Homebrewing - Home Brewers Blog

West Coast Brewer Home Brewing Blog

Category: Beer Reviews

A collection of West Coast Brewer beer reviews.

Getting a little inspiration for my next Hazy IPA

Getting some liquid inspiration at Greek Cheek Brewery in Orange, California.  They are making some of the very best Hazy IPA’s in Southern California and if you have the chance to check them out, I highly recommend that you do! They typically have 8+ beers on tap and are constantly rotating in new beers. If you are a fan of New England style Haze IPA’s, this is a great destination.

Best American Beers of 2015

Top 50-Beers of 2015

Top 50-Beers of 2015

The American Home Brewers Association has released its 2015 Best American Beer results.  For the most part it is the usual suspects rounding out the top 10 with out too many real surprises on the list. Pliny the Elder captured the 1st place spot, a nice tribute to a great beer. They also ranked the Top Breweries of 2015 and Top Import Beers.  Those lists can be viewed at homebrewersassociation.org.


1) Russian River – Pliny the Elder
2) Bell’s – Two Hearted Ale
3) Ballast Point – Sculpin IPA
4) Stone – Enjoy By IPA
5) Founders – Breakfast Stout
6) The Alchemist – Heady Topper
7) Bell’s – Hopslam Ale
8) Three Floyds – Zombie Dust
9) Dogfish Head – 90 Minute IPA
10) Firestone Walker – Wookey Jack
11) Deschutes – Fresh Squeezed IPA
T12) Left Hand – Milk Stout Nitro
T12) Sierra Nevada – Pale Ale
T12) Sierra Nevada – Torpedo Extra IPA
15) Goose Island – Bourbon County Stout
16) Russian River – Blind Pig I.P.A.
T17) Stone – Arrogant Bastard Ale
T17) Founders – KBS
T19) Russian River – Consecration
T19) Russian River – Supplication
21) Deschutes – Black Butte Porter
T22) Firestone Walker – Parabola
T22) Firestone Walker – Union Jack
T24) Firestone Walker – Double Jack
T24) Odell – IPA
T24) Tröegs – Nugget Nectar
27) Founders – All Day IPA
T28) Dogfish – Head 120 Minute IPA
T28) Sierra Nevada – Celebration
30) Lagunitas – IPA
31) North Coast – Old Rasputin
32) Lagunitas – Little Sumpin Sumpin
T33) Ballast Point – Grapefruit Sculpin
T33) Boulevard – Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale
35) Surly – Furious
36) Stone – Ruination IPA
37) Deschutes – The Abyss
38) Green Flash – West Coast IPA
39) Oskar Blues – Ten Fidy
40) Cigar City – Jai Alai
T41) Great Lakes – Edmund Fitzgerald Porter
T41) New Belgium – La Folie
43) Oskar Blues – Dale’s Pale Ale
44) Founders – Backwoods Bastard
T45) Victory – DirtWolf Double IPA
T45) Fat Head’s – Head Hunter
T45) Lagunitas – Sucks
T45) Stone – IPA
T49) Odell – Myrcenary
T49) Russian River – Pliny the Younger
T49) Ballast Point – Victory at Sea

Russian River Brewery Review

Russian River Brewing, Santa Rosa, CA

Russian River Brewing, Santa Rosa, CA


I recently had a chance to revisit Russian River Brewing when some friends and I decided to take a trip to Northern California to visit a few breweries.  For those of you who are not familiar with the Russian River name, they brew such popular craft beers as Pliny the Elder, Pliny the Younger, Blind Pig, Beatification, Consecration, Supplication and Sanctification.  In the craft brewing world they are perhaps the most highly regarded US brewery and for good reason.



Russian River

Russian River Brewery Review

In my opinion what makes Russian River so great is their uncompromising commitment to making the best craft beer possible.  What I just stated above sounds like something you would read on any brewery’s marketing material, but in this case I truly feel that that the statement is true and deserved.  Consider this, Russian River servers up flights of beer that consist of up to 16 beers on tap.  As you make your way through the overwhelming diversity of styles and variations, in addition to becoming intoxicated you are awe struck at how one brewery could master so many styles.  Not one of their beers are good, they are all either great or exceptional.  Sure, you may not be a fan of a few of the styles, but it is still a great beer for that type.  One of my friends ordered a porter for his second beer and I remember thinking, you are at Russian River, home of the best IPA’s and Sours in North America, why in the world did you just order a porter. So I asked him if I could try it before I passed judgement on his sanity and I was shocked by how fantastic it was.  If they make mistakes, they certainly do not serve the questionable beer to their customers.  I have never received a beer from them that was cloudy when it should have been clear, a beer that was still when it should have been carbonated, a beer that was bitter when it should have been subtle or a wild ale that was more skunk than funk.  That is what I mean when I say that they do not compromise when it comes to their beer.


If you are ever in the Santa Rosa area and love beer, you really owe it to yourself to stop by the Russian River Brewing Company.  There will be more than likely be a wait, parking will probably be difficult to find and the bar will probably be crowded, but it will all be worth it!



