When babysitters run you $15 an hour, you have to start getting creative with date night unless you want to spend every Saturday watching Netflix (or every Saturday handing over $50+ to your babysitter). Which is why on this past Saturday I found myself at BevMo browsing IPAs. My date night idea? A blind beer tasting at home to figure out who has the best IPAs: San Diego, Portland, or Seattle.
Why those three cities? Because living in San Diego for over a decade meant I always saw Portland ranked as number one on best beer city lists and San Diego as number two. I’d never been to Portland, but I couldn’t see HOW THIS COULD BE as San Diego beer was so good. Then while in Portland for a night a couple months ago some friends took us to a place that specializes in sour beers. I don’t like sour beers, but I liked the ones at this place. Hmmm, maybe Portland did know what they were doing…
I figured this IPA beer tasting would prove once and for all which city was better (cause obviously my taste buds should determine this important quandary). As for Seattle, well, it’s my new stomping grounds, so it needed to be in the equation, too. Plus, Seattle is definitely an up and coming beer city.
And why IPA? For one, I like IPAs, short for India Pale Ales. But I’ve noticed a big difference between San Diego and Seattle Pale Ales (a less hoppy version of IPA) and IPAs. Pale Ale was my drink of choice back in San Diego (if I wasn’t drinking wine), but a lot of the Seattle ones I’d had since moving up here seemed a bit bland. So I’d been drinking mostly IPAs in Seattle, a beer which I had usually found too hoppy down in San Diego. Because of this difference in IPAs I had noticed between SoCal and the Pacific Northwest, I was curious if I could tell them apart if I didn’t know which was which. Plus, West Coast IPAs are famous in San Diego and I wanted to give my old beer city an advantage in this competition.
Here were the IPA beers I chose:
The San Diego Beers
Stone Brewing Company had to be one of the beers since Stone Pale Ale is my favorite beer (along with Ballast Point’s Grapefruit Sculpin). Don’t drink the IPA as much, but I was still sure I’d be able to know the Stone beer immediately upon tasting it and wanted to find out if I was right. AleSmith IPA is a pretty famous beer down in San Diego and I couldn’t remember the last time I had it so into the cart it went as well. I was sure I’d be able to pinpoint both of these.
The Portland Beers
I know nothing about Portland breweries so I chose the Wanderlust IPA by Breakside Brewery because TRAVEL, duh. And the Hopsworks Urban Brewery IPA because it said it was organic and I figured I should have at least one organic beer in this taste test.
The Seattle Beers
I’ve drank a few different Fremont Brewing beers since moving here and liked them so figured it was time to try their IPA. I also chose Elysian’s Space Dust IPA because I always see it in grocery stores and think it is such a silly label design. Would the taste be as over the top as the label? We would find out.
Setting up the IPA Blind Beer Tasting
When I got back home from Bevmo, Tom watched Lulu while I got everything ready. Here’s what you need:
- 6 different beer bottles – all the same size (I got the individual 22 oz. size and we had to dump a ton of leftover beer down the drain. Then my helpful husband pointed out lots of beer-selling stores have mix and match options for the 12 oz. bottles so you don’t have to buy a whole 6-pack of one kind. Good to remember…and would have saved us money!)
- 6 brown paper bags (If you get the 12 oz size beer bottles, cut a couple inches off the top of the paper bags beforehand to make it easier to pour the beer out of.)
- 12 clear plastic tasting shot glasses ( I recommend clear so you can see the color of the beer – might make a difference in your guess of which one it is.)
- 1 marker to put numbers on bags and shot glasses
- 3 sheets of paper and two pens. (One sheet for each of you and a third sheet that has the master list of beers on it)
- A snack
After Lulu went to bed, Tom popped the tops off the beer and then I shuffled the brown paper bags all around so I couldn’t remember what was originally where and drew numbers on the bags.
Then it was time to pour!
I hadn’t told Tom what my secret plan was for our at home date night until I got back from Bevmo and it took him all of two minutes to make it into a competition.
“I am definitely going to win this!” he proclaimed.
I smiled smugly back at him. With any other kind of beer, that would probably be the case, but I drink IPA more often than him, so I felt pretty sure I was going to out-guess him.
As I poured the beer into the cups, Tom was already getting into it and jotting down notes of the different beers and where they were from onto his sheet of paper (which is when I decided we needed a master list).
The beers were all poured and it was time to taste. We decided we’d do a preliminary guess not knowing anything about the beers, and then I’d read the description cards for each beer (which I took pictures of on my phone while at Bevmo) and see if we changed our minds.
I smelled all the beers first.
“Number one is totally Stone,” I said to Tom confidently after taking a sniff of it.
Once I tried it, I knew. It was super hoppy. “For sure, Stone.”
Tom agreed. It was the only beer we had the same guess for.
After reading the descriptions I moved around a few guesses (but left Beer #1 as Stone).
Then it was time to take the beer out of the bags and unveil the answers.
“Wait!” I said. “We have to say which are our favorites and which one we liked the least.”
The “Stone” (Beer #1) was actually not my favorite; it fell in the middle. Beer #4 was my favorite, followed by Beer #2. Beer #5 was my least favorite.
Tom opened the brown bag holding Beer #1, which we were both expecting to be Stone. He pulled out …
Elysium Space Dust.
“Nooooooo!” I exclaimed in disbelief as we both burst out laughing. “That was the hoppiest one! I was sure it was Stone.”
“Seattle’s not as bad as you thought,” Tom said teasingly, then unveiled the rest of the beer.
I waited in anticipation of the beer in bag #4. My favorite beer was…
The Wanderlust! Because TRAVEL, duh. Actually, it was because I like the crisp citrus and grapefruit notes in it so much.
And my second favorite beer was…
“The other Portland beer!” I said in surprise. (Which I had originally guessed as Beer #5, my least favorite because it was organic and I figured organic beer wouldn’t taste as good for some reason.)
Tom pulled out the rest of the beer. There was Stone, way at the end as Beer #6. And as for my disliked Beer #5? It was Alesmith.
“Haha, you hate San Diego beer,” Tom laughed. His favorite was the Alesmith and least favorite was Hopworks (apparently we don’t like the same beers).
And in case you’re wondering, I won the competition by guessing two of the beers correctly while Tom only got one right (Bwahaha). What can I say? I know my grapefruit notes and apparently Fremont beers, too.
But very sorry, dear San Diego. Guess all those lists are right. You are behind Portland. (Well, if this taste test is to be believed, you are actually third after Portland and Seattle, but the Pale Ale wasn’t included so I’m not ready to admit total hop defeat for my former home city yet – maybe next time we’ll do a Pale Ale blind beer taste test.)
I’m sure we’ll do another taste test date night of something in the future. This ended up being one of the most fun nights we’ve had in a while – and we didn’t even have to pay a babysitter!