This month, when my neighbor Dave and I drove down to San Francisco to visit our pal Andy, Dave took the initiative and brought four bombers of 2IPAs to blind taste, as though we didn't have enough beer-drinking plans. I had no idea which four IPAs he had brought, so for a change I was not only blindly picking a favorite, but also trying to figure out what beers they were at all.
The crude and only partially effective technique of electrical taping numbered sheets of paper around the bottles allowed Dave to taste blindly as well, though of course he knew which four bottles he had brought. The competition fell out like this:
- 1st place: Port Brewing Mongo IPA: lots of head, piney nose, gritty bitterness, hot alcohol
- 2nd place: Hopworks Ace of Spades: another hot one, delicious and malty
- 3rd place: Ninkasi Tricerahops: a little thin next to the bruisers, nice orange-blossom hops
- 4th place: Caldera Hopportunity Knocks: honey and diacetyl in the nose, super malty with a long bitter finish
If you've been following these tedious tastings of mine, you'll remember that in the first one we had a lame bottle of Tricerahops; I'm happy to report that the 2007-era favorite has redeemed itself. Even though it came in third to a couple of heavyweights, it was a tasty beer. The Port Mongo -- a gift from our buddy Todd, who has a Southern California connection -- was brilliant. By the Bottle in Vancouver usually stocks Port bottles, so if you see the Mongo up there, pick some up. The Caldera was a crying shame. It wasn't too bad at first, but as it warmed up the diacetyl became overwhelming, and it was pretty hard to swallow. On Beer Advocate most people seem to like it, though I found one fairly recent review that also uses the D-word, so I'm not completely insane.
As for the guessing game -- which number is which beer -- I was pretty pleased with myself since I didn't know which beers were in play to begin with. But I correctly identified Ace of Spades (easy) and Tricerahops. Clutching at straws, I guessed the Mongo might have been Lagunitas Hop Stoopid, and really without a clue for the Hopportunity, I hedged my bets and wondered if it was a Ninkasi Total Domination. Dave didn't do as well, he got Ace of Spades right, but since he wasn't familiar with Mongo he thought maybe the last-place finisher was that one, and guessed that Tricerahops was Caldera and Mongo was Tricerahops.
Conclusion: Tricerahops -- redeemed (but don't be afraid to return a bad bottle if you get one). Ace of Spades -- smashing. Port Brewing Mongo -- seek it out. Caldera Hopportunity Knocks -- avoid.