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Beer Reviews

High Tide Fresh Hop IPA

Port Brewing Co.
San Marcos, CA

Style: India Pale Ale (IPA)
ABV: 6.5%

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Recommended)

The next stop on Nigel’s “Spring Tour o’ West Coast IPAs” is Port Brewing Co. in San Marcos, CA. This marks the third stop on the Tour from the greater San Diego area, and a quick turnaround from my last visit, to Colorado’s Ska.

I had to do a bit of research on Port Brewing Co., which is often listed as Port Brewing Company/The Lost Abbey. In a nutshell, it’s an offshoot of the popular Pizza Port Brewing Company in southern California (locations listed in Carlsbad, Ocean Beach, San Clemente, and Solana Beach). In 2006, Port Brewing Co. opened in nearby San Marcos as the brewing arm of the original brewpub/pizzeria. Soon after, another offshoot grew into The Lost Abbey, which is a craft brewery focusing on Belgian-style ales. All of these various entities appear to still be very closely associated, but technically there are three separate operations.

I had heard some good things about Port Brewing through the grapevine, but having never visited San Diego, I had never been to Pizza Port, nor had I ever tried a Port brew on my visits to the Southwest. That changed this year, and I was excited to bring a bomber of Port back to Milwaukee for a spring sample. The choice? High Tide IPA, a “fresh hop” ale that should be right up my alley.

If High Tide is indeed a fresh hop ale, I’m expecting a boatload of effervescent, floral, crisp Northwest hops. As I’ve said in my past reviews for fresh, or “wet” hop ales, the flavor doesn’t necessarily change, but the aromas are elevated and titillate the senses. However, as per the description on the bottle, High Tide is brewed with “freshly harvested” Centennial and Simcoe hops, but the hops are dried before being used in the brewing process. Having not read the fine print previously, I feel somewhat swindled, but nonetheless I’m still approaching High Tide with an open mind.

High Tide IPA provides a lively pour from the bomber bottle, with a huge pillowy white head that slowly dissipates, leaving a thick lace at the top throughout with some stickiness on the sides. It’s a translucent, golden brown brew in the glass, right in line for the style. Surprisingly, despite the bubbly head, there’s only nominal carbonation dancing in the glass, and the brew appears to be filtered.

The aroma is disappointing, and the fact that the fresh hops are in fact dried first surely plays a role in that. Initial aromas are indeed hoppy, but are very tempered and lean toward sugary sweet rather than the crisp, floral, piney bite I was expecting. Sure, there are notes of evergreen and there is in fact a bit of zip, but there is far more sugary, malty backdrop to the aroma than any fresh hop ale I’ve had in the past. For an IPA, honestly … I’m not terribly impressed.

The flavor redeems a bit, but can’t do enough to elevate High Tide from being just another very good West Coast IPA (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Initial flavors are in fact crisp, floral, piney Northwest hops, but that zing is instantly trounced by far more sugary pale malt than I was figuring to encounter in a brew of this style. Regardless, there is a continuous pleasant hoppy profile to this that does indeed please this hophead, with a zesty bite of grapefruit, orange zest, and pine and a good amount of light bitterness. The malt profile provides a nice balance that often is absent in a brew of this type, with light sugary hints of caramel and toffee playing well with the hops. The carbonation is minimal, making for a smooth mouthfeel with only a slight aftertaste. Overall, a very tasty IPA, but not up to the lofty standards I was expecting.

While I’ll stop far short of calling my first venture to Port Brewing a disappointment, I must say I was expecting more out of this one. High Tide is a decent IPA, but should not be confused with a number of other true “fresh” (wet) hop IPAs. Port Brewing has a massive, diverse lineup of brews, including a number that are very hoppy, so I plan on giving them another shot whenever the opportunity arises again. High Tide may not be what I was hoping for, but it’s still worth a shot for anyone looking for a decent IPA.


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on July 18, 2011.
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