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Best or Favorite Local IPAs?

We're headed to LA this weekend to visit some friends who are really into IPAs. I'd like to bring them a few bottles as a thank you for hosting us. Any recommendations for local bottles? I'd like to bring them something that they may not be able to get in LA. I enjoy beer, but am more of a casual drinker so any guidance is appreciated.

I've been hearing good things about Alpine lately and am interested in giving them a taste. A quick look at their website shows that they have quite a few IPAs. Any recommendations?

Thanks in advance!

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  1. It's pretty difficult to fine Alpine reliably in stores - you'd have to drive up there to ensure you were able to get some bottles. Nelson, Duet, and Pure Hoppiness are what you would often, but not always, find up there. I'd check out their Facebook page, and/or call first, to check:

    https://www.facebook.com/alpinebeerco...

    Sometimes Bine & Vine in Normal Heights will have their beer; you'd need to call first.

    I'm not sure I'd have a bottle suggestion otherwise - most of what you can find in bottles here you can there. Most of the interesting/rarer stuff is only going to be on tap at the breweries. You could go buy a growler or two to take up to them, but that can get a bit pricey depending on the brewer in question.

    3 Replies
    1. re: RB Hound

      What RB Hound said.

      Best Damn Beer Shop downtown has Alpine sometimes too but you kind of have to luck out with it. Palm Springs liquor in La Mesa too.

      Another option is Societe. They're putting out IPAs are that are arguably as good as Alpine these days. No bottles for sale but you could get a growler filled.

      1. re: RB Hound

        There is a bottle shop in Santee, of all places, Beverages 4 Less (Mission Gorge at Fanita) that always has Alpine in stock. Admittedly, it is often sold out of the IPA's, but every time I've been they have the Captain Stout, Willy and Alpine Ale. However, I have bought Duet, Nelson and Pure Hoppiness in the past. It's honestly the best selection of beers I have found in San Diego, for San Diego beers. It's not exactly a convenient location, but they definitely have a great stock of choice bottles.

        Last time I was in the neighborhood, I picked up a "Homework Series" Red IPA from Ballast Point that wasn't even available AT Ballast Point!

        Bonus is, they share a parking lot with Sab-E-Lee 2. So, make the trek, buy the beer, have some Thai food and refresh your palate with said beer (making sure to pick up extras for home).

        1. re: CampySD

          Some of your more serious beer geeks have serious problems with the ethics of the guy running Bev4Less, but they undoubtedly have a good selection of local bottles and often will have Alpine.

          I agree with DougOLis's suggestions, too. I've never been to Palm Springs Liquor, but have heard good things about it. And with Best Damned Beer Shop, being friendly with the proprietor may help you increase your chances of finding out in advance when that Alpine will be coming in.

          Societe's growlers will run you $25, empty - that might be beyond the commitment somebody wants to make, especially if that will be going out of town (now, if they wanted to keep it for themselves to refill as needed, that changes the math :).

      2. Alpine Brewery's Pure Hoppiness. Hands down.

        1. With over 5000 user reviews on BeerAdvocate.com's website, Ballast Point Brewing's Sculpin IPA has an average rating of 98 out of a possible 100 points. It's an excellent American IPA by any standard, it's made here in San Diego, and it's available in bottles or cans (which is actually better for the beer). Available all over town.

          3 Replies
          1. re: sandiegomike

            Op wants something not available in LA though.

            Any IPA from Alpine will fit the bill but my preference is for Nelson.

            1. re: JRSD

              Agree here. Sculpin is one of the best but it's showing up everywhere lately. If you can get something from Alpine (Duet, Pure Hopiness, Full Nelson, etc) that would be a better choice. Or if you could get a Stone "Enjoy By" IPA, that might be something hard to get in LA. Or another of the Stone specialty IPA. Haven't tried it yet but there's an R&D Coconut IPA from Stone which is a collaboration beer.

              Nice of you to bring beer to your friends!

              1. re: steveprez

                Stone has a storefront in Pasadena and I think all of their offerings get significant distribution in LA.

          2. Wow, thanks for all the respones, everyone. Really appreciate it! I'll report back what I can find. Thanks!

            1 Reply
            1. re: aloha925

              Thanks for all the great responses and suggestions. I had a successful trip to the Best Damn Beer Shoppe - what a great place, and super helpful staff too. I picked up a six-pack (cans) of Sculpin, and bottles of Port Wipeout, Rough Draft Double IPA and the Stone Coconut IPA (which sounds a little scary to me, but I think my friends will be into it).

