Spring into beer

Three bold brews for the season of renewal

Ripper – Stone Brewing

I recently picked up a six-pack of Stone’s Ripper at the grocery store not just because I like most everything Stone has done (outside of Arrogant Bastard Ale), but there’s also a neat design on the label. The Escondido brewery is generally known for West Coast-style, hop-forward concoctions. Ripper is no exception. For this pale ale, the brewers chose a mix of Cascade hops from the Pacific Northwest and Australian Galaxy hops, and they blend well. It’s not a bitter hop-bomb, but it’s piney enough and has enough alcohol (5.7 percent ABV) to tip-toe the border of being considered an IPA.

In the glass, it looks like a hazy, burnt orange. The tropical notes of passion fruit and grapefruit are subtle and provide a counterpoint to a little lingering bitterness at the finish. With its ABV, it’s not exactly sessionable, but certainly not as strong as Stone’s ultra-perishable and ultra-satisfying ongoing IPA series, Enjoy By. Definitely worthy of your cooler this spring.

Ovila White Ale – Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

For Sierra Nevada’s Ovila series (a collaboration with the Abbey of New Clairvaux in Vina), the brewery experiments with the various Abbey styles—saisons, dubbels and, most recently, a Belgian witbier (or “wheat beer”). The Ovila White Ale witbier might just be my favorite selection from the brewery. It’s light-bodied and dry with a mild hop character that blends well with the added orange peel, and has a perfect touch of funkiness thanks to the Belgian yeast. The addition of coriander is a very nice, slightly spicy surprise. Overall, it’s a great mix of earthy and effervescent, kind of like spring itself!

Unlike other Ovila entries, this one comes in 12-ounce bottles with caps instead of corks. At $12.99, it’s more pricey than the average Sierra Nevada six-pack, but for a little more than $2 a bottle, you’re still getting more than your money’s worth.

Luponic Distortion – Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

Firestone Walker continues its run as one of the best and most consistent breweries in the country, and part of that has to do with its excellent Luponic Distortion series. The name alone is enough to pull you in, but the Central Coast beermakers have created an excellent dry-hopped IPA that rotates the styles of hops every 90 days. The most recent concoction—the “Revolution No. 005”—uses five different hop varieties, four from the Moxee Valley in Washington and one from Germany. Later this month it’ll give way to No. 006, which blends seven hop varieties, including two from the up-and-coming hop region in Michigan. Firestone Walker doesn’t just keep it in the States, either. Revolution 004 used four hops from South Africa, and 002 brought in hops from New Zealand, Germany and the Pacific Northwest. The Luponic Distortion series is adventurous, but never runs too far off course for the sake of being different. These beers are hoppy, but clean. And drinkable during all seasons.