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Drake's IPA

Drake’s IPA pours a hazy light amber color with minimal head that dissipates quickly.  As you raise the glass you notice a very rich sweet hoppy aroma that predominantly features pine and citrus.  This is a great smelling beer and is exactly what you’d expect with a classic strongly hopped West Coast IPA.  That quintessential West Coast style continues with the first sip which hits you with a ton of hops, citrus tones containing a hint of sweet pineapple, and a slightly bitter finish.  There’s also a crisp finish that doesn’t leave you with the sticky mouthfeel that too many beers give you. 

While this is a very hoppy beer for a non-double or imperial IPA, I find that it’s actually pretty well balanced and has the exact flavor profile that I think of when I think of a West Coast IPA.  Were it not a 7% beer this is an IPA that you could happily drink all night.  Drake’s IPA is a great beer because it’s exactly what it’s supposed to be, nothing more and nothing less.


Oakland Brewing Co. Sticky Zipper IPA

I’m always looking to try new beers, so when I saw a bomber while shopping recently I knew I had to give it a try.  Oakland Brewing Company is fairly new to the Bay Area beer scene (Est. 2009) but they have already established a fairly good reputation at my usual beer bar, the Toronado, so I have been looking forward to trying them.

Sticky Zipper pours a really nice golden orange color with no hint of cloudiness.  There’s a fairly minimal head, but it’s also far from nonexistent.  The aroma is mostly citrus, but with a hint of mustiness.  At the first sip you’re hit with how light and clean this beer is.  That’s followed with some grapefruit, hops that aren’t overpowering, and a bit of biscuity malt.  It finishes off with some bitterness and a bit of a metallic aftertaste that isn’t great, but also isn’t too offputting.  This IPA weighs in at 7.4% ABV but doesn’t really convey that booziness while drinking it, partially due to the watery nature of the beer. 

Sticky Zipper isn’t my favorite IPA by any means, but I’d find it to be an excellent brew to enjoy on a hot summer day when you don’t want anything too heavy, but still want a beer with a good hit of flavor to it.  For a brewery that’s only been in operation for 3 years, this is a fairly impressive product.  I’ll be looking forward to trying the next brew of theirs that I come across.  With Oakland Brewing and Heretic Brewing, the East Bay brewing scene certainly has some exciting new players.


Heretic Evil Cousin Imperial IPA

Heretic Evil Cousin Imperial IPA is the latest offering from the new Heretic Brewing in Pittsburgh, CA.  Pouring with a really nice creamy head with some serious staying power, this golden IPA is a nice beer to look at, with tiny bubbles similar to champagne.  The aroma hits you with a good strong West Coast IPA hoppy smell that lets you know what you’re in store for.  As far as flavors go, you couldn’t get a more classic West Coast Imperial IPA flavor profile with a big hit of resinous hops, followed by a grapefruit finish.  It’s a bit of a surprise to find that the mouthfeel is nice and light though, and the flavors are a bit more balanced than something like a Pliny the Elder.  The alcoholic bite is about what you'd expect in an 8% beer, letting you know it's there without overwhelming the drinking experience.  If you like big bold West Coast IPAs, this is one worth seeking out.



Shiner Blonde

Shiner Blonde is Spoetzl’s version of the generic American lager, brewed to compete with Budweiser, Lone Star, Pearl, Pabst and so on.   I’m going to keep this short, and say that they pretty much hit the target, as Shiner Blonde tastes a great deal like those aforementioned brews. 

The brew pours a clear straw color, with no real head to speak of.  It smells slightly skunky, and that skunkiness carries through to the flavor department where it mingles with grain notes, a minuscule amount of hop flavor, and a clean finish.  The flavor made me think of the way an old livestock grain & feed store smelled when I was a kid back in rural Texas.  Also like the competition, the mouthfeel is extremely watery, and it weighs in at a very light 4.5% abv. 

There’s a place for beers like this, so I’m not going to snob out here and try to rate this as if it were trying to be some kind of amazing craft brew.  That being said, I don’t see anything here that should allow Shiner Blonde to command a price premium over Miller High Life or Lone Star.  More importantly though, anywhere you can get Shiner Blonde, you should be able to also buy the infinitely superior Shiner Bock, and that’s exactly what I do every time I’m presented with the option.  Spoetzl Brewing makes some great beers that should make Texans proud, but Shiner Blond isn’t one of them.



Stone Arrogant Bastard Ale

No matter how many different beers you drink, there are always a few that hold a special place in your heart, and fridge.  For me, Arrogant Bastard has been one of those beers for many years now.  I always have a few bottles on hand, and if I encounter it on tap, odds are that’s what I’ll be drinking.

As the marketing implies, Arrogant Bastard is a big brash beer that doesn’t hold anything back.  Many are surprised to learn that it’s “only” 7.2% abv after trying it for the first time, because of the big, bold, boozy flavors.  It pours with a nice robust cream colored head that clings to the glass, and will hang around for quite some time.  There’s a fair amount of malty aroma mixed with a sweet booziness that’s a sign of things to come. When you take the first sip, your taste buds scream out that they’re getting the same experience your nose did, just turned to 11.  There are big bold toasted malts, a nice hit of bitter hops (though this is not at all an overly hopped beer), a hint of syrupy sweetness, and a warming alcohol finish.  You then get a slightly bitter aftertaste reminiscent to green wood.  The level of carbonation is perfect for the style, and the alcohol makes itself known without distracting from the flavors and experience of the beer.  The mouthfeel isn’t quite as thick as you’d expect, but this is a heavy setting beer, so one or two should do it for an evening.

When I think of strong ales Arrogant Bastard comes to mind as the quintessential example of the style.  It’s truly a beer that hits the bull’s-eye on what it’s trying to accomplish without any gimmicks.  So, as I enjoy this Arrogant Bastard, I’m reminded why it’s always had a place in my fridge, and always will as long as it’s made.