I spent several hours last week making excruciating decisions as I tried to work my way through a pretty special tap list Toronado assembled for its seventh anniversary.
4026 30th Street, North Park
There were few wrong answers among the Russian River, Firestone Walker, Allagash, and assorted Belgian handles on offer — I needed way more time with them. Regardless of what I chose, I would go home from the North Park taproom feeling the weight of missed opportunities.
2351 Alpine Boulevard, Alpine
Of course, I couldn't fail to try the debut of a new IPA from Alpine, arguably the finest IPA producer in the county. Toronado says Alpine brewer Shawn McIlhenney made Skinny Daddy in honor of its seventh, collaborating with recently departed Pizza Port brewer Devon Randall, as well as plenty of Citra, Simcoe, and Mosaic hops.
My hazy pale pour had little foam yet loads of fragrance — chiefly floral notes riding on top of that fresh load of hoppy aromatics. On first sip, not a lot of flavor came to the front, giving me little to focus on other than beer's genuinely creamy texture. I appreciated that, but only for a moment. Only for the length of time it took my taste buds to register the hops.
They rolled in like a swarm of manic bees, pretty much bursting on my tongue and dancing so actively I thought, This must be what it's like to put a lit sparkler in your mouth. That initial creaminess turned exceptionally dry, exposing those up-front aromatics to any part of my mouth still willing to sense them. Then, just like that, they were gone, nothing but a slightly dank aftertaste.
Ensuing sips were much like the first, the full pint giving my tongue quite a workout, and I wondered if I should follow it up with an amber, just to check whether I'd become malt-blind for a minute there.
Quite a different IPA experience than Alpine's famously balanced Duet, Skinny Daddy compares closer to the assertiveness of its Nelson rye IPA, though with a less distinguished character. It's more an experiential kind of beer, testing out some possibilities and almost forcibly reminding you that hops made this beer coast what it is. Pretty well played for a special-occasion beer, though definitely not for the meek.