This week I feature two west coast beers from some breweries that don't get enough recognition.
Up first, North Coast and their Steller IPA.
North Coast opened way back in 1988 in Fort Bragg, California (about a three and a half hour drive north of San Francisco). They are most known for their Red Seal Ale and Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout. Almost everyone should be able to find them, as North Coast is currently available in 48 states (sorry Wyoming and West Virginia).
Steller IPA pours a lovely golden color (with a bit of amber in it). There were millions of tiny bubbles that rush towards the surface, creating over two fingers of thick white head atop the beer, when I first emptied it into my glass. The foam has some pretty strong staying power and, before I've even taken a sip, I can see the head will lace my glass quite nicely too.
On the nose there is a nice balanced aroma - the hops create some pine and citrus (grapefruit and pineapple) notes while a bready malt aroma lingers patiently in the background.
When I finally got around to trying the beer, it had a really nice flavor. Much like the smell, the taste was balanced between the hops and malts. There is a carbonation rush right at the beginning that fizzes on your tongue but that is followed by a plethora of citrus flavors. The malts cut down on the hops with a solid cracker/bready taste that lingers between each sip.
Steller IPA has a dry finish with a medium body. As predicted, the beer laced the glass really well, leaving solid white lines at each interval. This IPA clocks in at 6% ABV and, at just 59 IBU, there is some hop-attack to it but it's not too bitter. The 22-ounce bomber will run you just $5.99, so it won't break the bank either.
Overall, this is a very solid IPA. The citrus flavors are great up front and the balance between them and the malts bring this beer together. And with every case sold, North Coast will make a contribution to marine mammal research that can help Steller sea lions.
Drinking a good beer for a good cause? Yes please. 8/10
For my second beer, I traveled even further north to Portland, Oregon for Gigantic's The Royale.
Gigantic Brewing began back in 2012 in Portland, Oregon. They have a ton of small-release and specialty beers with only two year-round brews: Their Gigantic IPA and their Ginormous Imperial IPA. You can find their brews if you live in Oregon, Washington, California, Colorado, Alaska, Hawaii, New York City, or Chicagoland.
The Royale is a Belgian pal ale that pours a golden straw color with millions of effervescent bubbles that rush to the surface; building about two inches of light, foamy head. From there, the fizz slowly dissipated down, lacing the glass nicely before I even took a sip.
Like most Belgian beers, there is a nice aroma of tropical citrus fruits and some spicy yeast, but there is also a nice hop profile in there as well. I could even smell the carbonation, as it tickled my nose before my first sip.
On my first sip, it was more West Coast than Belgian. The yeast took a backseat to the peach and mango flavors up front. Then, on the backend, there was a slight bready finish to it and then a slight spiced yeast flavor, which I was expecting more of.
I was also expecting more carbonation in each sip from what I saw, and smelled, earlier. However, The Royale has a lighter body, was rather crisp, and only had a light fizz to it.
The further down I drank, and the warmer the beer got, the more complex the flavors became. They melded into a nice hybrid; where the Belgian yeast and West Coast citrus began to battle it out with every sip.
First, it was nice and fruity with the bready yeast taking a backseat. Then on the very next try, the spices came out and the citrus was hidden...like the beer couldn't make up its mind on what it wanted to be. But whatever style had won each sip, one thing remained consistent: The Royal was always delicious.
The 22-ounce bomber carries 6.3% ABV and only sets you back $5.99. Not a bad deal at all for the complex, yet tasty, beer inside.
Overall, this was a very good, very complex Belgian pale ale. Gigantic might not have a ton of beers available in my area but every one I have found was good. If you see this by you, your best bet is to try it. You won't be disappointed. 8.5/10