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Favorite IPAs?

I've only recently learned to like IPAs, and it's been so damned hot that I've been drinking them quite a bit. I like the hoppiness and floral elements that the good ones have, but some of them have a sort of vegetal aftertaste to me -- and I don't like that. (Case in point: I have a Big Daddy from the Speakeasy brewery in SF in front of me now. The fading tastes remind me of rotting lettuce.)

Any suggestions for IPAs to try? (California availability a plus.)

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  1. My favorite is Stone IPA. That's brewed in California, in San Marcos. It's got a very clean finish, no vegetal notes to speak of. Another good one is Anderson Valley Hop Ottin' IPA (also from California).

    The absolute best, however, is Alpine's Pure Hoppiness. Tons of floral hops - simply an amazing beer. Unfortunately, it's only available in Alpine (east of San Diego), or in a couple of San Diego's better pubs.

    12 Replies
    1. re: Josh

      I'll join you on the Stone love. Racer 5 is excellent as well, but by me when I compare a $5 bomber to the $9 sixers of Stone then the Stone is going to win out damn near all the time.

      For the English-style IPA's I really enjoy Brooklyn's East India Pale Ale: high gravity (1.068) nice fruity esters and floral Kent Goldings hops up the wazoo.

      1. re: Josh

        guys and gals if you like a balanced IPA try the samuel Smith IPA. It is not over hopped like the american IPA's. It is very well balanced and goes great with food.

        1. re: beer dude

          Overly hopped is in the palate of the taster. Once you get used to West Coast IPAs, the British ones tend to taste a little wimpy.

          Stone's IPA is, to me, quite a balanced IPA. It's got a lot of floral notes from the hops, something I find really lacking in the British IPAs.

          1. re: Josh

            "Overly hopped is in the palate of the taster."

            Here, here Josh!

            And further, the original poster, what with the California references, clearly enjoys West Coast IPA's.

            That said, I enjoy Sam Smith's IPA, but you would barely know that you were drinking the same "type" -- (style? variety? breed? strain? appellation?) of beer if you were to put it side-by-side with a good California or Oregon IPA.

            Does anyone else think this has something to do with the quality and intensity of flavor that is common among hops grown in the Pacific Northwest? I think that this is something from which the West Coast style might have flowed.

            Just a thought.

            1. re: Clifford

              There are several differences between typical British and American IPAs.

              Americans often use a very clean-fermenting yeast, where a British yeast would likely leave more complex flavors.

              It wouldn't be unusual for the American IPA to have more alcohol, although this difference might not be as pronounced as that between American and British barley wines. (I speak here of 'regular' IPAs, not the double and imperial versions. Weyerbacher recently came out with a 'triple' IPA. Where will it end?)

              American hops tend to have those piney, grapefruit-like flavors, and are typically used in greater quantity.

              1. re: Clifford

                Sam Smith's is pretty good, but I have to say that I'd opt for Victory's Hop Devil over any British IPA if I want that English-style flavor. It's 1000 miles fresher, if nothing else. But you're right, the difference between the varieties is enough that a different name should be considered.

                Some have suggested calling the uber-hopped IPAs San Diego Pale Ale, because the first person to really brew it was Vinnie Cilurzo of Blind Pig.

                1. re: Clifford

                  I've never thought of Hop Devil as being in the English IPA style. I love the beer, but IMO it belongs in the American camp.

                  1. re: Clifford

                    I dunno Brent - to me Hop Devil is very British tasting in style. It's malty, cloudy, and the hops are quite subdued and not at all citrusy. To me it tastes nothing like the American IPAs I am used to.

                    1. re: Clifford

                      Josh -

                      I agree with you that there is a difference, but I would characterize it as an East Coast IPA vs. a West Coast IPA. To me, the West Coast style is very citrusy - some taste like ruby red grapefruit, while the East Coast style leans toward a piney flavor.

                      To me, English IPAs are more earthy and subtle.

                      I like them all, but I think the Americans are trying to push the envelope. Particularly, as every great brewery such as Victory or Stone has a Double IPA version of their brew, as well.

                2. re: Josh

                  Josh, Thanks for the tip. We stopped in at the Alpine brewery yesterday. I told them of your recommedation, and they were going to get onto chowhound pronto.

                  We bought a growler of the IPA, and it was magnificent. (We also tried the Manderine Wit bier, and the Irish red, and we got a growler of stout.) Alll were fantastic. Thanks again.

                  peace, jill

                  1. re: jill kibler

                    Glad to hear it. Pat will literally spend years perfecting his recipes, and you can taste it in the finished product.

                    One of my favorites of his is called Willy, and is an American wheat beer. Very clean tasting, with a mild sweetness. He sometimes will age it with fruit or vanilla bean. I once got a growler of the stout mixed half-and-half with the vanilla Willy (apparently a common request). It was the hit of the party.

                  2. Stone is in their new brewery in Escondido now, with Pizza Port occupying their former premises in San Marcos.

                    1. Bear Republic's Racer 5 is solid. Also, the Alchemist's Heady Topper is not one to be missed if you are near Waterbury VT.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Chrispy75

                        I'm a big fan of Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye, not an IPA but seriously hoppy.

                        1. re: Chrispy75

                          Racer 5, Racer 5, Racer 5. This beer is so good on draught. I like it better than Stone.

                        2. I love IPAs! If available, try Dogfish Head out of Delaware. It's terrific.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: Mutt

                            The 120 minute.

                            The Rogue XS Imperial IPA is also incredible.

                            1. re: beef

                              I find the 90-minute to be more balanced and sessionable. It's always in the fridge.

                              1. re: yellowmix

                                Haven't been able to find 120 or 90 min. But 60 min IPA is great as well.

                                1. re: baekster

                                  The 60 is good hop juice. The 90 also has a delicious malt character. Actually, it's in the Aprihop to an extent as well. Aprihop -- now there's a fruit beer that works, because they use real fruit and use it subtlely.

                          2. Not sure if it would be available in California, but Blue Point Hoptical Illusion is wonderful. Once had it out of a beer pump, and it was awesome. Out of a tap, it's only wonderful.