Remember when you had a favorite beer and all your friends knew that was your beer? You ordered it at the club and sipped it out of the bottle. You guzzled it out of the can on fishing and camping trips.
Those days are gone. We’re in the golden age of craft beer now. If you’re drinking the same beer three times in a row, you’re doing it wrong. What follows is a list of several you might want to try. With all kinds of holiday parties ahead, you’re bound to be a hit if you show up with any of these. Bonus points if you bring cans.
Hoppy Palm Pale Ale (5.7 percent alcohol by volume), Track 7
This light-bodied, easy-to-enjoy pale ale is super hoppy, with plenty of citrus on the nose and palate. The name comes from the practice of rubbing hops in your palms to trigger all those wonderful aromas. With a mildly bitter finish, this beer tends to be food-friendly, whether you’re pairing it with something spicy, rich or sweet.
Extra Pale: Hoppy Pale Ale (6.2 percent ABV), New Glory
Best known these days for an array of outstanding small-batch releases, New Glory may be under-appreciated by hopheads. While this pale ale has higher IBUs (international bittering units) than Hoppy Palm, it is exceptionally balanced and great to drink on its own or with food. Lots of citrus, maybe a bit of stone fruit up front and a touch of sweetness, with a pleasing finish.
Ubahdank: West Coast IPA (7.2 percent ABV), New Glory
For my tastes, this may be the best IPA in town. Bursting with hop aromas and flavors like a typical well-made West Coaster, there is an extra element of complexity to this beer that makes it stand apart. Is it the English yeast? The American hops? Or the way it all comes together as a standout drinking experience? Light-bodied with a dry finish, it makes you come back for more.
Blood Transfusion, Wheat IPA with Blood Orange (6.3 percent ABV), Track 7
If you thought you’d had IPAs, this one will surprise and delight you. I found the body to be almost rich and silky, which offsets the flavors of blood orange/grapefruit. The finish is very gentle for an IPA. I’ve had it on tap at the brewery. This one is from a 22-ounce bottle.
IPA (7.25 percent ABV), AleSmith
The can says “San Diego-style India pale ale.” Yep! Lots of citrus, a bit of that piney aroma, and a smooth, pleasingly bitter beer from start to finish. While I might put Stone’s IPAs at the head of the San Diego class, this one is rock solid.
Cone of Shame IPA (7 percent ABV), Bike Dog
Created for the brewery’s second anniversary and again for the third a couple of weeks ago, this is a departure for the West Sacramento brewery best known for its San Dog IPA and Mosaic pale ale. Bike Dog’s A.J. Tendick tells me the brewery was looking to create an IPA with more upfront piney notes. With an infusion of Chinook and other hops, you get plenty of balanced flavor and, as local IPAs go, one terrific beer.
Ripper Pale Ale (5.7 percent ABV), Stone Brewing
Super hoppy and juicy up front, this pale ale finishes light and dry without the bitterness you might expect from Stone, which has mastered the art of the West Coast style. This new release is different – and very good.
Bourbon County Stout (13.8 percent ABV), Goose Island
Craft beer diehards may love this beer, but more and more are turning their backs on it, including Capitol Beer and Tap Room. That’s because Goose Island is owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev. If you’re curious about this famous barrel-aged stout, try it. This year’s version has more berry notes and tartness and less vanilla and char than other years. And read the label – it’s loaded with alcohol!
Red Rice Saison (7 percent ABV), Berryessa Brewing
I had this on tap at Hook & Ladder and loved it. Typical Chris Miller skill and finesse, with pleasing notes of Belgian yeast and spice on the nose and a lively wet hop underpinning of flavor. It’s like taking a deep whiff of a crisp fall day.