Four Brewers | Craft Beer and Homebrew Podcast
[S3/E17] The 2016 California IPA Showdown

Season 3, Episode 17 – Today, the 2016 California IPA Showdown.

It’s been a while since our last showdown, and we’ve wrestled with how we are going to handle IPA for a long time now. Initially, we thought about trying to get the best of the best IPA from around the country and compare them all blind. The challenge there is it’s nearly impossible to get beer from all over the place, at an acceptable level of freshness, in one place at one time. Plus, as fun as it is to read about a magical elixir from a brewery thousands of miles away that drinks of pure unobtainium, what about something a bit easier to come by? 

Enter the CA Shelf IPA Showdown! 

2016 IPA Showdown Beers2016 IPA Showdown Beers

These beers are all from California. They’re all IPAs and all widely and readily available. Hell, they’re probably sitting in your local grocer dying a slow painful death. So we set out to determine the king of the hill. 

The Method

While we knew which beers were in the pool, we had our good friend Dr Zack administer the tasting for us totally blind. We didn’t know what we were drinking when we rated it, and we revealed at the end. We each rated the beer 1-100 using our completely arbitrary personal preference scales, and averaged those ratings to get a total. 

All of these beers were well within acceptable freshness range (The oldest bottle had a bottling date of 2/9/2016 which was less than 2 months before recording) and were purchased at our old standby Gerrard’s Market in Redlands, CA. All of the beer at this store is kept in a walk in cooler, so conditions were about as ideal as we’re going to get. But all of this beer was purchased, by us, off the shelf, and not provided by the brewery.

The Rankings

#9 Lagunitas Brewing Company – IPA
Average Score: 56.75
Distribution: 48 states

Lagunitas Brewing Company - IPALagunitas Brewing Company – IPA

Lagunitas IPA may hail from California, but you can probably get it at your local gas station. This beer is available in 48 states in the US, and likely the only IPA on at the janky bar down the way from you that got one of these IPAs that people keep talking about. In this field of CA standbys, Lagunitas disappointed. We were impressed with the clarity, but minimal hop presence combined with a maltier than average backbone and astringent flavors led this beer to rank a full 10 points below the next lowest ranking beer. 

#8 Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. – Torpedo Extra IPA
Average Score: 65.75
Distribution: Everywhere

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. - Torpedo Extra IPASierra Nevada Brewing Co. – Torpedo Extra IPA

Probably the only beer more ubiquitous than Lagunitas IPA is Sierra Nevada’s venerable Torpedo. This beer is available in all 50 states and Washington DC! It’s also doing pretty poorly against it’s CA born peers. We thought the beer was appropriately old school. Aroma notes included citrus, pine and crackery sweet malt character, but the flavor fell flat with our field. Too much sweet caramel malt, limited hop presence and an overall flat, bitter character dropped this standby near the bottom of the field. 

#7 Stone Brewing Co. – Stone IPA
Average Score: 71.75
Distribution: 43 states

Stone Brewing Co. - Stone IPAStone Brewing Co. – Stone IPA

Stone IPA is a standby in California and beyond, acting as an aggressive example of the West Coast IPA style. We found it aggressive indeed – flavor descriptors include words like bracing, challenging, boozy and unrefined. While overall we enjoyed the beer, we found the rough around the edges approach to IPA to be limiting and knocked it down in the field. 

#6 AleSmith Brewing Company – IPA
Average Score: 73.25
Distribution: 15 States

AleSmith Brewing Company - IPAAleSmith Brewing Company – IPA

AleSmith IPA has been discussed on 4B before in a Going in Blind segment. It continues to vex the show, convincing Greg that he was drinking Stone IPA until the reveal showed him to be dead wrong. This beer scored high marks from John and Jason for being a classicly bitter “San Diego style” West Coast IPA, but didn’t do as hot with Matt and Greg. 

#5 Bear Republic Brewing Co. – Racer 5 IPA
Average Score: 79.375
Distribution: 28 states

Bear Republic Brewing Co. - Racer 5 IPABear Republic Brewing Co. – Racer 5 IPA

Racer 5 from Bear Republic has been the low key stand by west coast IPA for several years now. We were able to pick out a lot of different aroma notes, and kept finding different aroma descriptors the more we tried it. While it registered high notes with most of our crew, Jason was a dissenter and was so put off by the odd sweet aftertaste and diesel aroma notes that he knocked it down to his 3rd lowest beer of the day. Jason’s 66 score knocked it down from an 83.83 (and second place) into 5th. From a beer that has roots tracing back into the 1990s, Racer 5 made a very strong showing.

