I'm a scientist and homebrewer. When I'm not drinking yeast, I'm probably studying it in lab.
@justin h- no new pumpkin brews this year from the Left Coast, at least that I found. Though New Belgium in Colorado is pretty firmly West.
Thanks for the suggestions for brews we haven't yet tried- keep 'em coming. I'm sure that there will be some new releases again next year, and maybe we can group them in with some oldies-but-goodies we've missed.
@Jedd- Big Boss's pumpkin beer is one of my favorites (very intense pumpkin and spices, as I recall, but I didn't take good notes at the time) that I can't get up here in the North. Anyone in NC should be sure to check it out, though.
While the black and pale adjectives are contradictory, I prefer the Black IPA label because the name conveys more meaning- you have some idea what to expect. Maybe it's not necessary. After all, the name 'porter' or 'red ale' doesn't mean much without experience. Stone Brewing calls their 15th anniversary beer an Escondidian Black Ale in objection to the Pacific NW's claim to the style with the Cascades reference in Cascadian.
As I said before, I think beer people (myself included) spend way too much time categorizing and naming our brews. I'd much rather have a 'bottled by' date on my beer than a perfect style categorization, and at least 'bottled by' is something we can reasonably hope to fight for and achieve- styles are too murky.
@Tangela and Burger365- Look for a One Big Bottle column later this week on Stone's 15th Anniversary beer- Jonathan Moxey got the lucky draw on tasting that one.
@ Hiroprot- Labyrinth won a gold medal at the 2010 North American Brewers Association Awards in the imperial stout category, and I agree that it is definitely a fit for the category. However, since Uinta calls it a black ale, and it wasn't so far off some of the other black ales we tried, I decided to include it in the list. I've said before, and still maintain, that I'd rather taste a well-made beer than a well-categorized beer.
@Lorenzo- You're absolutely right that the craft beer scene US is new, and that the South is catching up. My statement wasn't intended to imply that the South wasn't likely to produce good IPAs, simply that to date not a lot of famous and notable examples of the style have come from there.
I'm not sure I agree that all of the South has caught up with the beer scene (the 15 years I spent living in Tennessee were not the beer highlights of my life), but regions of it have definitely arrived already. For example, I know from living in North Carolina that they have an excellent beer scene, and the state actually produces one of my favorite hoppy beers, Foothills Seeing Double IPA. (The Triangle area also happens to have a good food truck scene- including the ubiquitous Korean Taco truck)
@Randi- Unfortunately I wasn't able to get any Diamond Bear samples, and their beer isn't available for sale in my neck of the woods. I'd love to try it in the future, though.
@jakeyd: I think you must be mistaking Summerfest for another beer. Sierra Nevada's description on their website says: "Our Summerfest is a refreshing, pilsner-style lager. Its incredible smoothness comes from an extra-long lagering period. Lighter in body than our ales but just as complex in character..."
I agree with @DailyBeerReview. However, beyond the issue of looking for the best, how about looking for some variety? While I would never purchase a Pilsner Urquell that came in a green bottle (I've been burned too often in the past by Herr Doctor Skunk), even if that particular beer were my thing, you'd have to be seriously unadventurous to not want to try other pilsners... It's not like they're often exotic and bizarre.
@phillamb168: I've only ever had CAP as homebrew. I'd love to find some commercial examples, if anyone has any good ones.
@Mayan and @John Wozniak- Also, I wanted to second Mayan's recommendation for Hop Stoopid.
If you're looking for more malt than you find in a DIPA, I recommend Troegs Nugget Nectar, which is sadly no longer in season. Troegs calls Nugget Nectar an 'imperial amber', and it drinks like a DIPA backed by caramel and nutty malts. It's probably in my top five 'new to me' beers of the past year (along with another Troegs beer, their Troegenator doppelbock). When it comes back next spring, I'll be stocking up.
@Ghostly- for the record, I love what Ringwood yeast can do. I think if the breweries that used it were making hop bombs, it might be a problem, but the diacetyl goes nicely with some of the malt flavors that those breweries are rocking.
@John Wozniak, you ask what food pairs with a DIPA? I like something rich, heavy, and strongly flavored, like chicken tikka masala, spicy BBQ, or a platter of nachos.
One of my favorite bar food/beer combinations in recent memory was at Dain's Place in Durham, NC: a cheeseburger with pepper jack, chipotle mayo, and jalapenos; a side of tater tots; and a Foothills Seeing Double IPA. The DIPA could stand up to the heat and the fat in the burger, and the burger was in no danger of being drowned out by the beer. Of course, that was probably a pint of 10% alcohol beer on top of 1000 calories of burger, so this kind of pairing might not be a habit to get into...
@Mayan- I agree that the line between an IPA and a dIPA is hazy- as it is with many beer styles. One just needs to look at the other side of the hops spectrum, where we could also have made a case for some beers called 'pale ales' to be included in the IPA list. In the case of this article, we just went with the label the brewer put on the beer. Whether the distinction is relevant is certainly debatable, but it does let us come up with a defined list.
I'm usually the first to argue that the labeled style of a beer shouldn't matter nearly as much as whether or not the beer is good- so it pains me a little to argue the other side here!
@Mayan- Wachusett Larry, Ephraim, Leviathan, and Hopzilla are all double IPAs. You'll notice we didn't include any dIPAs at all on the list- we already had 27 beers without them. We'll just have to write another article to cover those... Alchemist and Hill Farmstead also don't bottle their beer, though Alchemist is planning some cans in the near future. I do hope to tour through Vermont in the near future to try some of their offerings on tap.