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Jan 24, 2008 02:58 PM

California IPAs

I'm thoroughly enjoying a Green Flash Imperial IPA which just came to NY on the heels of Alesmith Yule Smith, which I also found to be exceptional. In fact, I've been thinking that while I've tried many great and not so great IPAs and Double IPAs from across the U.S., it seems that every one I've tried from California has been, at worst, way above average, whether it be Alesmith, Russian River, Moylan's, Bear Republic, Stone, etc. What is it about California brewers that enables them to produce such great beers of this style?

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    1. We also grow great hops out West.

      1. Brewers (and drinkers) that aren't afraid of hops?

        On the east coast most IPA's are made to be "balanced" (which means way too much malt character to me) and English/German hop varieties are commonly used along with US hops. West coast breweries (and ipa drinkers) seem to prefer (I know I do) hop forward beers utilizing mostly US hops which give them a citruisy character.

        1. An aggresive approach to hops combined with the hops from the west coast and northwest that makes them so great.

          Luckily, here in east coast, we have victory and dogfish to get our fill but having recently been to sandiego, the stuff they make is truly off the hook.

          1 Reply
          1. re: yankeefan

            Glad you enjoyed your San Diego beer experience.

            Check out what's happening this week:

          2. As others have indicated, it is a stylistic difference and whether it is better or not is a matter of what style you prefer.. Like New World wines, the style tends to be a more aggressive, less balanced approach than traditional IPA's.
            Having said that, I am in the fan category

            4 Replies
            1. re: tomritza

              Balanced is kind of a relative term, IMO. Balanced is only meaningful measured against what you're used to. If you eat a lot of spicy food, for example, your perception of a dish with balanced heat is going to be quite different than the perception of someone who never eats anything hot.

              1. re: Josh

                And a lot of people trot out the balance canard when they want to disparage a hop forward beer they dislike.

                1. re: bigchow

                  "balance canard"

                  So you don't believe a beer's flavors should be balanced?

                  Personally, I don't think that balance in brewing or wine-making is a canard. Well-made, balanced products exist and are usually the best in their categories.

                  Unbalanced often means (though not exclusively) one-dimensional. If that is what one is looking for, that is what one is looking for. Simply because one is not looking for that, doesn't mean that the concept that a well-made balanced beer is the apex of the brewer's art and science is a lie.

                  Another poster gave the examples of spicy foods. Simply because one prefers foods out of balance as to the amount of spice, does not mean that a balanced presentation should be any different to them. They should recognize that they prefer their foods not balanced, but instead over spiced.

                  1. re: FrankJBN

                    You're missing my point completely. One person's balanced is another person's out-of-balance. There's no absolute measurement of balance, no golden ratio that can be applied.

                    Your comment about spicy food is especially strange. Who determines what balanced spice levels in food are?

                    Take something like Indian food. If you eat Indian food made by Indian people, for Indian people, it's typically quite spicy by Western standards. Are you going to say that Indian people prefer food that's "out of balance" because it's too hot for Western palates?