              No luck on Alpine. I was told that Alpine bottles are not currently available at any bottle shops, but there may be deliveries in September. I wish I had time to make the drive to Alpine. I looked for Societe as well, but was told that they aren't bottling.

              Thanks again for the great suggestions. I really appreciate your thoughtful responses!

            2. Just tell your friends to have what Fakey is having!

              1. I'd definitely go with Alpine if you can find it. I've heard fairly convincing arguments that Alpine's IPA compare favorably to Pliny. Because Alpine is still currently small, its a pain to find. Luckily, Alpine is expanding its brewing capacity and we should see more of their beers around.

                If you can't find any Alpine beers, I'd go with Ballast Point's Sculpin or Pizza Port's Mongo. Societe Brewing also has a fair number of IPA's that are pretty good. I also like Rough Draft's IPA as well. So, I say bring a six pack of Sculpin (in cans!), and then a bottle or two of Rough Draft or Alpine. Odds are they can't get Sculpin in LA (or if they can, its hard to find), and they've never heard of any of the other beers.

                Then again, every brewery in town has an IPA that's pretty good (or they wouldn't be in business), so you really can't go wrong. LA is pretty much a craft brewing wasteland (its changing, I know), so Stone is still exotic.

                2 Replies
                1. re: jmtreg

                  Not to start an argument, but Sculpin is not that difficult to find at all in LA. There are many that say that its quality has fallen off as its production/availability has increased; I'm not to say.

                  Some of Rough Draft's bottles are a good suggestion. I wouldn't put them in the "I love this stuff!" category, but they are pretty good and not that difficult to find. A lot of the excitement for beer nuts is trying something new to them.

                  Pizza Port Mongo is also a good suggestion, as is any Port IPA. Be a little careful with the bottling dates, though.

                  1. re: RB Hound

                    We can get Sculpin on draft here in Tokyo, and it is easily one of the best IPAs available here.

                2. For San Diego IPAs, it's worth noting that one of the original starting points was Blind Pig IPA, which was done out of Temecula by Vinnie Cilurzo in 1994. He now runs Russian River brewing outside of Sonoma, which still does a lot of good beers in addition to Blind Pig IPA, such as Pliny the Elder. They have pretty good distribution too, so you could probably go into a store in LA that carries Blind Pig or Pliny and get the "original" San Diego IPA style without ever needing to come down here.

                  A lot of the bigger local brewers opened around the same time as Vinnie was doing his thing, and as a result I think a lot of the current San Diego IPAs are very similar to that original style. Even with all of the self-professed beer nerds in town these days, I think that you'd find that quite a few of them couldn't tell the difference between a pint of Blind Pig, Pliny, Sculpin (Ballast Point), Racer 5 (Bear Republic), Alesmith IPA (Alesmith), West Coast IPA (Green Flash), or Mongo (Port Brewing) if put to a blind taste test. If you've had one of those beers and liked it, chances are you'd like the rest. But, that also means that if you've had one, and you're not so picky, no need to rush out and try them all just based on subtle differences, like hop profile, bitterness, or abv content.

                  For current San Diego IPAs, I think you can actually get one of the very best ones just as you cross into Carlsbad, by going to Pizza Port on Carlsbad Village Drive and having a pint of Wipeout IPA. People rave about Port's Mongo beer, but to me that beer is another one in the Blind Pig style. Wipeout is much more of a distinct beer. Far more citrus and floral, and not as heavy overall, so the hop flavors jump out more and the beer has a really nice sharp bite to it without as much of the over the top bitterness. Port Carlsbad also occasionally have their Pour Man's IPA or Hop Suey IIPA on tap, beers which I rarely see getting mentioned on "best of" lists, but which together with Wipeout I think just might be the best IPA/IIPA lineup done by any brewer in town, save of course for Alpine's Pure Hoppiness/Duet/Exponential Hoppiness. You can get Wipeout in a bottle at many places in town, but if you have the option, Wipeout from the tap or in a growler is the way to go (same goes for most IPAs, honestly). A lot of bars still do the cask thing (beer served via a hand pump) as a nice "special" gimmick, but I think that's become waaaaay overdone, and in my opinion only really works well with things like stouts and lighter ales, where the beer can stand to lose the carbonation and yet still taste good. Serving IPAs and IIPAs from a cask usually ends up throwing the balance of those beers off, resulting in a flat and even kind of syrupy/sweet version of an otherwise really nicely balanced beer. IPAs need that carbonation from a keg/tap. Anyway, if you go to Port Carlsbad, they also have a bottle shop next door, so you're bound to find something really good there, not just from them, but from other local brewers.

