Tasting notes on Pizza Port Brewing – Pizza Port Solana Beach IPA – 16 oz. can poured into speciality glassware – 7% abv.
In celebration of Pizza Port Solana Beach’s 30th Anniversary, Pizza Port has joined the brewery-only canned IPA release model, in suit with Modern Times, Monkish, Trillium, Tree House, and other such exceptional hoppy beer masters. Their first brewery-only canned release was the highly-coveted Bacon & Eggs coffee stout, which sold out quickly. Now, all the Pizza Port locations received a limited release of the Solana Beach IPA for sale in 6-packs of 16oz cans, which is the same as their core brands you can find in regular distribution. Even a week past the official release, cans could still be found for sale, so I was lucky enough to grab a few.
Solana Beach IPA is not a new beer. In fact, it has been around on tap at least since late 2013. I personally believe this beer to be a reincarnation of an earlier beer from 2013, The Kook, which was a phenomenal IPA by Pizza Port Solana Beach whose name was re-appropriated for a completely different beer for wider distribution called The Kook Double IPA, which can be readily found in stores.
This beer is super clean and provides a striking contrast to today’s “state-of-the-art” IPAs, which are hazy, sweeter, lower IBU, and focus on late boil or dry hopping aromatics with a litany of rare hop varieties. Solana Beach IPA is crystal clear, bright golden in color and generates an enormous, rocky head with powerful carbonation giving it tremendous retention. This is one of those beers where if you pour it carefully enough, you can get the head to rise above the top of the glass but not spill over. Swoon.
The aroma is straightforward with sweet orange and tangerine. As it warms, there are additional aromas of lemon zest, key lime pie, vanilla whipped cream, and lemon iced pound cake. The flavor is unmistakably Pizza Port with a chewier base beer and wicked bitterness piling on immediately. Flashes of white alcohol remind this is 7%, but this is quickly overrun by its oily, resinous kettle hop character that piles on through the finish. It’s aggressive by normal standards, but par for the course for Pizza Port IPAs. Where this one impresses is its super clean malt base, which comes across as biscuity, doughy, and chewy like pizza crust. Coincidence? High carbonation and lack of specialty malt give this a bright, refreshing quality. Though it is highly similar to the more popular Swami’s IPA, Solana Beach feels a bit sharper, more bitter, but also cleaner and snappier in the body. Even with a slightly higher ABV than Swami’s, there is less alcohol warming in my opinion. The finish also feels drier with very little sugar, but never goes astringent or chemically harsh like some other dry, high-IBU beers.
To be clear, there nothing new about this beer. It’s an old school, citrusy hop bomb. But the execution here shows decades of IPA mastery. For an IPA that is completely outside the haze craze and search for ever more exotic hop varietals, Solana Beach IPA is an instant classic and really represents the best of Pizza Port. This could be their flagship beer in my opinion.