didn’t get to taste the Bootlegger’s IPA, which is made down the street in Fullerton, CA.] He was right. They were much better. I fell in deep like with the Hop Ottin’ IPA. I knew Anderson Valley wouldn’t disappoint, as I generally like their consistently good beers. Hop Ottin’ IPA is creamy goodness, very much like the British-style IPAs. I highly recommend that one, especially if you find yourself not a big fan of the more aggressive, spicy IPAs.
At 38 Degrees Ale House & Grill in Alhambra (http://www.38degreesalhambra.com), owner Clay Harding has put together an impressive selection of draught and bottled brews from all over. I counted 38 (rotating) taps and 60+ bottles, as well as a seasonal beer list. I had a pint of “Life and Limb” American Strong Ale, a tasty and wonderful ‘hybrid’ beer brewed by Sierra Nevada (Chico, CA) and Dogfish Head (Milton, DE) craft breweries. If you find it, get one. Dark, brown, lovely. Brewed with maple syrup and warms you up at 10% alcohol. I also tasted the Coronado Island Islander Pale Ale IPA (Coronado/San Diego, CA), and Alesmith IPA (San Diego). The Coronado poured more towards the lighter side, a hazy golden color, and had a piney and citrusy flavor. It was okay, but I really liked the Alesmith. They’ve always been one of my favorite San Diego breweries (along with Port), and their ESB (Extra Special Bitter) is also worth looking for. The Alesmith IPA poured more of an amber color and emitted a nice floral nose. The malty sweetness of this IPA also made it a little smoother to drink, very enjoyable with my sliders. Look for the Alesmith IPA and support good, local beers while you’re at it. And while you’re at it, drink those good, local beers at good, local spots, like Heroes and 38 degrees. Certainly not the Yard House.
‘Tis the season to eat, drink, and be merry. Cheers to all and remember that life is too short to drink bad beer.