#4 Alpine Beer Company – Duet
Average Score: 79.5
Distribution: 6 states

Alpine Beer Company - DuetAlpine Beer Company – Duet

We went in depth comparing Alpine Duet vs. Green Flash Duet way back in season 2, episode 32, and we had high praises for both versions then. Some might think that having the smallest distribution footprint (even after the Green Flash acquisition) would give this beer an unfair advantage, but the gang was divided on this beer in this showdown. Jason and John really liked it and considered it an above average beer. Greg and Matt, on the other hand, thought it was fairly ho hum. In the end, Alpine Duet scored solidly and placed above the middle of the field. 

#3 Green Flash Brewing Company – West Coast IPA
Average Score: 82
Distribution: 46 states

Green Flash Brewing Company - West Coast IPAGreen Flash Brewing Company – West Coast IPA

While it kinda seems like a double up to have Green Flash and Alpine in the same showdown, the West Coast IPA is a classic and acts as a solid representative of the style. But you wouldn’t know that to listen to our notes, as we made it a huge point to talk about how not West Coast the beer is. It was a bit maltier and danker than we expected, and while our initial reactions were a bit reserved, upon digging into our glasses we came to really enjoy it. We didn’t absolutely love the aroma, but the flavor really brought us around. Between this beer and Alpine at number 4, Green Flash made a strong showing as a brewery. 

#2 Ballast Point Brewing and Spirits – Sculpin IPA
Average Score: 82.5
Distribution: 34 states

Ballast Point Brewing and Spirits - Sculpin IPABallast Point Brewing and Spirits – Sculpin IPA

Sculpin is the beer that really put Ballast Point on the map after their World Beer Cup Win in 2010. It quickly rocketed from a limited seasonal beer into a flagship and now one of the most readily available IPAs in the markets that get Ballast Point. An established favorite with Jason, this beer impressed the gang with it’s more modern IPA style and tropical fruit notes. Greg appreciated the malt character while Jason liked the lingering dankness. It hit everyone’s palate in a just the right way that took led it to barely edge out the competition from Green Flash. 

#1 Firestone Walker Brewing Company – Union Jack IPA
Average Score: 89
Distribution: 22 states

Firestone Walker Brewing Company - Union Jack IPAFirestone Walker Brewing Company – Union Jack IPA

Union Jack is considered by Matt to be the Rodney Dangerfield of the California IPA world. While very widely available, it does not usually get a lot of accolades from the beer world. It also suffered from being the oldest beer in our flight, bottled on 2/9/2016! Despite that, this beer wowed us. We loved the aroma, and loved the beer in just about every way. It seemed to walk the tightrope between malty and dry, hoppy and bitter, and came in right in the sweet spot for our palates. It was the second highest rated beer from John, and the highest rated from Matt, Jason and Greg. Despite being counted out by Jason going into the showdown, Firestone continues their dominance in 4B Blind Showdowns and tops the podium again. We promise we’re not getting kickbacks from them, you guys. 

In case you wanted to see the individual scores, here it is:

The IPA Showdown Score SheetThe IPA Showdown Score Sheet

So, there you have it.

BREW THE SHIT OUT OF IT.

Beers from this week’s episode:
Alpine Beer Company – Duet
AleSmith Brewing Company – IPA
Ballast Point Brewing and Spirits – Sculpin IPA
Stone Brewing Co. – Stone IPA
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. – Torpedo Extra IPA
Bear Republic Brewing Co. – Racer 5 IPA
Lagunitas Brewing Company – IPA
Firestone Walker Brewing Company – Union Jack IPA
Green Flash Brewing Company – West Coast IPA (2016)

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Direct download: four-brewers-4B-s3e17.mp3
Category:Beer -- posted at: 4:00pm PDT
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[S3/E16] New England Strikes Back

Season 3, Episode 16 – We’re back on the east side with some of New England’s best IPA.

