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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?

            2. What I enjoy about the West Coast IPAs (opitomized by Bear Republic's Racer 5) is the biscuitiness and butteriness that melds with the hoppiness. This creates layers of texture. I'm not sure what causes this but I'd love to know.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Chinon00

                I think balance is all in the eyes of the beholder.

                I assume its the type of hops that are coming from the west coast and that are used, but hell- I know they taste good and thats what matters, right?

                Nothing better than dry hops though, yum.

                1. re: yankeefan

                  Well as they say; anyone can throw hops in a kettle.
                  I think there are some standards for balance, most people will agree when a beer is well balanced, or not.

              2. California's brewers have left much of the rest of the US (not CO., though) in the dust, for some reason. I speculate that Californians were some of the first to taste modern IPAs, what with Liberty Ale, Celebration Ale, and Hop Ottin' -- and the style, thankfully, took hold. Now CA. is infested (I mean that in a good way) with great IPAs and 2IPAs; they're ubiquitous. Once one tastes a truly hoppy IPA, it's hard to turn back to the timid, diffident examples of the style that are fashionable elsewhere. A lot of the so-called East Coast IPAs just don't taste like IPAs to me.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Kenji

                  Diffidence and timidity in beer, as well as wine, food, art, etc, has its benefits, I've found (particularly for those who accept the challenge of it).