Kyle Bozicevic, co-owner of the Ale Arsenal craft beer bar in San Carlos, founded Alpha Acid Brewing Co. in late 2014.
For about a year, Alpha Acid’s beers were only available at a select group of craft beer bars in the Bay Area, but the owners opened their own taproom in early 2016 in a small space in a nondescript building in Belmont. Named after the compounds in hops that provide bitterness in beers, Alpha Acid unsurprisingly developed its initial reputation with hoppy beers, as well as some excellent stouts, but it has expanded its lineup to include a wide variety of styles.
Following are a few of the selections that were available on a recent visit to the taproom.
• Call of the Mild is an English dark mild ale, with a West Coast twist by way of New Zealand. Weighing in at a sessionable 4 percent alcohol by volume, the aroma and flavor both feature moderate crusty breadiness with a touch of dark chocolate and a fresh orange-citrus accent from Waimea hops. A pleasant moderate hop bitterness extends through a long, smooth finish.
• A modern hazy West Coast pale ale that steps right to the edge of IPA territory, Hop Sale Pale Ale highlights a bright tangerine zest and gooseberry aroma from the dry hop additions of Falconer’s Flight, Citra and Equinox hops. The beer presents a classic pine and citrus hop flavor, moderate bitterness and a prickly carbonation that accentuates the long-lasting hoppy finish.
• Ida #4 is a “funky farmhouse ale with pineapple” that starts with an earthy, horse-blankety Brettanomyces aroma, followed by a clean pineapple flavor accompanied by minimal carbonation, then returning to the funk with a pleasant horse-blanket finish. Somehow, the acidity from the fruit and the acidity from the fermentation seem to exist side-by-side rather than melding together, resulting in quite a complex brew.
• Juice Bigalow IPA, brewed with Wakatu hops, showcases a crisp Sauvignon Blanc fruitiness on the nose, but on the palate the hop flavor is dank and piney, with floral notes of jasmine. The bitter pine finish is nicely balanced by just a touch of sweet malt.
• Coffee Cantata IPA was brewed with High Note coffee and dry hopped with Citra and Nelson, resulting in a complex – even confusing – beer. To me, the aroma was all coffee with no hops in evidence. My wife, on the other hand, thought it smelled like an IPA with little to no coffee character. However, we both agreed that the flavor was an aggressive blend of big flavors – both hop bitterness and dark-roast coffee – competing for dominance. Coffee maintained a slight edge on the initial sip, while hops definitely won the competition to be noticed in the finish.
• With the holidays approaching, Alpha Acid aged its Get The Sensation imperial stout on peppermint, and the blend of roast, sweetness and mintiness on the aroma suggests an herbal liqueur like Jagermeister. On the palate, the intense peppermint is, as my friend Steve would say, “not trivial.” When combined with a smooth chocolatiness and mild sweetness on the finish, the impression shifts from medicinal to dessert-like, perhaps calling out for a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Sadly, the taproom did not have the excellent Murder She Wroatmeal Stout with coconut and cocoa nibs when we visited, but I certainly recommend that you try it if you find it. The brewers at Alpha Acid are clearly not afraid of big, bold flavors, and they are producing some of the more interesting beers in the Bay Area as a result.
Derek Wolfgram is a Certified Beer Judge through the Beer Judge Certification Program and an officer of the Silicon Valley Sudzers homebrew club. For more information, visit sudzers.org.