The Wine Guy offers up three West Coast IPAs for your consideration

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Everything old becomes new again. This seems to hold true for everything from fashion to music to politics — and yes, even beer.

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Now IPA as a beer style will always hold sway, but to be clear there’s no IPA monolith. Northeastern, Hazy, Double, Red. Black, Brut — the subcategories are myriad, not to mention diverse in their deliciousness.

But for many beer aficionados — at least of a certain age — the first IPA love affair was with unabashedly hoppy, bracingly crisp West Coast IPAs. And based on a casual label count, the stylistic pendulum appears to have swung back this way. Exhibit A: these three local cans.

Howe Sound Brewing Hopraiser West Coast IPA, Squamish ($3.19 for 473mL can, #8982)

It’s not a surprising revival, really. In many ways the return of West Coast IPA suggests a “back to basics” approach. Which make no mistake, in no way means simplistic. It’s just, maybe there’s no need for additional grains or adjuncts, overt cloudiness and tropical fruit. There is comfort and nostalgia to be found in West Coast IPA’s simple four ingredient list: barley, hops, water, and yeast. Part of the magic is how four ingredients turn into such bold and becoming flavour, as evidenced in Hopraiser’s big citrus and pine aromas, further complemented by a solid malt base that balances things out. The finish, as expected, is both bright and bitter.

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Bottom line: B, Love the lingering bitter notes

Twin Sails Brewing Good Clean Fun West Coast IPA, Port Moody (from $13.48 for 4-473mL cans, available at the brewery and select liquor stores)

Interestingly, Twin Sails is not known for making West Coast style IPA, indeed the brewery admits as much, acknowledging that “… this beer showcases a different side of IPA for us.” But unsurprisingly, this Port Moody brewery does the canon right. The name says it all. There are oodles of good, clean flavor in this crisp, punchy IPA that brings big time citrus and pine with a nice mid-palate malt roundness before a bracing, bitter finish. You feel the kick of 55 IBUs from the preponderance of Simcoe, Chinook, and Cascade hops, yet there’s ample lip-smacking elegance amid all these hops and malts.

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Bottom line: B+, New West Coast classic

Container Brewing Forgotten Trail West Coast IPA, East Vancouver ($6.00 for 473mL can, available at the brewery and through craftco.ca)

Is there a formal definition for West Coast IPA? Not strictly speaking it seems; even the widely-referenced Beer Judge Certification Program doesn’t speak to the specific sub-genre — instead nominally referring to “American IPA” in its beer Style Guidelines. That said, West Coast IPA must be boldly hoppy — preferably with west coast-grown hop strains — aggressively bitter, and dry. It comes across when sipped, like with this can of Forgotten Trail, which really is like a walk through the wet, temperate rainforest: all aromatic dank pine and earth, albeit with a lick of grapefruit tossed into the mix, bedecked by a rich but balanced body.

Bottom line: B+, Bold, not bashful


The Swirl: The return of Top Drop

Top Drop, BC’s premier “Terroir and Craft” focused tasting, is about to make its return. Always with a focus on “… sustainably-farmed, handcrafted wines offering a distinct sense of place,” this year’s Top Drop features two nights of tasting featuring more than 40 wineries, with principals in attendance. Taking place May 10 and 11 from 7 pm to 9:30 pm at The Roundhouse (181 Roundhouse Mews, Vancouver), tickets are $125 and available at topdrop.ca.

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