Beer of the Week: New Belgium/Alpine Super India Pale Ale
Over the last decade, a sharp divide has emerged between regional IPA brewing practices. The result has been a gangsta rap-style feud pitting California against the Eastern seaboard. Generally speaking, we can envision West Coast IPAs as the embodiment of Tupac Shakur. These lean, mean, torso-bearing machines don't rely on much of a malt backbone. The aim is a dry beverage that showcases the hop flavor and aroma, sometimes to the point of imbalance.
East Coast IPAs more closely resemble Biggie Smalls. They have a heavier body due to a larger malt bill that serves to balance the higher dose of hops. At the end of the day, it boils down to a matter of preference (and naturally, there are numerous exceptions to the stereotype on either coast).
To many beer geeks, the prototype of the West Coast-style IPA lives with many breweries in San Diego county. Within that celebrated region, Alpine Beer Co. has settled in at the front of the pack. Unfortunately, this small, out-of-the-way brewery doesn't send beer to the Bay Area very often. In fact, even their San Diego county distribution is thin. So when brewing juggernaut New Belgium announced a collaboration Double IPA with Alpine Beer Co., hopes of a broadly distributed Alpine brew began to simmer.
Thankfully, the beer has landed in the Bay Area. The label boasts, "consider yourself a hero for getting an Alpine beer outside of San Diego." In true Alpine fashion, the beer has been triple-dry hopped (a technique whereby hops are added post-boil to boost aroma) with four hop varietals. The result is a whopping nose of tangerine, pine, and grapefruit. The flavor follows suit, and adds a noticeable malt sweetness that gives way to a grassy, sweet citrus finish with a touch of alcohol warmth from the 9% ABV. While the finished product isn't quite as dry as many of Alpine's fresh, hoppy beers, New Belgium deserves kudos for capturing a big chunk of Alpine's appeal on such a large scale.
The sticky, resinous hops in this brew would pair nicely with a chunk of sharp cheddar, or even serve to cut the fat of a plate of BBQ'd meat. This brew should be consumed as fresh as possible for optimal experience. Distribution is still trickling through the Bay Area, so call your favorite shop for availability.