Wednesday, August 8, 2007

San Diego Pale Ale

San Diego is craft beer mecca. Local breweries like Alpine, Port Brewing, Green Flash, Ballast Point and Stone are putting out some amazing beers. Even more traditionally "brew-pubby" outfits like the La Jolla Brew House and the Coranado Brewing Company have jumped on the bandwagon recently and started producing some stand-out beers. We are lucky to live within stumbling distance of the Liars' Club, where we often get the chance to sample these great brews.

In particular, our favorite beer style is the west coast version of the American India Pale Ale. These beers are light in color, but big on flavor. Using tons of west coast hops (Simcoe and Amarillo being the current prominent varieties) gives not just the bittering element, but a wonderful floral and citrus character that comes out in both the aroma and the taste.

The style is quite different from IPAs brewed farther east (which tend to be darker and maltier), and those beers in turn are quite different from their British IPA cousins, which tend to be milder. The differences are pronounced enough to raise the question of whether we should even be calling these modern west coast ales IPAs at all.

Garrett Oliver, brewmaster of Brooklyn Brewery has suggested that the style be dubbed San Diego Pale Ale. He was referring specifically to the Double IPA, but I think it applies equally well to the lower octane brews (maybe the higher alcohol beers in the style should be called San Diego Strong Ales). Some examples of the style that we really like include:

And there are some out-of-towners worth mentioning as well. Sonoma county is producing some great beers. Russian River Brewing Company's Vinnie Cilurzo (often credited as originating the Double IPA style when he was running Blind Pig Brewing Co. in Temecula) leads the charge with Pliny (both Elder and Younger). And Bear Republic's Racer 5 is one of our favorites.

But enough waxing poetic about other people's beer. The picture at the top of this post is the latest homebrew batch in our ongoing quest to brew a great San Diego Pale Ale. It is batch number 4, and it is pretty damn good. You can find the recipe here.

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