I’ve got to say that this is one hell of a show, this week. Listener Chris R. heard a recent episode of the 4B where we weren’t really all that impressed with some of the New England-ish (Pennsylvania, to be exact) beers we had on the show. So what did Chris do? He mailed the fuck out of it and sent us some true New England IPA freshies the day after the show was released. This week, we’ve got beers from Tree House Brewing CompanyFoolproof Brewing Company, and Grey Sail Brewing of RI. Shit yeah!

New England Strikes Back
New England Strikes Back

You might notice that our beloved co-host, Greg Nagel, isn’t with us this week. That’s because he tweaked his back and had some kind of viral thingy going on. Huge. Bummer. Instead, we brought the foremost expert (AFAWK) on whale farming, Dr. Zack, which works out well because he happens to know quite a bit about some of the breweries on the show this week. 

Big thanks to Mr. Chris R. for the beers. While we’re on the subject, if you’ve got beers from your area that you think we’d like, send ’em our way! Getting a broad range of beers on the show is somewhat difficult for us, so any help we can get is welcomed and much appreciated.

BREW THE SHIT OUT OF IT.

Beers from this week’s episode:
Foolproof Brewing Company – Queen of the Yahd Raspberry
Tree House Brewing Company – Julius
Tree House Brewing Company – Haze 
Grey Sail Brewing of RI – Captain’s Daughter

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Direct download: four-brewers-4B-s3e16.mp3
Category:Beer -- posted at: 4:00pm PDT
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[S3/E15] Japanese Beers and Going In Blind

Season 3, Episode 15 – Greg was inspired by a recent trip to Total Wine & More to try beers made by Japanese breweries, and he brought them over to share.

This week, we travel to the other side of the globe (actually, Greg just went to the local Total Wine) and try some Japanese beers that are easy to find (presumably) all over the country.

Japanese Beers
Japanese Beers

The coolest part of import beer is the ability to travel the world’s flavors with a quick trip to the big-box beer store. Since delicious ramen, sushi or okonomiyaki cannot be shipped with relative tentacle porn manga freshness, beer is the next best thing. Two Japanese craft breweries make their way out west, Kiuchi Brewery, brewers of the Hitachino Nest branded beers and YO-HO Brewing, and their takes on world beer styles are interesting, if found fresh.

The issue with import beer is this: oxidation rears its ugly head on the first sip. Faded hops if not gone all together, the lustre gone, and any magic the brewers intended to put in the package died in a warehouse months ago. The price? Also incredibly expensive compared to ultra-fresh local beer. If you make it out to Japan, give these beers a try…and listen in to the show as we attempt look around the age and marvel at what was supposed to be.

We wrap up the show with a round of Going In Blind, hosted by Mr. Nagel.

BREW THE SHIT OUT OF IT.

Beers from this week’s episode:
Kiuchi Brewery – Hitachino Nest Ancient Nipponia
Kiuchi Brewery – Hitachino Nest Red Rice Ale
Yo-Ho Brewing Company – Suiyoubi no Neko
Yo-Ho Brewing Company – Yona Yona Ale
Kiuchi Brewery – Hitachino Nest Weizen
Yo-Ho Brewing Company – Tokyo Black Porter
Kiuchi Brewery – Hitachino Nest Lacto Sweet Stout

Direct audio: MP3

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Direct download: four-brewers-4B-s3e15.mp3
Category:Beer -- posted at: 6:57pm PDT
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The 4B Flight: Fiddlehead Brewing Company - Second Fiddle

The 4B Flight, Episode 6 – Today on the sixth and final day of The 4B Flight, Second Fiddle from Fiddlehead Brewing Company.

We are back with the final episode of this week’s mini-episode-extravaganza that we call The 4B Flight. In case you missed what’s going on here, we’re releasing a new mini-episode of Four Brewers everyday for a week. Why? Because we like you.

Fiddlehead Brewing Company - Second Fiddle
Fiddlehead Brewing Company – Second Fiddle

The final beer of the the flight is a great double IPA from a brewery new to us, Vermont’s Fiddlehead Brewing Company. The brewery describes this beer as “big and juicy” (of course!) and we concur that it is, in fact, juicy.

That wraps up The 4B Flight! Thanks for listening, and look forward to another flight in a few months. Cheers!

