Reviewed: Alvarado Street Mai Tai PA
Product description: Technically, an International-Style Pale Ale but We Call It an IPA. Our drier, decidedly “tropical” IPA that’s light on bitterness, but heavy on hop aroma, courtesy of 100% Mosaic hops. One whiff and you get super intense notes of passion fruit, mango, and lychee. Grain bill of just American two-row malt and a clean fermentation keep it simple and allow these hops to shine. Yeast: California Ale. Malt: 100% American 2-Row. Hops: Mosaic. ABV: 6.5%Alvarado Street Brewery – Alvarado Street Mai Tai PA – 16oz can served in nonic pint glass – 6.5% ABV
First time I tried Alvarado Street (Salinas, CA) Mai Tai PA was at last year’s Festival of Dankness in San Diego, a hoppy beer only invitational hosted by Modern Times. Mai Tai stood out to me that day as being one of the best beers of the festival. Let’s see how it does from a 4-pack of 16oz cans.
Alvarado Street has recently updated the graphic design on this can. It’s unique and I really dig it. However, it lacks common design language from other Alvarado Street beers in addition to the beer’s vital statistics being obscured in small black font on the paper label’s edge. Essentially, potential buyers can only see this is a “Tropical IPA” but can’t easily tell who makes it. It’s the same issue with many other beers in their portfolio where the artwork is amazing, but there’s no common design element to link them all together as being beers from Alvarado Street.
Into the glass, Mai Tai PA is crystal clear straw-colored with voluminous white foam that sticks around for several minutes. A hefty pour sends a meringue-texture foam top out past the rim of the glass and sits there like an ice cream float. Immediately, Mai Tai gives you the best Mosaic hops have to offer with fresh pineapple, passion fruit custard, sweet persimmon, and pineapple upside down cake. It’s exactly what I expect from a 100% Mosaic hop IPA and more.
Flavor-wise, Mai Tai continues to impress with pound cake, fresh pineapple juice, wet dough, and a subdued hop bite at the end. It’s definitely on the sweeter side with a heavier body and substantial but clean malt character dominating the flavor. Whirlpool hop bitterness is nicely mitigated to give you enough balance but ends up being mild as far as IPAs go. Overall bitterness level I would say is a 4 out of 10 while sweetness is a 6/10. Thus, it’s softer and more approachable than most American IPAs with a silky mouthfeel plus a salty buoyancy that gives it a refreshing characteristic rarely seen in this style. In that sense, Mai Tai reminds me of my favorite IPAs available in stores today like Beachwood Brewing Amalgamator, Pizza Port Swami’s IPA, and Karl Strauss Aurora Hoppyalis, which I ranked as my favorite in a blind taste test of IPAs. These four beers all excel in mouthfeel and show incredible attention to detail in the fermentation and grain profile. The inviting hop aromas are just icing on the cake.
This is my long-winded way of saying Mai Tai PA is just as good as the best IPAs I have ever tried. This is the quintessential modern West Coast IPA that I think is one of the greatest beer styles out there. Anyone who has been alienated by super bitter IPAs in the past and has since sworn them off needs to give beers like Mai Tai PA a chance to win you back. It’s juicy, tropical, refreshing and never sticky or astringent like the “best” IPAs from a few years ago. In addition, these state-of-the-art clear IPAs are complete beers with clean finishes unlike the growing fad of hazy IPAs, which are plagued by chalky and gritty flavors thanks to their deliberately unfinished profile. I’ll take this over an NE-style IPA any day. If Mai Tai were as readily available as Swami’s, it would certainly give it a run for its money as my perpetually-stocked, go-to IPA.
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