Let’s get hoppy

San Diegans are crazy for IPAs and local craft breweries are exploring ways to make a lasting impression with new and unique variations of the classic.


As the mothership of all things hoppy, San Diego is known and revered around the world for its production of some of the most award-winning and memorable IPAs in the country. From classics like Green Flash West Coast IPA, Pizza Port’s Swami’s IPA and Ballast Point’s Sculpin to the myriad of iterations on tap today, San Diego’s stamp on liquid history is undoubtedly the hop cone.

With the rise of craft breweries looking to explore the style and make their own mark on craft beer history, unique variations of the classic IPA are finding their way onto tap lists around the county. Here are a few types to try on your next beer adventure:

Hazy IPA

No list would be complete without starting with the hottest trend in IPAs. The Hazy IPA style, also sometimes referred to as a New England-style IPA, has garnered a legion of fans for its easy drinking, juicy and balanced profile. In other words, out are the hop-driven palate assaults seen in some double and triple IPAs, and in are the crushable IPAs fit for every taste bud. There is a hazy on almost every tap list in the county, but be sure to check out a few noteworthy examples like Mike Hess Brewing’s Hop Cloud and Karl Strauss’ Boat Shoes (both previously featured by PACIFIC as a beer of the week) along with popular releases from Modern Times, Pure Project, Wild Barrel, and Mikkeller.

Milkshake IPA

If you are shaking your head in confusion, you’re not the only one. A milkshake and an IPA joining forces? Actually, the style is considered an offshoot of the New England-style IPA and involves the key addition of lactose, along with other possible add-ons such as fruit, oats, spices and even pectin. Curiosity peaked? Check out the Manatee Milkshake IPA with cherry and vanilla available at Coronado Brewing Company for a taste of the style.

Black IPA

Enjoying a wave of popularity in the 2000s, with the stellar Sublimely Self Righteous from Stone Brewing as one of the key examples, Black IPAs eventually fell out of favor due to lack of understanding of the style, confusing aromas and flavors (is it a stout or an IPA?) from some breweries, and the cult-like adherence to West Coast-style IPAs, doubles and triples at the time. When done right, it is a beautiful marriage of dark and refreshing, so if you can find it, try it out. One exemplary brew is Half Door’s Never Seen the Light of Day IPA, which smells and tastes like a chocolate covered orange. For Stone’s latest iteration of the black IPA, head to Liberty Station for the Stone Cold Fox.

Belgian IPA

Blending the best of two worlds, this style meshes American hops with Belgian yeast strains to produce a truly unique aroma and flavor profile. Green Flash’s Le Freak and Stone’s Cali-Belgique IPA set the standard early in the local craft beer movement for what a Belgian IPA could be. The Le Freak, a 9.2% heavy-hitter, joins the Belgian Trippel with the American Imperial IPA to create a dry-hopped, bottle conditioned brew San Diegans still clamor over, while the Cali-Belgique is the classic Stone IPA with a Belgian twist. For other examples, try Kilowatt Brewing’s Fluorescent Mustachio, Coronado’s Hoppy Daze, and Karl Strauss Blackball Belgian IPA.