Russian River Brewing Company

Russian River Brewing Company

Pliny the Younger!

Pliny the Younger - Tripple IPA

Pliny the Younger


Well folks, it is just about that time of the year again for Pliny the Younger to make it’s very rare and very antisipated appearance!  For those of you who do not know, Pliny the Younger is one of the most difficult beers to come by.  Only a handful of breweries and pubs will receive a keg of it and most of those will sell out of it within just a few hours.


Per Russian River Brewing Company, Pliny the Younger is categorized as a Triple IPA with and ABV of 10.25%.  It is very dry for the amount of malt used in the recipe, and it is loaded with hoppy flavor and bitterness. The hops used in the 2014 recipe are Simcoe, Warrior, Chinook, Centennial, Amarillo, and Tomahawk.


If you are live near Santa Rosa, CA then the Russian River brew pub is your best bet for getting you hands on a glass.  Unfortunately they will not do a growler fill of it, so drink up and enjoy before they run out of their daily allocation.  It is available at the brew-pub from February 7th – 20th.


If you happen to live in the Orange County, CA area you can try your luck at the Tustin Brewing Co, who is kicking off their Russian River Week Celebration starting on February 17th.  Here is some information on the even from the Tustin Brewer:  “Here at TBC, the most wonderful time of year is Russian River Week. The release of Russian River Pliny the Younger is obviously enough to celebrate on it’s own, however, we like to take it up a notch. We will be showering you with as much Russian River beer as possible. The hits, Pliny the Elder, Blind Pig, Row 2 Hill 56, and a slew of the beloved “tions.” We can’t determine each year how much we will be able to hoard, but we do know we will have more Russian River than anyone else in the OC. Oh yes, I know you’re all asking yourselves…Pliny the Younger will be released Wednesday, February 19th. Event details to follow…”


I am going to do my best get secure my goblet of Pliny the Younger this year and wish the rest of you the best of luck in getting a glass as well!

Northernbrewer.com – Northern Brewer 10% Off Coupon Code

Northern Brewer 10% Off Coupon Code

Northern Brewer 10% Off Coupon Code


I don’t typically post coupon codes or promotional codes in this section of the website, but if I come across one that is just too good to pass up I will make an exception.  Right now northernbrewer.com \ Northern Brewer is offering a $25 gift card promotion if your spend $200 or more, which can work out to a 12.5% discount if you do it right.

The coupon code is valid until 2/8/2014 and the Northern Brewer promo code for this promotion is:  QUARTERBONUS


You can view the promotion here: Northern Brewer 12.5% Discount Coupon Code



For additional Northerbrewer.com \ Northern Brewer Coupon Codes and Promo Codes, we keep a running list available here:  NorthernBrewer.com Coupon Codes

Can, Bottle, or Growler? The Taste Test

Sculpin IPA, Growler, Bottle, Can Taste Test

Sculpin IPA: Growler, Bottle, Can Taste Test


I am not too sure about you, but I have always wondered if beer tastes best when stored in a bottle, can, or growler? It seems like one of those age-old questions that every beer lover has an opinion about, so I decided to do a test to see if I could figure it out.


During a recent home brewing session, I invited three of my friends (all self-proclaimed beer connoisseurs) to join me in a taste test to see if beer served from a can, bottle, or growler tasted differently, and, if so, which was best. They all happily agreed to join in the test. Before beginning the test, I asked each of them what they felt the outcome would be. Three out of four of us thought that the growler would be the easy winner, while one felt that a can was a superior storage method and would therefore be the winner. I personally thought the beer served from the growler would taste best.


I was fortunate enough to have collected a bottle, can, and growler of Ballast Point’s Sculpin IPA over the last two months. All three beers were served at the same temperature in a clean pint glass for each of us (that was a lot of pint glasses!). I labeled each glass with a 1, 2, or 3 on the bottom and my fiancee was kind enough to fill all of the glasses without telling us which beer came from which storage container. We then each tasted the samples and took notes on which we preferred.


What I found most interesting was that although each beer was very similar, we could each taste a difference between the samples. I had assumed there would be less difference between them. We then one by one gave our findings. To my dismay, everyone had differing results. My fiancee told us which beer was in which container, and 1st place went to the Sculpin IPA served from the bottle, while one vote went to the can, and the other to the growler. My personal voting went bottle, growler, can. The person who had thought the can would be best also put it in last place.


So what did I learn from my experiment?  For one thing, Sculpin IPA is delicious regardless of whether it is stored in a bottle, can, or growler, and two, everyone has a different ideal of what the perfect beer tastes like. It was a fun experiment, and everyone had a great time participating in it. I highly recommend you try conducting a similar experiment yourself and look forward to hearing about the conclusions you come to.



Session Beers

Over the last year or two, session beers have been making a real name for themselves and are becoming more and more commonly featured at breweries. With their new-found popularity, many might ask, what makes a session beer a session beer?


