Palate-wreckers. Hop bombs. Bitter Betties. Whatever you call the India Pale Ale, it's undeniable that this once-dormant style has become the veritable face of the contemporary craft beer movement. Born from pale ales bitter by necessity — a trip from England to India would otherwise ruin the precious nectar), IPAs can today be as light as lagers or as dark as stouts. And the diversity of hoppy beers now labeled “IPA” has garnered it fans both casual and militant.
It was only a matter of time before it got its own holiday.
Created three years ago by two craft beer social media personalities, IPA Day began with an idea and a hashtag. People around the world were encouraged to organize their own events spotlighting the style and take to the web to connect with others, educating them about not just IPAs, but the entire craft culture. Everyone from bloggers to brewers to businesses answered the call last year, making #IPAday a trending tag in six major U.S. cities.
This year, Angelenos have their own reason to celebrate IPA Day: We can now toast with a few of our own. Nearly four years into this wild ride of L.A.-made beer and there are enough homegrown IPAs to pique any beer-drinker's interest. Here are five to help you celebrate #IPAday to its fullest, local-love extent.
5. El Segundo Brewing White Dog IPA
Everything El Segundo Brewing makes is hop-forward (down to its dark-and-roasty export stout), so it's no surprise that their IPA lineup is one of the more drinkable in the city. The Blue House IPA is a great introduction to the West Coast version of the style and Two Five Left is a heavier, 8.2%ABV double IPA version of the same. But for summer, we got to admit our appreciation for wheat beers and give some love to El Segundo's White Dog IPA, a light in body but big on flavor wheat IPA that is as sweet as it is refreshing. Using the hops to imbue the sweet citrus and fruit flavors and a body-thickening wheat background, White Dog is a wheat beer that puts Blue Moon to shame.
4. Wolf Among Weeds Double IPA
A re-tooled recipe courtesy of Golden's Road's new brewmaster Jesse Houck has recently put the year-old Wolf Among Weeds on our must-drink list. Originally a one-off addition to the brewery's “Custom IPA” series, Wolf is now a year-round beer available for take home in four-pack cans and is also on draft everywhere from Beer Belly to Simmzy's. A lighter body and subtle rye spice make all the hops stand tall while the drinkable balance brought by fresh citrus flavors cleverly hides its 8% alcohol content. Don't be fooled by the beer's golden-amber color, either — there is little toast here. From aroma to finish, this beer is all bitterness.
3. Eagle Rock Brewery Populist
If there is an L.A.-made IPA that has been fighting the good fight for flagship status, it's Populist. A staple of Eagle Rock's lineup since day one, their maltier take on the IPA has been continually available (first on draft and now in bottles) for more than three years straight. Like all Eagle Rock beers, Populist is well-balanced. Its aroma gives off hints of hoppy pine and grapefruit but refuses to punch you in the face with it, and its copper color suggests a malty backbone eliminated in most West Coast versions of the style. Grab a growler at the tasting room and share this one with friends — it's a great introduction to not just IPAs, but L.A. beer as a whole.
2. Strand Brewing Mushashi Black IPA
Only a few local spots make black IPAs, but none of them are as consistently made or easily available as Strand's. Dark in color with tongue-punching bitterness, many examples of the style (try Firestone Walker's Wookey Jack) make you feel like your eyes and taste buds are at war with one another. Mushashi, however, embraces its dark side and allows the bitterness to fall off in the finish, leaving flavors of complex roastiness on the tongue long after the last sip. Available in bottles as of earlier this year, this is the one IPA that dark beer fans can get behind.
1. Beachwood Brewing INXS (of hops)
With hophead homebrewer Julian Shrago at the helm, Beachwood Brewing may be the local king of IPAs, but they don't seem to keep them on draft for very long. While Melrose and Thrillseeker are quickly turning into their most well-known offerings in the style (both were released in bottles last month), the Long Beach brewpub just as often churns out seasonals, one-offs and experimental IPAs that are gone as quickly as they arrived. INXS just came on draft, but it's one we wish would stick around longer. A golden-colored IPA hopped exclusively with new Australian varietals, the beer is so full of tropical flavors, it borders on boozy fruit juice. Close your eyes and smell it, and it's as if you took a stroll through a blooming island garden. Drink it and you'll be transported to a faraway land where '80s music blares loud and excessive hops are welcome.
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