Karl Strauss Big Barrel Double IPA

July 12, 2010 by Aaron Goldfarb | Filed under Brewer: Karl Strauss, Country: America, Grade: A regular, Style: IPA.

9% ABV from a bomber

Seems once a week some dork starts a thread on the Beer Advocate forums with some open question along the lines of “Why do brewers seem to only care about making double IPAs and barrel aged stouts–where are all the pilsners, bitters, milds, and goses?????!?!?!”

Uh…gathering dust on the shelves while everyone buys the double IPAs and barrel aged stouts I’d imagine.

In all seriousness though, Hypothetical Beer Dork does have a point.  It does sometime seem like breweries only care about making the baddest stouts and the most uber-hopped DIPAs.  Good thing so many of them are fucking delicious.  You’d think you’d get bored if not lose them in the enormous shuffle if not run out of ones to try, but good for us hopheads that the IPA mecca of San Diego keeps pumping out delicious stuff.

Honestly, I really knew nothing about Karl Strauss when my friend The Drunken Polack sent me a bottle of Big Barrel and told me this beer was 2 legit 2 quit.  Karl Strauss kinda sounds like the name of that weirdo German exchange student who visited my high school second semester 11th grade and helped us win the soccer championship AND get bratwurst added to the lunch menu, but come to find out they are actually a longtime mainstay of the SoCal beer scene and, in fact, it’s very first microbrewery.*  Wow.

Big Barrel is made with Nelson-Sauvin hops, the same hops most famously used in Alpine Nelson, one of my favorite all-time IPAs and a beer that it’s virtually impossible not to compare Big Barrel to.  But that’s not a bad thing as Big Barrel definitely holds its own.  A nice citrusy bitter bite but with an underlying tropical sweetness.  A bit aggressively boozy but I like that in my beers (and my women!)  Nevertheless, it is very drinkable and goes down quite easily (another thing I like in my women!)  It has that beautiful enamel-peeling taste us hop addicts just crave and I was sad when my lone bomber was finished.

Quite frankly, I’m not sure how Big Barrel is not more “famous” and discussed in the same breath with the Plinys, Sculpins, and numerous Alpines.  It’s that good and now probably one of my top 20 or so IPAs ever.

I can’t wait to explore Karl Strauss’s stuff a little more–if only they were available in New York!


*In all seriousness, a very nice story about who the real Karl Strauss was.

7 Responses to “Karl Strauss Big Barrel Double IPA”

  1. Karl Strauss was, until recently, talked about with derision among hop heads. But since the old man died, they have been cranking out some great stuff (I think the timing was a coincidence). Kudos to brewer Paul Segura and whoever inspired him to start stretching the recipe book.

  2. What other KS offerings do you recommend?

  3. Royce says:

    JB has the right of it, the brewery is gaining in quality (and consequently respect) in recent years. Also SD (woot, yay SD!) has a surprisingly good number of quality brewers. I would put fellow SD product Stone Brewing’s Ruination IPA right in that conversation of best IPAs, by the way.

    Totally agree with Hypothetical Beer Dork about the more “boring” styles being underrepresented by craft brewers… although I also agree with you that most beer dorks only like two styles – double IPAs and Imperial Stouts (and their ilk). Reading the “top beers” on Beer Advocate or ratebeer is a farce… ONLY beers of those styles are represented. So that is why the craft brewers trend towards those styles.

    It’s a bit of a shame for people with a palate like mine, because my favorite beers tend to be less-bombastic but more-drinkable beers like a nice, smooth, flavorful amber ale.

    On the subject of bombastic imperial stouts and craft brews from San Diego, SD brewery Ballast Point is the maker of one of the best big beers I know: the Coffee Vanilla Imperial Porter. Ever had it?

  4. Yes, I’ve been fortunate to land both a bomber and a growler of Coffee Vanilla Imperial Porter and I absolutely loved it.

  5. Nate says:

    Never had it/heard of it. I need to hook the Drunken Polack up with my address.

  6. The Drunken Polack is a good–no, GREAT–man to know!

  7. Honestly, I’ve steered clear of their stuff. I’ve not really tried the bigger beers, but their normal stuff is not very good. However, I’m not closed off to the bigger brews.

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