I think it goes without saying that the holiday season is stressful on everybody (what with all of the parties, planning, and gift giving). This is true for me too, but then add a lot of birthdays into that mix (fortunately, I like gift giving). For the first three weeks of December leading up to Christmas, every member of my immediate family has a birthday…including my wife (welcome to the family, honey). My wife leads off the pack with her birthday in the beginning of December and pale ale is her favorite style of beer, so this review goes out to her. Hoppy birthday, Becky! Check it out:
Beer Name: Hoppy Birthday
Brewery: Alpine Beer Company
Brewery Location: San Diego, CA
Beer Style: American Pale Ale
Hoppy Birthday pours a crystal clear golden color with thin white lacing that follows the beer down as you drink it. It looks very inviting.
On the nose I get notes of pine, orange, and herbal qualities. The overall aroma is not too pungent, though present enough to let you know what to expect in terms of flavor.
Taste & Aftertaste
Up front, the beer has a distinct grassy/piney (like pine needles) flavor with a big bitter backbone to it. I also get a definite tea-like quality to it (almost like Earl Grey) with notes of orange prominent in the background. I detected very light notes of caramel as well, but any malt characteristics present in this beer take a back seat to the hops. This beer leaves a strong bitter aftertaste in my mouth that lingers long after each sip. In my opinion, this beer is too hoppy to be considered a pale ale because it’s hopped more like an IPA. The Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) lists the guidelines for pale ale in the 30-50 IBU range, and this clocks in above that (60 IBUs), making it a touch out of balance. Overall, however, the flavor of this beer is very solid, and a nice step away from all the super-fruit/citrusy IPAs that are all the rage right now.
Like I just said, this beer is good, but there are elements of it that I am not too keen on. My main issue with this beer is the bitterness- I like my pale ales to be more balanced between the hops and the malt. The hops, in my opinion, should still be the star, but it shouldn’t dominate the malt like this beer does. Furthermore, the bitterness is way too high and lingers way too long considering this is billed as a pale ale (this is more like a session IPA to be perfectly frank). For me to like this better, the bitterness would need to be scaled back and more in balance with the malt profile (especially when you consider the lower alcohol of this beer). I also prefer the fruity/citrusy flavors that hops can bring (as opposed to the piney/herbal flavors in this beer), but everybody has their own preferences in that respect, and the hop flavors are actually quite nice in this beer. Honestly, if you go into this beer expecting a lower alcohol IPA rather than a pale ale, then I think you will enjoy this beer a lot- the overall flavors are definitely good. Cheers!