West Coast-style IPAs have grown into a style of their own, with standbys like Stone IPA, Russian River’s Pliny the Elder, and Green Flash’s aptly titled West Coast IPA defining the category. Starting this week, Minnesotans will be able to get their hands on a few more of these hop monsters from a brewery that may not be as well known here, but commands respect from beer drinkers on the left coast.
The Alpine Story
Alpine Beer Company was founded in 1999 in San Diego and had its first three beers—McIlhenney’s Irish Red, Mandarin Nectar, and Pure Hoppiness—contract brewed by AleSmith Brewing Company.
Shortly thereafter, the company opened a brewery of its own in founder Pat McIlhenney’s hometown of Alpine, California, just outside of San Diego. It has continued to grow since then, opening a small taproom and restaurant in Alpine in 2010.
Late last year, Alpine was purchased by Green Flash Brewing Company, a deal that’s allowing them to increase production and expand to new markets. (Previously, Alpine’s beer was only available in California.)
The relationship between the two breweries goes back several years but officially began with a “handshake agreement” in 2013. That resulted in Green Flash brewing three of Alpine’s beers—Nelson, Hoppy Birthday, and Duet—at its San Diego brewhouse, with the goal of helping Alpine raise capital and double its annual production from 1,500 barrels to 3,000.
“It was both intriguing and challenging to meld our philosophies while we worked together to scale up Pat’s recipes to be brewed in larger quantities,” Green Flash Brewmaster Chuck Silva said in a press release. “We worked together to stay true to the original beer and were very happy with the ultimate results.”
This year, Green Flash will begin bottling select Alpine beers in 22oz bottles, in addition to continuing to brew the three beers it has been brewing for Alpine since 2013.
West Coast, Meet Midwest
Currently, Alpine’s beers are only available on draft in the Twin Cities at some of the usual suspects when it comes to craft beer bars. That list includes The Happy Gnome, Bryant Lake Bowl, Smack Shack, Republic Seven Corners, Bulldog Uptown, Red Cow at 50th and France, and Stub & Herbs. In Rochester, you can find it at both Whistle Binkies locations.
The six beers being distributed in Minnesota, a subset of which will be available at the bars carrying them, include:
- Nelson: golden rye IPA, 7% ABV
- Duet: classic, West Coast-style IPA, 7% ABV
- Hoppy Birthday: sessionable, dry-hopped pale ale, 5.25% ABV
- Captain Stout: chocolate-oatmeal stout, 7% ABV
- Alpine Ale: caramely extra pale ale, 5.5% ABV
- Mcllhenney’s Irish Red: the beer that started it all–a malty, amber, low-IBU Irish red, 6% ABV
Tasting events are taking place this week and next at the below locations.
- Wednesday, May 13, Smack Shack, 5pm
- Thursday, May 14, Stub & Herbs, 4pm
- Tuesday, May 19, Bulldog Uptown, 5pm
- Wednesday, May 20, Republic Seven Corners, 5pm
- Thursday, May 21, Whistle Binkies (both locations), 3pm
The Growler crew visited The Happy Gnome for lunch and tried Alpine’s Nelson, Duet, Hoppy Birthday, and Captain Stout.
Hoppy Birthday – The lightest in color and ABV of the four beers, it pours a pale gold with a whitish head that dissipated relatively quickly. The first sip was heavy on tropical fruit, peach, and pine flavors. Light, pale malts provide just enough backbone to allow the hops to be on full display.
Nelson – For as hoppy as this beer is, we were impressed by how much the spice of the rye came through, both in the flavor and aroma, which played well with the green-fruit flavors of the New Zealander Nelson Sauvin hops.
Duet – Upon first sip of this beer, we instantly morphed into the Beverly Hillbillies as we struck West Coast gold. This full-bodied IPA is brewed with Amarillo and Simcoe hops “in harmony” with one another, putting tropical fruit and citrus flavors on full display—a West Coast IPA that can stand its ground against the aforementioned mainstays of the style.
Captain Stout – We were initially skeptical of this beer but were quickly proven wrong. Sure, we thought, a southern California brewery known for its IPAs can easily wow us with hops, but can they make a stout that can hang here in the Northland? The resounding answer was “yes.” A pleasantly roasted nose greets you without any off-putting burnt aromas. It strikes a chord between dry and sweet that not many beers can find, with remnants of chocolate bouncing between subtle smoke and coffee flavors. The oatmeal creates a mouthfeel that’s smooth and velvety, making the beer very drinkable for a 7% ABV stout. This one will travel seamlessly from the Pacific Ocean to the shores of Lake Superior in front of a campfire on a chilly fall night.
Beer glasses empty, we exited The Happy Gnome feeling like we loaded up the truck and moved to Bev-er-ly (Hills that is, swimming pools, movie stars). Welcome to the neighborhood, Alpine.