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San Diego Brewed is sponsored by Bottlecraft.

Bottlecraft is a retail shop and tasting room in Little Italy showcasing local, domestic and international craft beers. They offer hundreds of beers for your enjoyment in their onsite tasting room or to-go, as well as daily beer flights, events, glassware, merchandise, and gifts. Open Noon-10pm seven days a week. 2161 India Street, San Diego, CA 92101.

Alpine Beer Co. UglyThis past Labor Day weekend I took a trip up to Alpine, CA and brought back with me (among other things) a growler of Ugly, Alpine Beer Company’s Black IPA American-Style Black Ale. The name of the style has caused plenty of controversy among craft beer drinkers. Some find ‘Black IPA’ to be the best descriptor, it’s an IPA that’s dark in color. Others see an inherant contraction in that name Black India Pale Ale just doesn’t work for some people. Some in the Pacific Northwest want the style called Cascadian Dark Ale, which Stone Brewing Co. poked fun at with their recent Escondidian Imperial Black IPA. But earlier this year the Brewer’s Association stepped in and officially named the style ‘American-Style Black Ale‘ (whether this put the name controversy to rest is a different matter).

In general I’m not a huge fan of this style. I don’t dislike it but if I’m going to drink an IPA I generally go for the good old fashioned pale colored kind. But when I was up at Alpine this past weekend I decided to fill up with Ugly ($12.99 plus $10 for a grolwer if you don’t already have one).

Ugly is black with a bit of mocha head. From looks alone this could be a porter or stout, but upon first sniff it’s obvious that it’s not. Pine and grapefruit like hops take front and center with just a little bit of roasty chocolate like smells coming through. The taste is very much the same, just a hint of roast in the form of chocolate and coffee, but the grapefruit and pine flavors from the hops dominate and leave a long bitter finish after each sip. As the beer warms and sits in the glass a bit more of the roasty malts come through, but don’t be fooled, this is first and foremost an IPA.

Ugly is only available on draft, which means if you want to enjoy it at home you’ll have to make the trek out to Alpine (which isn’t too bad of a drive, about half an hour from North Park without traffic- avoid the 4-6pm rush hour on weekdays). Toronado and O’Brien’s Pub often have some Alpine beers on draft. And even though you can’t get Ugly in a bottle, some of their other beers often show up at area shops and usually sell out pretty quickly. This past weekend when I stopped into Bottlecraft they had a few bottles of Duet in the cooler.

Viktor at Sentence Beer (one of my favorite beer blogs) published an interview with Alpine’s Pat McIlhenney just last week. Again they don’t discuss Ugly directly but there’s plenty there about their other beers and the brewery itself.

Photo: Chris Hammett