A few weeks ago I was at an event for a big Los Angeles distributor and Phil Thomas, California rep for Clown Shoes Beer, was ranting about how Riip Beer Company in Huntington Beach was brewing some of the best hoppy beer in the region. Our group, consisting of brewery owners, sales people and Cicerones, was skeptical to say the least. Most of us could barely name one of their beers, let alone heard much hype to substantiate Phil’s claims.
And then this past Saturday, Riip Beer Co won a silver medal in the American IPA category for their Super-Cali IPA, beating out over 300 other beers.
This is a very big deal, and immediately Riip became, in my mind, the most under-appreciated brewery in Southern California.
Fast forward to yesterday when I found myself in Orange County waiting out traffic for a couple hours. What better way to kill some time than the drink the best IPA in America?
Hidden in an inconspicuous plaza on the PCH, just south of Sunset Beach, Riip’s tasting room (and homebrew shop) is a couple miles away from their production facility. It’s as bare bones as tasting rooms get; scarcely decorated, stacks of boxes piled in the corner containing bottles that will be filled in the next few days. It looks more like a storage closet than a tasting room, and its almost charming to think this place was just awarded one of the highest honors in American Craft Beer.
Unfortunately Super-Cali wasn’t available so instead I order a 2nd Street, a SMASH IPA with simcoe hops that is as pale as they come. The aroma is bursting with Simcoe character – citrus and earthy resin – and the finish is ridiculously dry without sacrificing body or mouthfeel. It’s exceptional really, and would hold up to any other hoppy beer in Los Angeles County.
Riip hasn’t seen a huge uptick in business since the win last week, but while I was there a tourist visiting from the East Coast made the drive specifically from L.A. once he got word about the gold medal; meaning he drove past Smog City, Monkish and Beachwood just to stop into this janky strip mall tasting room. Maybe Riip will continue as they were, brewing great beer and sneaking under the radar.
Or maybe things will start to get crazy next week when they keg their new batch of their Gold Medal award winning IPA. Who knows?