Hazy orange IPAs are dominating beer instagram, infiltrating tap lines and taking over beer shelves across America. This low-bitterness, tropical-fruit-forward style originating in the Northeast is often called the New England IPA. Its surge in popularity has made the standard bitter pine and citrus IPAs of the West Coast feel like old news.
Regardless of whether West Coast IPAs are “out” right now, plenty of incredible IPAs brewed in this style can be found without paying a fortune or waiting in a line (or both). Let us not forget, the hops arms race to brew IPAs with more and more hops is what was selling to beer consumers only a few years back.
Along with the San Diego standards, one brewery that is synonymous with the West Coast IPA in my mind is Alpine Beer Company. While Alpine didn’t distribute nationally until 2015, after a deal with Green Flash, the brewery has been offering up its take on the style to the San Diego area for over 15 years.
Their Nelson IPA, brewed with a heavy hand of Nelson Sauvin hops, proves that there is still room for innovation in the West Coast mold, but it is Alpine’s double IPA Pure Hoppiness that best exemplifies what we’ve come to expect from a West Coast IPA. Mostly transparent and golden orange, Pure Hoppiness looks the part of a standard West Coast double IPA in the glass. A thin head fades away quickly, though there is plenty of activity in my drinking vessel.
Balanced, complex and widely available is a great combination that Alpine delivers in abundance.”
The aroma is anything but standard. Big notes of pineapple and grapefruit dominate the nose, with some piney and perfumey qualities peeking out from underneath the fruit bouquet. It’s an inviting aroma, with the fruitiness simultaneously balanced with the pine. No spikes, just a pleasing progression of smells that pulls you towards the glass. Most of the sweetness I pick up is of the citrus variety, with the caramel malt doing its work behind the scenes. The malt is also responsible for bringing more balance the 61 IBUs.
The balance and easy carbonation makes Pure Hoppiness go down very smooth for an 8.0% ABV double IPA. As the beer warms, the perfume-like notes from the nose edge forward. I’m very sensitive to these flavors causing a beer to taste soapy. While Pure Hoppiness doesn’t suffer that fate, I do pick up some of those qualities.
While a bottled West Coast double IPA packed with hops may not sell like the four pack of a hazy juice bomb straight from the brewery, it doesn’t mean it’s not a good beer. Balanced, complex and widely available is a great combination that Alpine delivers in abundance.