As luck would have it, I got to spend a couple of days in San Diego over a weekend recently. Like the majority of my traveling, I got to see an airport and a hotel and that’s about it, but this time as I was out taking a couple of sunset photos I noticed that the marina next door to my hotel had a little liquor store in it. The downside was marina prices, but the upside was I walked out of there with a 6-pack of Green Flash Brewing Co’s West Coast India Pale Ale and a bomber of Stone’s Arrogant Bastard.

I know, “Gee, Liquid Diet, you went to the West Coast and had a couple of IPA’s…” Not the most imaginative selections, but I knew I was getting a good beer with the Stone and I have never had Green Flash and that’s definitely not something sold in KS/MO. The fact of the matter is that West Coast brewers are hop-obsessed, so while drinking a couple IPA’s in San Diego is no stretch, where better to do so?!

The West Coast IPA was an interesting beer. It poured a tea color with some red highlights and with plenty of crud from the bottle conditioning floating around in it. Nice, shaving cream-like head. The aroma was really mild on my first bottle, and much to my surprise, it tasted really mild for a West Coast IPA. Generally, IPA’s from California and Oregon are 100% hops and they smash you in the face with hoppy character, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t write in my tasting notes, “English style IPA?”

It was very balanced with a strong malt backbone. The hops were earthy and very floral, but lacked the grapefruity or resiny characteristics so common to West Coast beers of this style. I was floored at how mild this was. I looked up some reviews on BeerAdvocate and they all had basically the opposite to say. Interesting…

I ordered some food room service and my entree was sea scallops wrapped in prosciutto with a spicy hot chorizo-chipotle potato salad (excellent food, by the way!). Interestingly, the hop character of the Green Flash beer went into serious overdrive with the spice. Gone was the neutral, gentlemanly “English style” balanced IPA I first detected, replaced by a straight up West Coast thug hell bent on trashing my taste buds with hops! The differences were night and day and if I didn’t know better, I would have thought these were two different beers altogether.

After two bottles of West Coast IPA (around 7.5% ABV, and I haven’t been drinking much, so I was feeling it), I switched to the bomber. I’ve had Stone Arrogant Bastard before and I enjoy it. It has about the same alcohol content as the Green Flash, so after another 22oz I think I fell asleep for a while! lol Usually very hoppy beers will attenuate the palate and the hops character dies down a little, but the more I drank the hoppier these beers got. My brain fatigued long before my palate!