A year ago at this time I’m not even sure if I’d heard of Alpine Beer Co. That seems hard to believe now–now that they have four beers on the Beer Advocate Top 100–but even just a year ago they were a tiny tap-only outfit near San Diego worshiped by locals, not really known by outsiders. Luckily, just last summer, a great man named Jesse the Hutt insisted I let him send me a growler of Alpine’s Nelson and my IPA world was rocked–it was probably the best I’d ever had.
Alpine finally started bottling stuff in the last few months, and in a recent trade, when Jesse asked what I wanted sent to me from the other coast, I pretty much just screamed: “EVERY SINGLE ALPINE IPA POSSIBLE!” And, indeed, last week I received Alpine’s four bottled IPAs, all of which I drank as fresh as possible last weekend.
8% ABV from a bomber
Seemingly Alpine’s flagship brew, I started my Friday night with this “mega-hopped” bad boy which uses hops in the boil, more hops in the giant hopback, plus an incredible amount of dry-hopping. Honestly, I wasn’t that blown away at first, but just like Nelson, the more I drank it the more I noticed its complexities and really started to enjoy it. Pure Hoppiness is a very citrusy hop bomb with just a tad note of sweetness. An odd but not unpleasant thin, cask-like mouthfeel too allowing it to go down easy with minimal bite. I loved it, but was not OMG floored.
6.75% ABV from a bomber
Saturday afternoon I lugged Duet and Nelson over to an NFL playoff party at a friend’s apartment who, though he is a bit of a beer connoisseur, just doesn’t dig on IPAs. Has never been able to enjoy that certain hops bitterness we all love. I, of course, am constantly trying to force-feed him great IPAs and figured I’d give it one last go with these beauties, assuming that if couldn’t enjoy these, he truly would never enjoy hoppy beers.
My gamble paid off as Duet opened his eyes to the brilliance of the IPA. It opened my eyes too. I’ve drank hundreds of IPAs in my life, but never anything like this before. An incredible smell of Simcoe and Amarillo hops “in harmony” (hence the name.) Sticky and sweet, Duet is one of those great hoppy beers that causes two side-effects that you would think would be bad, but which always seem to denote a great IPA:
1. Burping–hoppy beers always make me belch as the bitterness tickles the back of my throat and, you know, it’s not entirely unpleasant to keep “re-tasting” a great hoppy beer long after you finished drinking it.
2. Phlegm production–hoppy beers can also be like a really pulpy glass of fresh-squeezed OJ which causes the insides of your mouth to form sticky spiderwebs of throat snot, make it a struggle to just open your mouth.
Remarkable how much body and complexity comes out of a “mere” 6.75% beer. I don’t like to quibble between single and double IPAs, but it’s hard to believe a single IPA could be better than this.
7.1% ABV from a bomber
My first time to have Nelson from a bottle and it totally stacked up to it straight from a fresh growler. Much lighter and fizzier than Duet, almost looks like a macro beer in fact on the pour. It’s amazing how different two IPAs of similar strength from the same brewery can be. Nelson is far more bitter and grapefruity than Duet and lacks that sweet tinge of a finish that Duet has, but this is still a masterpiece and definitely a hallmark for those that prefer their IPAs drier.
10.5% ABV from a bomber
I saved them granddaddy of the all, the brilliantly named (it uses multiple kettle hop additions with the technique of doubling the hop amount each addition, thus exponentially) and beautifully labeled Exponential Hoppiness for last. I saved this one for me, me, and only me, as my macro-swilling friends drank some Bud Light tallboys on Sunday afternoon.
Bluntly put, this is now the best IPA I have ever had. It’s like a boozier Duet. Sticky sweet with a bitter finish and the slightest hint of the oak chips its aged on. Can Pliny the Younger seriously be better than this?!?! I truly hope to find out in the next month or so.
My final rankings:
1. Exponential Hoppiness
4. Pure Hoppiness
and the first three would probably be in my top 5 or so IPAs of all time. Alpine is the KING of IPAs!
On Monday I e-mailed Jesse to praise Alpine and ask him if they made any more delicious IPAs. He quickly rattled off “O’Brien’s IPA, Bad Boy, Sippin on the Dock of the Bay, Tuatara, and a steam IPA called California Uncommon.” Unfortunately, all tap-onlys. I’ll try ‘em one day.