Which Sacramento brewer crafts the best IPA?

Sacramento’s emerged as a bustling beer town, with nearly 30 brewers now calling the greater Sacramento area home. They’re creating a myriad of sudsy styles, including stouts, barrel aged projects, saison and much more. But if any one beer ranks as the common denominator, it’s IPA, the style of brew that’s especially popular on the west coast and signified for their hoppy character and balanced malty character.

Blair Anthony Robertson, The Bee’s restaurant critic and Beer Run columnist, singled out eight local IPAs as favorites and speak well to Sacramento’s storied beer history in a story which ran Monday.

But when tasted blind, how do these local breweries rank when it comes to IPA?

I sat on a judging panel last Thursday at LowBrau to help sort this out. 16 local IPAs (including one Imperial IPA from a brewer who wanted to follow a different format) were poured blind for a panel that included: Steve Allcock (a brewer and beer judge originally from the U.K.), the His and Her Beer Notes bloggers (Dan Barnes and Darcey Self), Becky Grunewald ( Sacramento Foodways editor), Whitney Johnson ( Midtown Cocktail Week organizer) and LowBrau owner Clay Nutting.

These results will be published in the upcoming Sacramento News & Review “Beer Issue,” which hits newsstands on Feb. 27 - the same day Sacramento Beer Week kicks off.

We’re not going to spoil the final results, but can say the Top 3 were singled out fairly easily among the panel. These IPAs struck us as exceptionally fresh, big hops without dwelling in bitter beer face territory and finely balanced. Many were fine and easily drinkable, though lacking a bit in character or perhaps too hot on the finish. And as much as we hate to say it, a handful were pretty foul.

The final results revealed a few surprises - and some not-so surprises - and will be a must-read article for local beer enthusiasts. In the meantime, refresh yourself with Blair’s article, which is pretty on point with its selections.


* Sacramento-area IPAs are plentiful, eclectic and speak to our region’s personality

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