Every year around the time Firestone Walker’s Invitational Beer Festival rolls around in June, random delicious beers from out-of-market participants in the world-class-event seem to show up randomly on store shelves. You see, in order for out-of-state brewers to pour legally at the Paso Robles festival, they need to pull a temporary license with a California distributor to make it legit. Along with this, they’re able to send a burst of a few pallets to SoCal markets, which is a great opportunity to try their beers ultra fresh, straight from the source. Even though some might not be participating in the event this year, seeing the yearly tradition still take place is always a treat to check in on a beer with such high ratings.
One of the past participants of FWIBF, The Alchemist out of Vermont, is probably best known around beer trade circles for Heady Topper: a wicked New England double IPA that’s known for its hazy appearance and is probably danker than Tommy Chong’s mustache after a few rips.
The problem is, I’ve always snagged cans via beer trade, and their brewery-fresh cans lack any sort of dating code, so judging one that is presumed fresh is always a best-guess situation. By taste alone, I never did get the hype; often just shrugging off my lack of being blown away by a possibly old can or something that may have been heat-damaged during shipment from some random schmoe.
This week, I grabbed a can at Pour Vida Latin Flavor in Anaheim, ordered an Anaheim burger taco, and cracked it for review. Traditionally, craft beer is best enjoyed poured in a glass, but this beer warns to drink directly from the can. The nose hole instantly lets you know this is nothing like west coast IPA. There’s a distinct grassiness followed by some smoky lemon peel you might find in a craft cocktail. It actually made me sneeze with goosebumps! The flavor sparkles around sticky bitter hops, finishing with hints of black Persian lime, and a forest of pine. The hop resins hang around for a while, prepping your palate for further softer sips as you acclimate. Overall, it’s great to try an east coast IPA so fresh, even though its not my favorite, it’s a classic that still holds up among the nation’s best.
Grab cans while they last at Hollingshead’s Delicatessen, Provisions Market, Pour Vida Latin Flavor, or wherever good beers are sold.
Greg Nagel has been writing about beer since 2011, is an avid homebrewer of wine, cider, and beer, is a certified Cicerone Beer Server, level 1 WSET in Wine, a podcaster with the Four Brewers Show, and runs a yearly beer festival called Firkfest happening on June 29th in Anaheim!