BREW THE SHIT OUT OF IT.

Beers from this week’s episode:
Fiddlehead Brewing Company – Second Fiddle

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Direct download: four-brewers-4B-flight6.mp3
Category:Beer -- posted at: 4:00pm PDT
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The 4B Flight: El Segundo Brewing Company - Hop Tanker

The 4B Flight, Episode 5 – Today on The 4B Flight, ultra-fresh Hop Tanker from El Segundo Brewing Company.

We are back with the fifth of six episodes for this week’s mini-episode-extravaganza that we call The 4B Flight. In case you missed what’s going on here, we’re releasing a new mini-episode of Four Brewers everyday for a week. Why? Because we like you.

Hop Tanker DIPA
Hop Tanker DIPA

If you listen to the show regularly, you know that all four of us are big fans of El Segundo Brewing Co. Today’s beer was bottled less than 48 hours before we opened it, in true “Day One Dankness” form. Hop Tanker is ESBC’s double IPA made with Nelson and Citra hops. It’s clean, hoppy AF, and all around delicious. 

Tune in tomorrow for the next beer in The 4B Flight

BREW THE SHIT OUT OF IT.

Beers from this week’s episode:
El Segundo Brewing Company – Hop Tanker (2016)

Direct audio: MP3

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Direct download: four-brewers-4B-flight5.mp3
Category:Beer -- posted at: 5:00pm PDT
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The 4B Flight: Goose Island Beer Co. - RARE Bourbon County Brand Stout (2010)

The 4B Flight, Episode 4 – Today on The 4B Flight, John’s opening his 2010 Bourbon County Brand Stout, RARE.

We are back with the fourth of six episodes for this week’s mini-episode-extravaganza that we call The 4B Flight. In case you missed what’s going on here, we’re releasing a new mini-episode of Four Brewers everyday for a week. Why? Because we like you.

2010 Rare Bourbon County Brand Stout
2010 Rare Bourbon County Brand Stout

If you’re familiar with the very much frowned upon “craft beer black market”, then you know how much moolah this bottle can fetch. It’s a ridiculous amount. This is a beer Johnhas held on to for the last six years, and rather than succumb to greed and unethical activity, he decided to open his ultra-whale, a 2010 Bourbon County Brand Stout Rare.

Things got a little weird on this episode. Feathers were ruffled (just a little bit, though) on both sides of the 4B studio table, but in the end, we all agree that it’s a great beer, but certainly NOT worth selling a kidney for.

Tune in tomorrow for the next beer in The 4B Flight

BREW THE SHIT OUT OF IT.

Beers from this week’s episode:
Goose Island Beer Co. – Rare Bourbon County Brand Stout (2010)

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Direct download: four-brewers-4B-flight4.mp3
Category:Beer -- posted at: 4:00pm PDT
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The 4B Flight: Prairie and Trve Brewing Co. – Prairie & Friends: Trve Edition

The 4B Flight, Episode 3 – Today on The 4B Flight, a collaboration beer from Prairie Ales and Trve Brewing.

We are back with the third of six episodes for this week’s mini-episode-extravaganza that we call The 4B Flight. In case you missed what’s going on here, we’re releasing a new mini-episode of Four Brewers everyday for a week. Why? Because we like you.

Prairie and Trve Collaboration Beer
Prairie and Trve Collaboration Beer

Today’s beer is a special treat from Prairie Artisan Ales, made with their brothers and sisters in beer and metal (?), Trve Brewing out of Colorado. Coming in at 6.66% ABV (of course), this sour is a red ale made with black salt, peaches, brettanomyces and all kinds of other fun stuff. It’s quite interesting, and we all have differing opinions of the beer, and interesting beer makes for a hopefully interesting show.

Tune in tomorrow for the next beer in The 4B Flight

BREW THE SHIT OUT OF IT.

Beers from this week’s episode:
Prairie Artisan Ales, in collaboration with Trve Brewing Company – Prairie & Friends Trve Edition (Prairie Vs Trve)

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Direct download: four-brewers-4B-flight3.mp3
Category:Beer -- posted at: 4:00pm PDT
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The 4B Flight: Mammoth Brewing Company – Gooseberry Sour

The 4B Flight, Episode 2 – Today on The 4B Flight, we go full Gooseberry with this sour from Mammoth Brewing Company.

We are back with the second of six episodes for this week’s mini-episode-extravaganza that we call The 4B Flight. In case you missed what’s going on here, we’re releasing a new mini-episode of Four Brewers everyday for a week. Why? Because we like you.

Mammoth Brewing Company - Gooseberry Sour
Mammoth Brewing Company – Gooseberry Sour

Today’s beer is a favorite of Matt’s and is certainly right up his alley, Mammoth Brewing Company’s Gooseberry Sour. Matt has a cherished relationship with Gooseberries, going all the way back to his days at The Bruery where he was a brewer. Spoiler alert: Gooseberries and sour beer go together quite well…

Mammoth Brewing Company is best known for its annual Bluesapalooza beer festival that’s held in Mammoth Lakes, CA. This year, the fest is August 4-7.

Tune in tomorrow for the next beer in The 4B Flight

BREW THE SHIT OUT OF IT.

Beers from this week’s episode:
Mammoth Brewing Company – Gooseberry Sour

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Direct download: four-brewers-4B-flight2.mp3
Category:Beer -- posted at: 4:00pm PDT
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The 4B Flight: Monkish Brewing Co. – First Things First

The 4B Flight, Episode 1 – Today we begin The 4B Flight, a solid week of new Four Brewers episodes! We’re kicking it off with Monkish Brewing Co.’s collaboration IPA with Other Half Brewing, First Things First.

Over the last couple of years, we heard from fans of the show that they wished we could release an episode everyday. While that’s flattering and awesome that these super-fans want to hear us on a daily basis, it’s simply impossible for us to release a full episode everyday.

But, we had a really cool idea. (It’s an experiment, too.) We want to give the fans exactly what they want, but on our terms. So, we are going to release one full-length regular episode on Monday, and 6 mini-episodes everyday for one week. Pretty cool, right? Well, we’re excited about it!

First Things First
First Things First

The first beer in The 4B Flight is a special one from our friends at Monkish Brewing Co.. Known for their spectacular Belgian-style beers, Monkish vowed early on to never make IPA (well, maybe it wasn’t that dramatic).

But, times change and hops were piling up in the brewery. Henry and Co. decided that they shouldn’t be bound by these artificial rules imposed upon themselves (again, with the drama) and decided to bring their version of an IPA into this world, with some help from Brooklyn’s Other Half Brewing.

The beer went on sale this past weekend and was an instant sell out. Monkish was kind enough to give us the homie hookup with some cans of their new IPA, First Things First. We felt it was appropriate to feature this awesome IPA on the first episode of The 4B Flight.

Tune in tomorrow for the next beer in The 4B Flight!

(…and thanks to Bob Vreeland for naming this series!) 

BREW THE SHIT OUT OF IT.

Beers from this week’s episode:
Monkish Brewing Co., in collaboration with Other Half Brewing – First Things First

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Direct download: four-brewers-4B-flight1.mp3
Category:Beer -- posted at: 4:00pm PDT
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[S3/E14] The Secret Origins of Four Brewers

Season 3, Episode 14 – This week, we drink our craft “gateway” beers.

Craft beer is awesome, isn’t it? Today, we’re drinking and talking about the beers that converted us from fizzy yellow lager drinkers to the beer geeks we are today.

Our Gateway Beers
Our Gateway Beers

Most of us have been there: you decide that you want to try something different, or a friend offers you their favorite craft beer to try, or maybe you didn’t even know what you were ordering from that pushy bartender with an bad attitude and…BAM! 

“What’s this? This is great!”

It’s a magical moment. You’ll soon find out that your taste buds will never be the same, and you’re now part of the mystical and wondrous world of craft beer…or…you just really liked that IPA you just had and want another pint.

We all have our own stories. We all love beer. Keep on drinkin’!

BREW THE SHIT OUT OF IT.

Beers from this week’s episode:
Anchor Brewing Company – Anchor Steam Beer
John Smiths – Newcastle Brown Ale
Lost Coast Brewery – Great White
Lost Coast Brewery – Sharkinator
Stone Brewing Co. – Enjoy By: 05.04.16

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Direct download: four-brewers-4B-s3e14.mp3
Category:Beer -- posted at: 9:01pm PDT
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