Let’s go straight to the top, my favorite beer of the month is Natural Born Shredders from the combined talents of Beachwood Brewing and Highland Park Brewery. This IPA has a Wonderful aroma. Bright with dried fruit and pine. As it warms sone cat pee notes creep in. Loads of tangerine flavor. Overall light mouthfeel. Nice bitterness bite that lingers.
So let’s update the IPA rankings before mentioning a couple honorable mentions.
3 – Crooked Stave Idaho 7 IPA
2 – Offshoot Beer Co. DDH Visions
1 – Beachwood / Highland Park Natural Born Shredders
Two other really great beers wowed me this month. Total Boss Red IPA from Smog City was malty and hoppy and filling in equal measure. Radiant Beer Co. and their Can Down By the River Motivational Lager which from can design to flavor was great.
Time to look back at the first six months of the drinking year and tease out sone fun statistics about what I have been drinking.
16 breweries were brand new to me.
I still drank more West Coast IPA’s than Hazies 69 to 43
Smog City was the most drunk from brewery with 19 followed closely by Firestone Walker with 17
Firestone Walker leads with best beers of the week with 3. Lagunitas and Radiant each have 2.
Of 327 total beers – 156 were IPA, 24 Pilsner/Lager, 23 Barrel-Aged and 11 Sour
Time to check in on the best beers that I had this month. First off is Pally Pils from Green Cheek in Anaheim, I went to try their cold IPA but was taken by their Italian Pilsner instead. Then traveling to Belgium via El Segundo, the noted IPA house has a Belgian Strong Ale, Gouden Arm which was strong indeed and just an excellent departure for the brewery.
But the winner was the collaboration between Long Beach Beer Lab and Ambitious Ales called Affogat-oats. A triple IPA with oats and lactose and coffee. I would have added it to my IPA best but it was such a style mash -up. Coffee and cream and then sweetness and a touch of bitterness
Two beers that Three Weavers made almost cracked the top three of the IPA list. The latest batch of Light Trails was bright and grape-y and the Crowns and Knots collab with Crowns & Hops was winner was well. The top remains unchanged.
3. Crooked Stave Idaho 7 IPA
2. Indie Brewing Quintette IPA
- Offshoot Beer Co. DDH Visions
The OBA’s were awarded earlier this month. You can check HERE for the full round-up. Below is my TL:DR recap starting with the regional winners…
- CENTRAL Sunriver Brewing
- COAST Fort George Brewery
- METRO Breakside Brewery
- NORTHEAST pFriem Family Brewers
- SOUTHERN Caldera Brewing
- VALLEY Block 15 Brewing
Other important winners were Lisa Morrison who was added to the rolls of the Oregon Beer Hall of Fame, Belmont Station and BeerMongers were awarded for beer destinations as was ForeLand Beer for new brewery and TopWire for beer garden.
All are great beer spots to add to your travel bucket list
For many LA beer fans, there first exposure to Beachwood Brewing and their now enlarged world of IPAs was either Melrose or Laurel.
And now Laurel has resurfaced in brightly festooned cans again. Grab a 4-pack to relive the early days
Considering that Utopias and de Garde was drunk this month, the pickings for best we’re still pretty slim. I really liked aspects of the Samuel Adams old beer and the Strata hop wild ale but both were pretty one sided affairs.
Oddly enough, where I found balance was in the big beers of Shadow Puppet. Both of their triple IPA’s found the sweet spot of hops, alcohol and texture. Rational Exuberance and Efficiency TIPA’s are my February best choices. The 12 ounces cans from the Livermore brewery reminded me of the beer El Segundo big IPA’s. Strong and hoppy in equal measure.
On to the top three IPA’s of 2021, Strata Aerobic from Highland Park Brewery drops out and The Coachman from Societe drops to third as Quintette from Indie Brewing grabs the number 2 slot just behind Visions from Offshoot Beer Co. Quintette an anniversary IPA from the DTLA brewery packed a punch but was also light on its feet. I finished the can and immediately wished that I had another.
