Last week, I put out the word that I’d be judging a San Diego IPA challenge at Hotel Solamar’s LOUNGEsix. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the acronym, it stands for India pale ale. (What type of beer have you been drinking under that rock you call home, anyway?). A traditional style hailing from Britain, it started out as a session beer that was highly hopped, not for flavor or aroma, but because of hops’ preservative qualities.
In present day, the term IPA is synonymous with San Diego where our region's brewers resurrected the style and, in the process, altered it to form the basis for a sub-style known as the “West Coast IPA.” In bending the IPA to their will, local brewers not only kept in all those hops, but also brought down the malt backbone to make for crisper, cleaner, more refreshing beers that allowed all those hops to shine through. The result are the botanical bitter bombs that paved the way for even more beastly hop harriers—double and triple IPAs.
The competition I helped judge (along with representatives from *UT San Diego, West Coaster*, and QUAFF) was set up to celebrate both established signature San Diego IPAs: Ballast Point Sculpin IPA, Green Flash West Coast IPA, Port Brewing Wipeout IPA, and Stone IPA, and relative newcomers from smaller operations, Lightning Brewery and Manzanita Brewing Company.
The judging was so close that, at first vote, there was a three-way tie. In the end, after over a half hour of discussing the merits of each member of that trio, one was able to edge out the other two by a single point. Turns out, it was the very same beer that won the first annual edition of this competition—Green Flash West Coast IPA.
Tasting of pink grapefruit with a mild sweetness and lingering pithy bitterness, it is clearly deserving of being the namesake for the style that San Diego rightly calls its own. This was a fun way to rediscover a beer that, like so many of our long-standing, high quality regional staples, sometimes gets overlooked in favor of the next big thing. Don't wait for your next stint as a beer judge for a refresher course on this repeat titleholder.