Alpine IPAs

January 15, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | Filed under Brewer: Alpine, Country: America, Grade: A plus, Grade: A regular, Style: IPA.

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.

Pure Hoppiness

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.

A

Duet

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.

A+

Nelson

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.

A+

Exponential Hoppiness

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.

A+

My final rankings:

1.  Exponential Hoppiness
2.  Duet
3.  Nelson
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.


16 Responses to “Alpine IPAs”

  1. JRhode says:

    Alpine’s O’Briens is at least as good as Duet and Nelson in the single IPA category.

  2. Hope they start bottling that!

  3. Taco Town Dave says:

    These beers seem like my end all be all. Do you or Jesse the Hut now if they distribute outside of SoCal?

  4. Taco Town Dave says:

    Excuse me, “know”.

  5. I may be wrong, but I believe the few Alpine bottles are distributed in only a small area of CA. Exponential was a limited brewery only release I think. You’ll have to trade for them!

  6. Dave says:

    Expo was brewery only I believe but South Bay got a hold of some. I think he drives up and buys it directly from them. They distribution area is very very small.

  7. Great call, Dave–yeah, a few of the Alpine’s appear for sale on Southbay every so often:

    http://sites.google.com/site/southbaydrugs/

  8. Jay says:

    I don’t think a beer blog post has ever made me want to drink more than this one did. I immediately got on the South Bay Drugs site to place an order, then sanity returned and I remembered I already have more beer than I can handle. I actually though Pure Hoppiness was a bit overrated, but I had Duet once and it was tremendous. The others sound even better.

  9. Jay, I can’t implore you enough to get your hands on the Alpines you haven’t tried yet!

  10. Nat Webster says:

    Last spring I alerted a friend about EHs availability and he picked up a growler for each of us. (I live about 45 min from Alpine and he’s about 30 min.) I forced myself to drink my growler over several nights, but it was hard to stop because EH is so good. He manned up and drank his whole growler in one night, hangover be damned, although I don’t think he knew it was almost 11% abv. Alpine expanded its distribution last fall, but it is still limited and Nelson and Duet sellout within hours of arriving in stores. For what it’s worth, I thought EH better than Pliny the Younger.

  11. Well I really hope I get to try PtY this year to actually compare!

  12. Have you had Port’s Mongo btw, Nat?

  13. Nat Webster says:

    I have not tried Mongo, and am a bit ashamed to admit I had not heard of it until Dave at Drunken Polack asked me about it. Two inquiries in a week..I need to track it down. PP’s newest pub/brewery is opening about two minutes from my house in mid-February, so I should have more access to its beers.

  14. Rich says:

    Just noticed your comments as I was searching on the internet for Pure Hoppiness – just got some yesterday and tried it. It was the last one for me to try of the four – the EH, Duet, Nelson and now PH. Funny how everyone has different tastes (wow, how profound, maybe I should write a book – oh, wait!) and I would rank the Alpine beers as 1. Nelson; 2. PH; 3. Duet; and 4. EH. And, I like the Pliny the Younger better than all except the Nelson and the Pliny the Elder better than all of the above! So, no critique, but a thank you – I got the PH after reading your comments – you pointed me in the right direction. Cheers!

  15. Rich, I think your order would reflect a preference for drier IPAs. I like a hint of sweetness which both Duet and EH have. But they are all awesome.

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