I flipped a coin (which is about all I have used coins for in a year) and we will start with Overall Best for January before diving into the IPA portion of the schedule.
It was a two beer race. A wildly divergent two beer race. Brewyard’s Barrel-Aged Catz Pajamas Belgian Quad married a style that is not out there a lot with a really mellow bourbon flavor. It was a pleasant Friday night drink that could have paired with steak or a chocolate dessert. But the winner was TaHoBa (tangerine-honey-basil) from Los Angeles Ale Works. A recipe I first tasted many years ago as a home brew. A surprisingly hefty ABV beer that weaves the three main ingredients together very well. The basil note is just right.
IPA time. Remember, I am covering just regular ol’ West Coast and Hazies. Obvious doubles or triples or QIPAs ( sorry El Segundo). It also means many of the Stone DIPAs are set aside. I had West Coasties from All Season Brewing, Stone, El Segundo, Lucky Luke and Wayfinder and Hazies from Mumford, Mumford and Tarantula Hill, Stone and Aslin.
Here are my current top three:
3. Highland Park Strata Aerobics – a new favorite hop and HPB got my hopes real high and this beer met most of the hype but still felt a little muted.
2. Societe The Coachman – Yes, it is labeled a session IPA but it is just damn good and filled with more flavor than many non session.
1. Offshoot Beer Co. Visions DDH Hazy – A full review is coming next month but to summarize, Visions is a Hazies hazy.
Followers of this Blog will know of my ambivalence to Best of… Lists. I even cast a skeptical eye at GABF medals because there is just no way of truly knowing what the “best” is, it is merely a snapshot of a small slice of “best” to me.
That being said, this year let me conduct a different way of choosing a best. It will be a year long experiment. It will be for two types of IPAs, Hazy and West Coast. I pick those two because I will more than likely drink more of them than any other style and they will be widely available as we move (hopefully) out of lockdown. It will not be exhaustive. More California with a smattering of Oregon, Washington and other states. It will be subjective. Very subjective.
Updates will arrive each month with a top three leaderboard as well as list of all the IPAs tasted so you can follow along.
I mean going to do a quick shout out to my favorite beer drunk this month, then dive into my Best of the entire year, so buckle up opinions ahead.
As is often the case, recent memory shines brightest but I think the beer that “won” December is clearly my personal winner for all of 2020. Cutting to the chase, Barrel-Aged Peanut Butter Cup Narwhal from Sierra Nevada was flat out great. And it had to climb a mountain to get there. I am not a fan of gimmicky versions of solid beers because either the gimmick ingredient either doesn’t work with the base beer or there is too little/too much of it. But this beer had layers. You got the bourbon, you got the peanut butter and you got chocolate in even amounts. Not syrupy sweet either which is amazing.
Here are the remaining favorites from the year:
2. Bearded Iris – Homestyle IPA
3. Crux Fermentation – Battlestar IPA
4. Wayfinder – Terrifica Italian Pils
5. Ambitious Ales – Ambiturner DIPA
6. Lagunitas – The Waldo’s Special Ale
7. Fort George – Atomic Jukebox Milkshake IPA
8. Fieldwork – Canopy Pale Ale
9. Pocock – Emma’s Clown Car Hefeweizen
10. Firestone Walker – Cherry Barrel Blossom
Brewyard is the winner of the month! Best beer two weeks running with the Bourbon Barrel- Aged Pumpkin Spice Dark Wheat which worked really well as an antidote for pastry or other barrel beers that are just too big. The other beer was Kalinga Pilsner which went for adding Calamansi fruit to the mix instead of doing a hopped version. It went against the grain like the pumpkin beer.
Special mention to a classic of Christmas which was my last beer of the month. Literally still drinking it now, the St. Bernardus Christmas ale which is just a wonder of holiday spice. So nice when the weather is cold.