Friday, July 4, 2008

Weekend Brews - Week 29 - Happy Independence Day!

In the spirit of independence, we're going to sample a variety of beers from independent breweries on the left coast. Normally, I'd do this post while enjoying said beverages, but since it's the 4th of July, I'll be out grillin' and chillin' and won't have time to post.

So, I shared my west coast finds with a few friends yesterday and here's the scoop...

I decided to go a little IPA crazy. I discovered a fantastic little joint in San Francisco called the City Beer Store. It was only a few blocks from my hotel when I was visiting last week, and a quick read of their website told me I had to stop by.

It was a pleasurable experience to say the least. It was the first beer store I've been to where you can actually enjoy a pint while shopping for beer. I sampled the Sonoma Farmhouse Hop Stoopid, a double IPA from Lagunitas. You can read some reviews of it on

Okay, so what did I bring back? Here's the run down:

1. Anderson Valley Summer Solstice Cerveza Crema - This beer was a Summer treat for sure. We all agreed it was the lawnmower beer for beer snobs. ha ha. It poured a light copper color into the glass, and had the appearance of a pale ale. The aroma was filled with sweet vanilla and fresh baked cookies. It wasn't overwhelming, but certainly alluded to what was in store come tasting time.

I thought this beer could have used more carbonation, but overall it was satisfying. The Summer Solstice tasted like cream soda with a hint of beer. You wouldn't mind sucking down several of these sweet brews on a hot day... that I can promise you. It's not necessarily my favorite style of beer, but for a cream ale, it's definitely towards the top of the list.

Overall Score for Anderson Valley Summer Solstice Cerveza Crema: 3.25 out 5.0

2. Alaskan IPA - Now we dive into the IPAs with a treat from the great state of Alaska. There's not much coming out of the Alaskan Brewing Company that isn't delicious. This IPA is no exception. You have to love the idea of glacier-fed water... that just sounds amazing!

The Alaskan IPA appeared a bit light for an IPA. Instead of the usual dark amber hues you get in most heavily malted and hopped American IPAs, the Alaskan had a light golden color. The smell from the glass was chock full of citrus courtesy of the abundance of hops. I love that smell!

The beer was smooth as silk, light, dry and fantastic. It wasn't as full as I would expect from an American IPA, and it was bit more on the bitter side than reaching that perfect malt/hop balance. Either way, I'd drink it again.

Overall score for the Alaskan IPA: 3.5 out 5.0

3. Speakeasy Double Daddy Imperial IPA - I've been wanting to try some more beer from Speakeasy out of San Francisco. It's always great to be able to sample beers that we cannot get in Gainesville, Fla. This 9.5% ABV beauty was my favorite of the bunch.

The Double Daddy was light copper and cloudy as it poured into the glass. An incredible blast of hop aroma filled the room when this brew was opened. A powerful waft of grapefruit lets you know there's some serious hop goodness inside.

The flavor was extraordinary with an almost perfect balance of hop bitterness and malt sweetness. This is one of the better Imperial IPAs I've tasted. A solid dry finish made this beer the tops on my list.

Overall score for the Speakeasy Double Daddy Imperial IPA - 4.5 out 5.0

4. Hair of the Dog Blue Dot Double IPA - Yes another double IPA! More malt! More hops! YES! Okay, so I get excited about IPAs... sue me.

The Blue Dot was cloudy and golden as it fell from the bottle. There's something comforting about that yeast cloud... it first tells you that the beer is bottle-conditioned, and gives you a feeling that this could basically be a homebrew. That says small craft brewery to me, and it feels good to support a small business.

This beer smelled funky. At first it had a dirty sock vibe going on with some fruity overtones. Very strange. This double IPA was strong and bitter. There was some malt sweetness missing from this one to make up for the bitter. It was a decent double, but not the best.

Overall Score for the Hair of the Dog Blue Dot Double IPA - 3.5 out 5.0

5. Marin Brewing Company IPA - This beer was a treat just for the fact that I've never seen it before... nor had any of my fellow beer drinking friends. The Marin Brewing Company is a small operation located north of the San Francisco Bay Area, and they have the honor of being Marin County's first brewpub ever. Kudos to Brendan Moylan for bringing great beer to Marin County.

This IPA was an inviting amber color that said, "drink me!" The aroma was a tiny bit peppery at first and then I was hit with the usual citrus blast. It's a familiar scent for any IPA fan.

Sliding down the gullet, the Marin IPA was smooth and hoppy with a tasty touch of sweetness. It was sweeter than expected, but still a pleasant treat.

Overall score for the Marin Brewing Company IPA - 3.5 out 5.0

6. Anderson Valley 20th Anniversary Imperial IPA - This beer was a close second to the Double Daddy IPA in terms of my favorite of the bunch. Anderson Valley consistently brews excellent award-winning beverages that would make any beer lover smile.

This amber beauty had a powerful aroma of lemons and fresh oranges. It was almost as if they knew this beer was going to be transported and enjoyed in Florida!

This special anniversary offering was outstanding! This refreshing brew was jam packed with citrus flavors of lemon and freshly squeezed orange juice balanced by malt sweetness. This beer was probably the most refreshing I've had in awhile. To say this beer was unique would be an understatement. The fresh orange juice vibe was incredibly surprising and certainly a nice change of pace. Click here for a little more info from

Overall score for the Anderson Valley 20th Anniversary Imperial IPA: 4.25 out 5.0

7. Green Flash Brewing Company's Imperial IPA - Holy Hops grandma! Green Flash Brewing Company of San Diego was not fooling around when they decided to make this double IPA coming in at 101 IBUs.

Another amber liquid to throw down the hatch. Here we go...

From the strong citrus aromas and scent of fresh cut grass, you could tell this was going to be bitter... and it was. Even though they claim 101 IBUs, this certainly wasn't as bitter as I had expected(perhaps it was because I had just tried five other IPAs? ha ha).

The Green Flash Imperial IPA was smooth and refreshing. Yes, it was hoppy and bitter, but there was fine undertone of light malt flavor that made this beer incredibly drinkable. I had seen this brew written about in the latest issue of Zymurgy magazine, so I was excited to give it a try. Nice work from the folks over in San Diego.

Overall score of the Green Flash Brewing Company's Imperial IPA - 3.75 out 5.0

All in all we were happy with the lot. The left coast certainly has some of the best beers in America(granted the east coast breweries can hold their own). I'm looking forward to my move out there to sample to my heart's content and tell you all about it!

Happy 4th of July! Cheers.

P.S. Thanks to Natalie for shooting the photos!

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