                  Ballast Point's Sculpin has become very popular in the last few years, and it's indeed a great local IPA, but that's another beer that I've always found to be more along the lines of other "Blind Pig" style IPAs. Sculpin gets raves from Beer Advocate, but I think that has more to do with that site being filled mostly with people outside of San Diego, and the fact that Sculpin is brewed in such large batches means that you can get it across the country pretty easy to share with other members. So, Sculpin gets to be known as the one that broke out of San Diego and helped get us on the national map, but when put next to other local beers, I don't really think it stands out that much at all. $16 for a six pack is outrageous, too. Beer prices in general are starting to get out of hand. You used to be able to get Stone IPA for $6.99 at Cost Plus a few years ago, and now it's regularly $10.99 (save for when buying it as a 24 pack at Costco). Likewise, Green Flash West Coast IPA used to come in 6 packs at $6.99 and now it's $10.99 for a 4 pack. The cost of hops hasn't gone up that much, fellas, but hats off to them for seizing the moment.

                  Anyway, to my mind there is no question that Pat at Alpine is the reigning king of San Diego IPAs. Pure Hoppiness and Exponential Hoppiness were far more responsible for the IPA/IIPA phenomenon taking over in the past 6-7 years than anything else, save maybe for Stone's IPA, just based on how available that beer has always been. But 5-6 years ago, no other beers tasted anything remotely like the Alpine stuff. Stone got San Diegans drinking more San Diego-brewed beer, and Ballast Point brought the variety and put craft beer into nearly every bar in the city, but Alpine was the one doing something "special", right down to the fact that you couldn't really get it anywhere except up in Alpine or at one or two bars, which were the only places that he'd send kegs to.

                  Due to the lack of taps around town serving Alpine, and how ridiculous their bottle availability and distribution still is (not to mention the insanity of people selling Alpine growlers on ebay), Ballast Point beers I think have gotten to be much more popular, since you can get them all over the place (and still can vs Alpine). So, most people will know Sculpin before they do Pure Hoppiness or Duet. But if you can get a bottle of Alpine from a vendor in town, without having to be subjected to the ridiculous "I don't keep it on the floor, and I have some in the back, but I can only sell you one" routine that's becoming more common, I would jump at it.

                  If you can make it up to Alpine, that's of course still the best way to try their beers. Pick up a growler and some bottles direct from them. The liquor stores in Alpine usually have a good stock too. Pure Hoppiness and Duet are the IPAs to get, but it's also worth picking up Alpine Ale and McHillenney's Irish Red (the first of Pat's beers to actually win a medal at the Beer Fest), for some nice variety. Willy and Captain Stout are really good too.

                  As for other brewers closer to town, besides Ballast Point, Stone, and Green Flash, Lightning makes great lagers, and the new St Archer brewery makes some solid beers. Societe Brewing has some really good stuff too, very similar to the Alpine style more than to the Blind Pig style. Coronado Brewing is very similar to Stone, and Karl Strauss of course is always worth trying out and having a meal at, in addition to their beers (which are also very similar to Stone).

                  For bottles, check out Port Carlsbad's bottle shop, Best Damn Beer Shop in downtown San Diego, and Bottlecraft in Little Italy and North Park. Lots of other good places around town carrying good beers, but those are the more comprehensive ones.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: cookieshoes

                    I'd forgotten about the Port Carlsbad's bottle shop - they have always had some treasures in my few ventures, very worth visiting on a trip north to LA.

                    Despite the hype/popularity of Sculpin, I've heard from more than a few people (one of them a brewer at Societe), that they only break even on the selling price, due to the insane hop bill in the mix... Don't get me wrong, I'm not paying $16 for a 6-pack myself, but, if you do the math for a homebrewer, it's not really a crazy price (based on "clone" recipes).

                    1. re: CampySD

                      Port Bottle shop is excellent but used to have irregular hours. Call before you go.

                  2. If heading up to Alpine you should also try their Nelson, a rye based IPA (RyePA?), and one of my favorite beers around. Can be found in Whole Foods or even Bottlecraft but you need to ask. I'm finding a lot of places have Alpine in stock but they keep them in the back to limit people to one or two bottles.