Top of the Hops: Paste's IPA Challenge - Round 1 Southwest

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When it comes to IPAs, California is so spoiled with great breweries that we almost had to give the state its own bracket. Fourteen of the 16 beers here are from the Golden State, and several of them are among the most celebrated makers of India Pale Ale, with many of the beer’s ingredients, including the West Coast hops, sourced locally.

It was a given that some highly respected California IPAs were going to exit in the first round, but the winners of this region were undoubtedly some of the best we tasted. If there was any question to California’s reputation for hoppy beer, this round of competition put that to rest.

For full rules about the beers chosen for this bracket, see our Top of the Hops: Paste IPA Challenge Intro. And see more results from Round One:

The Northeast Regionals
The Northwest Regionals
The Southeast Regionals

You can see all our Top of the Hops: Paste’s IPA Challenge here.

Stone IPA vs. Epic Spiral Jetty


Beer A: Epic Spiral Jetty
City: Salt Lake City, Utah
ABV: 6.6%

Beer B: Stone IPA
City: Escondido, Calif.
ABV: 6.9%

Stone’s IPA is beloved for a reason. With robust hops and subtle spices, it’s still smooth all the way through. Epic’s Spiral Jetty was very light and refreshing but tasted more like an amber ale in comparison to the boldness of Stone.
Stone IPA wins 6-1

Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA vs. Anderson Valley Hop Ottin IPA


Beer A:   Sierra Nevada  Torpedo Extra IPA
City: Chico, Calif.
ABV: 7.2%

Beer B: Anderson Valley Hop Ottin IPA
City: Boonville, Calif.
ABV: 7%

Both these beers had strong hop profile. The Hop Ottin IPA also had a pleasant spicy kick, but Sierra’s Torpedo Extra was lighter and cleaner, leaving more room for the hops. It was enough for the venerable brewery to make it to Round 2.
 Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA wins 5-2

Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA vs. North Coast Acme California IPA


Beer A:   Firestone Walker  Union Jack IPA
City: Paso Robles, Calif.
ABV: 7.5%

Beer B: North Coast Acme California IPA
City: Fort Bragg, Calif.
ABV: 6.5%

Union Jack is a hop head’s dream. A classic IPA with a full-on assault of pleasant bitterness, it had a few of our judges writing poetry. The Acme was much more unusual with subtle grapefruit notes, but it wasn’t enough to unseat one of the tournament favorites.
 Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA wins 5-2

Port Wipeout IPA vs. Lagunitas IPA


Beer A: Port Wipeout IPA
City: San Marcos, Calif.
ABV: 7%

Beer B:   Lagunitas  IPA
City: Petaluma, Calif.
ABV: 6.2%

Two respected beers made for another tough first-round matchup. Port Brewing’s Wipeout IPA has a 99 rating on RateBeer, but its combination of light and bitter was no match for Lagunitas in a blind tasting. The Petaluma brewery had a unique, rich smokiness that won over the judges, who would have been happy to keep drinking either beer.
 Lagunitas IPA wins 6-1

AleSmith IPA vs. 21st Amendment Brew Free! or Die


Beer A: AleSmith IPA
City: San Diego, Calif.
ABV: 7.25%

Beer B: 21st Amendment Brew Free! or Die
City: San Francisco, Calf.
ABV: 7%

AleSmith’s IPA (known as Irie Pirate Ale before a lawsuit forced a name change) is delicious, particularly if you like floral, piney hops. But 21st Amendment pulled off what many will consider an upset with crisper, citrus-y hops.
21st Amendment Brew Free! or Die wins 5-2

Anchor Liberty Ale vs. Russian River Blind Pig IPA


Beer A: Anchor Liberty Ale
City: San Francisco, Calif.
ABV: 5.9%

Beer B:   Russian River  Blind Pig IPA
City: Santa Rosa, Calif.
ABV: 6.1%

Anchor Liberty is where the hop revival began. Brewed in 1975 in honor of Paul Revere’s ride, this citrus-y ale was the first major American IPA in production. It has nothing to prove in a competition like this, which is fortunate, since it was paired with Blind Pig. Russian River might not have invented the American IPA, but has damned near perfected it. The hop profile is solid from start to finish, giving it a smooth, classic flavor.
 Russian River Blind Pig IPA wins 6-1

Ballast Point Sculpin IPA vs. Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA


Beer A: Ballast Point Sculpin IPA
City: San Diego, Calif.
ABV: 7%

Beer B: Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA
City: Healdsburg, Calif.
ABV: 7%

Two beers that have notched perfect ratings at RateBeer and gathered plenty of silverware at fests had a first-round matchup that could have been a final. Both offered flavor galore, but Bear Republic’s more appealing nose, smooth start and finishing kick put it over the top for me.
Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA wins 6-1

Uinta Hop Notch IPA vs. Green Flash West Coast IPA


Beer A: Uinta Hop Notch IPA
City: Salt Lake City, Utah
ABV: 7.3%

Beer B:   Green Flash  West Coast IPA
City: San Diego, Calif.
ABV: 7.3%

Notch an upset for Utah. Green Flash was undoubtedly the hoppier beer, but Uinta’s malt balance, citrus nose and complex flavor was a nice contrast to Green Flash’s aggressive bitterness. Another giant falls in the first round.
Uinta Hop Notch IPA wins 5-2

This round’s judges were Nick Purdy, Josh Jackson, Bonnie Stiernberg, Dacey Orr, Sean Doyle, Tyler Bowden and Randall Smith, who created the red wooden VS. sign. Check back tomorrow to see who makes it to the Sweet 16.

Here are the results from the entire first round (click to enlarge):


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