Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews


San Diego, CA

Style: India Pale Ale (IPA)

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (World class.)

The first stop on Nigel’s Tour O’ West Coast IPAs (it just rolls off the tongue like poetry, doesn’t it?) is San Diego’s AleSmith Brewing Co., and their brilliantly titled IPA, AleSmith IPA.

AleSmith was founded in the mid 1990s, and, along with breweries such as Ballast Point, Coronado, Green Flash, Karl Strauss, The Lost Abbey, and of course, Stone, has made San Diego County and the surrounding area a true destination for innovative, highly regarded craft brews. AleSmith’s lineup is eclectic, featuring a number of styles, but ultimately, like many West Coast breweries, it’s best known for hoppy gems.

AleSmith is distinct when browsing the shelves at a local craft beer retailer out West … it comes in plain brown bomber bottles with white lettering. No fancy graphics or colors or labels, just a big brown bottle with an awesome brew inside. While AleSmith’s lineup, both annual and seasonal, features everything from Belgians to stouts, there is a distinct West Coast vibe that makes even the darker brews stand out with a hop profile. I’ve tried a couple of different AleSmith brews on recent trips to the Southwest, but I always make it a point to get the one that I feel is the cream of the crop, IPA.

I haven’t scoured all of the law books for Western states, but I’m pretty sure there is something on record stating that any craft brewery west of the Continental Divide HAS to have at least one IPA in their lineup. Thus, AleSmith is nothing out of the ordinary in having a year-round IPA save for one thing: theirs is freakin’ AMAZING! I’ve sampled so many IPAs over the years that it would be foolish for me to say “it’s the best I ever had,” but I can say with a good amount of certainty that it’s easily in the top five.

The AleSmith IPA pourkicks off an awesome drinking session with a beautiful coppery brew with a fluffy, creamy head of well over an inch that slowly dissipates, leaving a soft pillow on the top throughout and plenty of residue on the side of the glass. Not overly cloudy, there is a nice amount of carbonation that dances in the glass and a slight dusting of sediment at the bottom. This is the perfect looking beer in the glass.

Speaking of perfect … how about that aroma! Clean, crisp, aromas of American hops tinge the nostrils, aromas that are plenty powerful but far from overwhelming. Beautiful hints of citrus, evergreen, and a touch of sugar are enough to send any hophead into a tizzy; it’s an aroma that makes you feel like your standing next to a bountiful hop vine in September.

The flavor continues the train to perfection, as this truly is one of the most balanced, flavorful IPAs I’ve ever had; it’s the Webster’s definition of the style. Light, effervescent flavors of citrus and a touch of bitter evergreen hit you right off the bat, quickly followed by a solid backbone of light grassy malt and caramel sugars. When you’re desperately searching for accurate descriptors, as I am here, it’s usually a good sign. AleSmith IPA is incredibly balanced, but every single characteristic you would expect to find in an American IPA comes through at just the right time, in just the right amount. Not only is it balanced, but it’s an unusual blend of approachable and complex. Medium bodied and smooth on the palette, this could be a session brew but for the fact that the ABV appears to be a bit high (none listed, but I’m guessing it’s in the 7 percent range) and it only comes in bomber form (reasonably priced, I paid about six bucks at Bev Mo in Glendale, AZ).

The spring tour is off to a great start, but sadly things can only get worse from here. However, on the bright side, any IPA considered inferior to AleSmith’s has nothing to be ashamed of. AleSmith IPA is one of the finest examples of the style found anywhere, and further proof that San Diego’s reputation as a craft beer hotbed is well deserved. It’s an absolute must-try for anyone traveling out West.


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on May 10, 2011.
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