Recently we asked Greg Koch, the evangelistic demagogue behind Stone Brewing Company -- the largest craft brewery in Southern California -- to share his top five essential West Coast beers. But, in true Stone Greg fashion, Koch gave us six -- two of which aren't individual beers, but two series of beers. Why? Because he can. So, without further ado: Greg Koch's Six Essential West Coast Beers, in no particular order.
6. Ballast Point Black Marlin Porter:
"Delicious. Local. Perfect blend of the classic Porter characteristics of roastiness, chocolate, and coffee. If you are one of those poor, mislead, skittish souls who thinks they are afraid of 'dark beer,' stay in your self-concluded, preconceived-notion corner. I don't want to know you." Ballast Point Brewing Co., 10051 Old Grove Rd., San Diego, (858) 695-2739.
5. Pizza Port Solana Beach Swami's IPA: "One of the first-ever West Coast-style IPAs. First brewed in the mid-90s, still brewed today, and one of my eternal favorites. Should be one of yours, too." Pizza Port Solana Beach, 135 North Highway 101, Solana Beach, (858) 481-7332.
4. The Bruery Saison Rue: "I love this fantastic Saison from Orange County. In my humble opinion, it was an instant classic from the time it was released just a few years ago. And it's from nearby -- no ocean voyage required (unless you wisely decide to take it on an afternoon of sailing off the SoCal coast)." The Bruery, 715 Dunn Way, Placentia, (714) 996-6258.
3. Rogue Ales Chatoe Rogue series: "Brewed with malt and hops from Rogue's own farms, the Chatoe Rogue series is a great adventure into 'what if we tried opting out of the commodity system?' Worth trying for that reason alone!" Chatoe Rogue Tasting Room, 3590 Wigrich Rd., Independence, OR, (503) 838-9813.
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2. Maui CocoNut Porter: "The fans of this beer abound. Maui makes the ONLY HI-brewed beers to hit the mainland US, and is a true Made-in-Hawaii brand. Enjoy on the mainland, or even better yet, at the source in Maui!" Maui Brewing Co. 910 Honoapiilani Hwy, #55, Lahaina, HI, (808) 661-6205.
1. Stone 2nd-5th Anniversary IPA series: "The true test for the ever-growing number of 'I was there when' folks who proclaim they were Stone fans from the beginning (you know, back before we became popular). Those folks who aren't reimagining their past and actually were there know the escalating journey of intensity that eventually led to the very first full-time brewed and bottled Double IPA on the planet: Stone Ruination IPA." Stone Brewing Co., 1999 Citracado Pkwy, Escondido, (760) 471-4999.