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West Coast IPA showdown!

Last week I picked up two examples of big, hop-forward West Coast IPAs: a six of Bear Republic’s Racer 5, and Ballast Point’s Sculpin’. I’ve had Sculpin’ on tap once at the Amesbury Ale House, and can recall really enjoying it (and that it is a bit of a palate wrecker). I had not tried Racer 5, but have always heard good things about it, and I do really enjoy the couple beers of theirs I have tried, their Hop Rod Rye and Red Rocket Ale.

I will note, while I think of it, that the 22 oz bomber bottle of Sculpin’ I got was under $6 at Rt 110 Liquors in Amesbury. I seriously wonder if it was mislabeled, because I typically see this single bottle up around $10, which is why I have stayed away, to be honest.

The Racer 5 poured a nice straw color, telling me it wasn’t going to have a lot of caramel flavor. This is expected as the malt, I assume is going to be way in the background, pushing the hop flavor and aroma to the forefront. First whiff gave me a lot of pine (love it!) followed by citrus. The taste reflected much of the aroma. Some malt/alcohol sweetness I am familiar finding in many a double IPA. Not as sweet as say Dogfish Head’s 90-minute IPA, but similar, just in lesser amounts. (Makes sense as 90-minute is 9%, Racer 5 is 7%) Relatively dry finish, and the malt hangs in the back. Plenty of hop flavor and aroma make this a delicious West Coast IPA.

The Sculpin’ was like I recalled it being… tons of hop aroma and flavor, very little sweetness, dry finish. The hop profile suggests a big mix of America Pacific Northwest hops: orange, mango, pineapple, and grapefruit. A hophead’s dream.

Both of these are in the 7% ABV, 70-75 IBU range. Slight difference in the malt/alcohol sweetness, but both still very hop-forward. Two top-notch West Coast IPAs available here on the East Coast. I would love to try one that’s traveled across the country next to one local and fresh. I do think they hold up nicely, but haven’t had them “fresh” in Cali to compare.


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