That is a fantastic question. A session beer is typically considered to be a balanced beer with an alcohol by volume content of less than 5%. A session beer allows the consumer to enjoy multiple beers with out becoming overly intoxicated. Session beers can be a fantastic choice if you want to enjoy a couple of beers without having to worry about getting home safely.


The key to a great session beer is not simply a low alcohol content—that would be easy. It is about complimenting a potentially thin body with a great and memorable flavor. The perfect session beer is one where the drinker does not realize they are having a session beer.


Perhaps the best session beer that I have had is the Tustin Brewery Stay All Day India Session Ale. It strikes an ideal balance between flavor and body. Just before the pint glass reaches your mouth for the first sip, your nose is filled with the fragrant dry hopped aroma, and a smile instantly comes to your face. Each sip is packed with a robust hop flavor, yet does not go overboard. The body is slightly lighter than what is usual for an ale, but unless you are thinking about it, you can hardly notice. If you ever have the chance to grab a pint, or even better, a mug, I highly recommend it.


If you are looking to brew your own batch, I have an all grain recipe for a fantastic session pale ale located here. This is my second favorite session beer:


Session Pale Ale Recipe

Session Pale Ale

West Coast Brewer Session Pale Ale


Orval Belgian Trappist Ale Review

We have reviewed our top pick for the best Belgian Pale Ale, and it is the Orval Trappist Ale. If you are a fan of Belgian ales, and are fortunate enough to find this wonderful beer at your local beer store, I highly recommend that you pick it up.


Click Here to view the full Orval Belgian Trappist Ale Review


Orval Trappist Ale - Rated Best Belgian Beer

Orval Trappist Ale – Rated Best Belgian Beer

New Racer 5 IPA Beer Review

Racer 5 has been voted as the Top IPA by WestCoastBrewer.com.


Click here to see the beer review 

Racer 5 IPA Beer Review

Racer 5 IPA Beer Review

Consecration: #1 Sour Beer on Top Beers List

Russian River Consecration has been rated as the West Coast Brewer  #1 Sour/American Wild Ale on our Best Beers List.


You can check out the full beer review here:

Russian River Consecration Beer Review


Or view the full West Coast Brewer best beer list here:

West Coast Brewer Best Beer List



Best Sour Beer - Russian River Consecration

Best Sour Beer – Russian River Consecration

Pliny the Elder: #1 Imperial IPA Beer Review on Top Beers List

Pliny the Elder has been rated as the #1 Imperial IPA/Double IPA on our Best Beers List. Check out the full beer review here: Pliny the Elder Beer Review, or to view the West Coast Brewer best beer list, you can click here.


Pliny the Elder - IPA Beer

Pliny the Elder – IPA Beer



Blichmann HopBlocker Product Review

Product Review for the Blichmann Hop Blocker:


I have been using a Blichmann HopBlocker since my first batch of all grain brewing. Blichmann is known in the home brewing community for quality and dependability and the Hop Blocker certainly helps them in maintaining that reputation. It is crafted entirely out of sturdy stainless steel and after more than twenty batches, it is still in “like new” condition.


What I like most about the HopBlocker is the two piece configuration that allows me to keep the hot break and hop material away from the kettle draw tube so I draw only clean wort into my fermenters. After the boil, I will typically whirlpool the brew kettle for a minute or two and then let the trub settle out and form a cone on the bottom of my kettle. This process usually takes about 15 minutes. Once the trub has settled, I slowly draw the wort, discarding the first few ounces to clear out any initial particulates that may have made their way into the hop blocker during the boil or whirlpooling process.


I then continue to slowly empty the wort from the brew kettle into the fermenter. Once the wort level has reached about the bottom 1/3 mark of the HopBlocker, I slow down the wort flow even further and remove the sliding metal band from the HopBlocker. At this point the HopBlocker is drawing in wort through its fine perforated filtering holes (visible in photo #1). I decrease the wort flow rate to help reduce the quantity of particulate matter drawn in to the HopBlocker and to help minimize the possibility of clogging the HopBlocker. The HopBlocker is effective at reducing about 90 to 95% of kettle trub if used properly, unlike standard screen tubes which tend to draw more trub and have a higher probability of clogging.


The one downside of the HopBlocker is that it does not play very nicely with whole hops. They can clog the filtration holes. When using whole hops, it is recommend that you either boil the hops in a bag or strain them from the wort prior to using the HopBlocker. The overwhelming majority of hops I use in the boil are pellet hops, so this has not been an issue for me.


If you are interested in purchasing a Blichmann HopBlocker, they can be found here:

 Click Here for Blichmann HopBlocker



Blichmann Hop Blocker photo #1 – Shows the HopBlocker with the screen down. The slot in the metal band slides over the kettle draw tube, but I wanted you to be able to see the small hole perforation, so I placed it at this angle.


Home Brewing Blichmann Hop Blocker

Home Brewing, Blichmann Hop Blocker



Photo #2 of the Blichmann HopBlocker – After the band had been removed and the last of the wort was being drawn from the kettle.


Beer Whirlpooing Trub Cone

Whirlpooing Trub Cone





%d bloggers like this: