I have been seeking an excellent lineup of IPAs for the month of August, and now that it's coming to a close, instead of writing about all of them I decided to only tell you about the BEST tasting three. These brews show a certain amount of class and individuality that cannot be missed. As the the month of August and summer are waning, it's time to grab these and enjoy them as your you choice for a couple weekends of being in the sun, or having a night with an excellent playlist for a night. I chose three that will pack a wallop and be good conversation starters. Two of them are seasonal releases, so you might as well grab these before they are no longer available!
1. Mayberry IPA - El Segundo Brewing Co.
I'll admit, I chose this one out of pure love for the brewery, and it is the only one on the list that isn't seasonal as far as I know. I have to say this is my second favorite release from them, and can currently be found extremely fresh. My first favorite release from them is The Hammerland DIPA which you can find my review of here.
Appearance: Very bright and golden leaning toward the "west coast" style while the nose has banana, a malty graininess that is reminiscent of freshly baked bread, peach, and floral notes.
Taste: Piney and hoppy, with kiwi and mandarin orange that can also be noticed in the nose after the first sip. This is much more hoppy than I expected, without being too bitter. This is about as bitter as you can get while still being well rounded and tasty. It is similar to St. Archer's IPA but even more boozy and forward with the hops. This is extra boozy without being a Double IPA, and with a bitter palate but not as heavy as a Double IPA either.
Mouthfeel: Creamy at first and the bitterness coats your palate and is just as chewy as you want while allowing the flavors to shine through. This is the least wussy version of awesome IPA sophistication you can find right now!
Overall: This is super bitter but not off-putting. It is very satisfying without being too overtly citrus. It commits to being hoppy and boozy. If this were heavier or like other West Coast style IPAs it would not be as unique. Thank goodness for the excellent use of Mosaic hops again to give this its tropical wonderfulness.
This one can stand on its own and will definitely get the party started!
Mayberry IPA / India Pale Ale / 7.7% ABV / El Segundo Brewing Co. Final Score: 9.2/10
2. Citra Showers Double IPA - Noble Ale Works
Appearance: Poured out with a nice but ultimately fizzy and quick settling head. The color is very golden and inviting. The bubbles are very fine and sparse.
Nose: This has a strong apricot and lemon peel nose along with incredible floral notes and honey.
Taste: This has a double IPA bite, but the sweetness and alcohol notes definitely are abundant and balance this out. This has almost a honey-wine taste and has a lot of citrus rind and pine. This is ultimately, the easiest double-IPA I've ever had, and it is partly because it is so refreshing due to the citra hops. It's like the bitter rind coats your tongue and then the sweet grain and alcohol just wash it away like a summer cocktail. It would normally be a turn off for me to have that much alcohol flavor and sweetness, but as a double-IPA this ale shows off more than just the hops. It shows off a craftsmanship for world-class brews that verge on being much more than your standard double IPA and show that you can make a high alcohol content beer that isn't out of control, or wussy. I absolutely love this beer, and not only because it is so well-rounded and delicious, but because it can truly change your mind about a lot of the ways that citra is commonly used. To put it so far in the foreground as a double IPA gives so much respect to the hop. This is honestly like sweet citra hop tea made into beer. I'll say again that normally that would be a turn off, but the success in doing it is what makes it the exact opposite.
Mouthfeel: The initial sip brings a light soda like refreshment. As noted in the taste, this mouthfeel is almost like tea. The sharpness and tartness linger with you as much as the bitterness does. This makes the next sip's sweetness a retreat from all of that hop bitterness that is pucker-worthy in the best way.
Pairings: I don't want anything too overpowering for this. Grilled and lightly seasoned squash, mushrooms and meats, roasted garlic and onion, or some lightly seasoned root vegetables would be perfect. Some dried fruit would really bring out the nose, and would be excellent alongside some cheeses and aged meats. Vegans should pair this immediately with some sprouted grains and grilled vegetables with fresh cilantro or mint.
Overall: I love using the word "exposition" when it comes to beer. I think I stole it years ago from a Ruination label, but nonetheless it is a good word to describe this beer in its exposition of the citra hop. This beer could have been brewed many ways to show this hop, but Noble chose this in your face double-IPA, that is much more of a craft beer than an explosion of hop flavor. This is kind of my point in using this word, because some things can be a good exposition of a hop, an interesting one, or just a good exposition of how to use certain ingredients and make an amazing IPA.
We don't need craft brewers to hold our hand or make us like certain things, and Noble knows this. This is instead a showing of what they love and how they want us to enjoy these single hops and just one expression of that. That is why I must say this is one of the most unique expositions of this hop available, and because of that it may not be the best, or the only one you should try, but it is a work of art - a complete masterpiece. The highest rated of the three.
Citra Showers / Double IPA / 8.8% ABV / Noble Ale Works Final Score: 9.7/10
3. Thunderstruck IPA - Stone Brewing 19th Anniversary Release
Gotta give credit where credit is due, and 19 years is a LONG time to be in the craft beer business, and let's just go ahead an admit that for most of us, Stone was our first go-to for something hoppy. They claim on the bottle of this brew that it is the first of many to commemorate their now 20th year of brewing. This is made with 100% Australian hops including the elusive Vic Secret which is as unique and tasty as it is sexy. Topaz, Galaxy, and Ella hops join the party, and Stone reportedly imported close to 400,000 pounds of Fairview malt specifically for this brew. Not only will you be paying homage to one of the pioneers of the industry, you'll be getting a fantastic exposition of Australian ingredients!
Appearance: Straw colored and golden with majorly amazing fresh bubbles breaking through a sea foam fluff of a head that is just another bounty from such a fresh an amazingly cared for brew. This shimmers close to the top of the glass.
Nose: The nose is so sweet with peach notes that it is uncanny. It leans almost toward a cotton candy sweetness with crisp tropical mountain rain. The malt adds to this so delightfully that now I completely understand why they chose to import it from Australia just for this, and I am now a huge fan of the Fairview malt.
Taste: Grapefruit crispness and bitterness that has a tropical and verdant earthy flavor. This is very bitter and the alcohol flavors contribute to that. I would have to say the peach gives a pleasant aftertaste with the booziness, almost like a peach liqueur was added to it, and the nose gets more and more floral and sweet as it sits in the glass which shows the true refinement of the ingredients and rounds out the robust flavors.
Overall: This brew kicks ass, and can be enjoyed with usual grill party fare or by itself. I would love to pair this with fresh plums, peaches, fruit, nuts, and sharp cheeses to accentuate the notes even further.
PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE listen to AC/DC while drinking this. Thunderstruck and Australia and their most awesome arena rock band deserve the respect, and you'll have a lot of fun. Trust me.
Thuderstruck IPA / India Pale Ale brewed with Australian hops and malt / 8.7% ABV / Stone Brewing Co. Final Score: 9.4/10