Seabright Brewery's Blur was the staff's favorite.
As the mercury rises, so do our cravings for a cool, refreshing beverage. But which one? It would be a mighty undertaking to channel your inner beer geek on your own and find the best local beer. So we, ever community-minded, did the homework ourselves with a blind taste test, scientifically weighing the pros and cons of each and searching for strengths and weaknesses. For consistency’ sake we stuck mostly with lighter varieties and India Pale Ales—perfect for a hot summer day.
Santa Cruz Ale Works
Name & rank: I.P.A. 6.5%
Vitals: $3.99 / 22 oz.
Taster 1: “It’s an I.P.A. but not too woody, heavy.”
Taster 2: “It’s not overpowering, but there’s not a great deal of depth either.”
Taster 3: “It kicks off with a strong hoppiness, then gets flat and disappears.”
Where to find: New Leaf, Shopper Corner, Staff of Life, local liquor stores
Name & rank : Dragon’s Breath I.P.A 7.2 %
Vitals: $5 / draft pint, $12-14 / growler (half-gallon), not including price of container
Taster 1: “This smells a little bit like wet dog and a little bit like marijuana”
Taster 2: “It’s crisp, caramel-y at the end.”
Taster 3: “Brewed with a lush, woodsy aroma.”
Where to find: Boulder Creek Brewery and Surfrider Café
Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing
Name & rank: I.P.A. 7%
Vitals: $5 / draft pint, $5 / 22 oz. bottle.
Taster 1: “Thick like a redwood tree.”
Taster 2: “Good beginner I.P.A. It’s not super bitter, and it’s pretty well-rounded.”
Taster 3: “I would not drink two or four of these at a barbecue. No. I would have one at a craft beer bar.”
Where to find: Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing, New Leaf, Shoppers Corner and local liquor stores
Name & rank: The Blur 7.4 %
Vitals: $5 / draft 16 oz., $11.50 / growler
Taster 1: “I would drink this with a burger or play beer pong with it. I would drink it in winter. I would drink it in the middle of the night. I would also drink it in the summer. Did I say summer yet?”
Taster 2: “Many I.P.A.s slap you in the face with hops, but this is like, ‘Let me seduce you into the world of IPA.’”
Taster 3: “What is the thing in all I.P.A.s that tastes like tree bark?!”
Where to find: Seabright Brewery
Name & rank: Golden State Ale 6.4 %
Vitals: $2.49 / canned 16 oz.
Taster 1: “It tastes like a winter seasonal.”
Taster 2: “It’s smooth, though. It goes down very easy.”
Taster 3: “Smells like lady parts. Tastes like Christmas.”
Where to find: New Leaf, Shoppers Corner and local liquor stores
While not the most flavorful or complex, The Blur from Seabright has pleasant hop balance and is, in many ways, a perfect I.P.A.
Uncommon Brewers’ Golden State Ale comes in a dashing silvery can with a golden poppy. It’s quite drinkable and mildly spicy—similar to New Belgium’s Trippel.
Best BBQ Brew
Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery. The hops and malt of SCMB’s I.P.A. complement each other well in a bitter combination that almost feels like a meal by itself but would also work wonders with that portobello patty or bacon cheeseburger on the barbie.