I am a traveller, jumping from place to place and living in a new city or country every few years, but I consider California my home. It’s a place that was so delightful that my heart was indeed left in San Francisco.
One-third of all breweries in the country are located in the North County along the 60-mile stretch of California State Route 78 from Oceanside to Julian, so that the route is sometimes called the “Hops Highway” – Wikipedia
That statistic probably isn’t true any more, considering the fast rise in breweries in the United States recently. But, California is where this explosion of craft beer all began! I certainly do agree that the world has really pushed itself to limits far beyond Californian craft beer because there are so many breweries that can compete with California craft beer. It’s crazy how it has exploded and I’ve had the opportunity to try many of them. Regardless, California is where my craft beer journey started and it will always have a special place in my heart. Everywhere I move does become home to me but, Home is where the heart is and mines in California!
Quebec is currently my new home and I sure did pick a great spot, because craft beer is huge here. With the likes of Dunham, Auval, Dieu Du Ciel, Les Trois Mousquetaires and Le Castor to name a few, I’m quiet content starting a new journey into craft beer up here in the great white north. In comparison to California (423,970 km squared) with 554 breweries by the end of 2015, Quebec (1.542 million km squared) with 140 breweries at the end of 2014, Quebec is doing a mighty fine job. Even though Quebec, as a province is larger in size, we need to consider that Quebec has a population density of 5.8 persons per square kilometre compared to California’s 92.31 per square kilometre. Meaning most of the population only live in a very small part of Quebec. In comparison the smaller number of breweries in Quebec actually stand as a large amount!
Stone Brewing are considered the Hop kings of California and I fully agree, their beers are crazy hop explosions, while Sierra Nevada is considered to have very piney beers and Anchor has the steam!
But as a Californian now living in Quebec, what are the beers that I enjoy and am proud are from Quebec? There are probably quiet a few, but for this post ill select two from Quebec and two from California that really stand out to me. This is of course from the beers I’ve had. There are a lot of beers I have not had from both Quebec and California. For this I will focus on IPAs, because like everyone else I’m a sucker for IPAs.
There are so many IPAs that I really enjoy from Califronia and my selection doesn’t dictate the best or top rated but rather my personal favourites! The selection below is what I personally enjoy drinking on any given day, but that doesn’t mean I’m claiming them the best IPAs, even though they are in fact highly rated. The choice from California was a tough one, with so many great IPAs to come out of the state! Quebec posed a tough challenge as well, but its easier for me to nail down a list of my personal favourites.
Stone Brewing Co. brewery has always had my heart in terms of craft beer. From the moment I first sipped their IPA till the second I chugged down an Arrogant bastard Ale, Stone Brewing has had a special place in my life. As of 2014, Stone Brewing was the ninth largest craft brewery in the United States and the largest brewery in southern California. The brewery is located in Escondido, California which rests within the San Diego County lines. This beer is probably my all time favourite IPA, yes in comparison to so many other IPAs surfacing recently, Stone doesn’t come close to compete. But I’m a sucker for it! It has this amazing tropical explosion and bitterness and is sure to satisfy my taste buds any time it is consumed. I will always hail Stone as beer Gods and that is why I have selected it as one out of two of my favourite Californian IPAs.
Le Castor’s Yakima IPA is a beer that has really blown me away! Hailing from Rigaud, Quebec, this has to be the closest Quebec brewed IPA to compete with the Californian style of IPAs. It is absolutely without a doubt a crazy hop explosion. Usually I have tried IPAs from Quebec that boast “West Coast Style IPA” but to be honest taste like nothing but bitter maltyness. I find some Quebec IPAs should be called hopped red ales rather than IPAs. And it’s no surprise a really good IPA is tough to find in Quebec. Now this is no stab at Quebec IPAs, it is my opinion and my observation! There are plenty of great IPAs that exist in Quebec that I would without a doubt call IPAs. Most recently some of Ma Brasserie’s Tribale line, wooow, Hop Devils those little bastards are. And Of course the king Moralite! But, to give credit to Quebec, not everyone can make a great IPA! Many breweries in USA fall short as well. Le Castor however, has not missed a single note, they knew what to do and got it done. And the result is my favourite IPA out of Quebec and it stands solidly above them all!
Alesmith IPA by Alesmith Brewing Co. is my second choice of my favourites from California. This one also hails from San Diego county and it’s no surprise but it’s a dank, tropical hop forward IPA and I absolutely adore it. Alesmith is also well known for some non IPA beers that they brew, such as the famous Speedway Stout, Old Knumb Skull and many others. But I’ve always chased their IPA and Alesmith X, their Pale Ale, around like a dog chasing his own tale. Why didn’t I pick Ballast Point Sculpin? What about 21st Amendment Brew Free or Die? What about Russian River Blind Pig? Well the choices would be endless, as California is the place where IPAs really took off, due to its free living, hippie culture, tree hugging, fun, loving nature? Probably, but more so because the famed Yakima Valley and a perfect hop growing region rests just a bit further north in the state of Oregon. I selected Alesmith because I like it. Although both Alesmith and Stone are rated high, a lot of people would think I’m crazy to pick Alesmith IPA over Ballast Point Sculpin. But to each his own! This beer really has everything going for it, tropical, bitter, balanced, you name it!
My first experience with Sabotage IPA by Benelux was at Mondial De Biere last year in June. This beer still stood out even though my taste buds were probably mixed up due to the consumption of a barrage of beers. And upon my second taste of it at the Benelux Sherbrooke location, I can surely say this is a fantastic representation of the West Coast Style IPA. So incredibly hop forward! Another favourite IPA from Quebec. At Mondial I also tried La Succursale’s Angus IPA, which I fell in love with, however after having it again I wasn’t as impressed with it. Although a great IPA, it wasn’t so much a West Coast Style IPA. Am I saying Angus IPA is bad? Heck no, its great! But it’s less a West Coast staple. It’s characteristics fall short to define it as a West Coast IPA, at least to what I define my West Coast IPAs as. It may vary between person to person, because the West Coast houses a vast variety of IPAs. Some are much more dank while others are not. But I can say that Benelux Sabotage IPA is a very dank, tropical hop IPA and a sip of it flashes me right back home to Baker beach!
So there it is! California has my heart, Montreal is home, but up next is Chicago, my mistress.
Written by HopCitizen. Photography by HopCitizen.