North Park IPA from Mike Hess Brewing Company at Slater's 50/50 in San Marcos
3812 Grim Avenue, San Diego
It was the best of times. No, really, it was the best of times! This year’s edition of San Diego Beer Week was one of the finest since the 2009 advent of this annual ten-day liver endurance challenge. Not because of big, blow-out events, either. Sure, there were plenty of total tap takeovers, multi-course banquets, and festival-sized happenings, but this year it seemed that many breweries and beery venues figured out you don’t have to go insane lengths to put together a memorable and, more importantly, enjoyable Beer Week event.
Because there were so many smaller-sized, tamer affairs, I was able to get around to more of them. In the process, I easily tried more than 50 different beers. Through it all, I took notes so that I’d be able to write about some of my favorites. Many of the standout brews will appear in my annual, year-ending round-up of best beers from the past 12 months, but there was one that was so surprisingly good I felt compelled to bring it up early. And it’s not a barrel-aged oddity, booze-laden imperial ale, style-bender, or revelatory innovation. It’s a rather simple and simply wonderful India pale ale. Not a double, triple, or even quadruple IPA (but way to go on that Hop Wine, Rip Current Brewing Company). It’s just a base model single IPA with such good flavor, it needn’t rely on a boosted alcohol level.
It came into my life with warning sans fanfare, the fourth in a parade of seven beers from Mike Hess Brewing Company served during a beer-pairing dinner at Slater’s 50/50’s San Marcos restaurant. When perusing the menu, it failed to pique my interest due to the company it kept—a fig saison, rye imperial stout, and imperial pumpkin ale. But when all was said and done, Mike Hess North Park IPA was the beer I wanted more of. Fortunately, it’s something that can be procured at the brewing company’s brewery in the community of the same name. Cascade, Centennial, and Columbus hops give the beer tremendous aromas of orange and flavors akin to tangerine with soft notes of rosemary and peppercorn, all presented via a highly drinkable, 7% alcohol-by-volume quaffable that unexpectedly won me over during a week awash with fine brews.