Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Karl Strauss Tower 20 IIPA

type: double IPA
origin: San Diego, CA
price: $8/22oz
ABV: 9.5%
NSP: 7.7 (scaled)

Back in the day, Karl was a good option for people interested in trying different (i.e. not AB-InBev) brands of beer but not interested in challenging their palate.  Then the shit hit the San Diego beer-fan and at least five breweries in town could produce beers ten times tastier without the Stone pompousness; and now there are even more.

As I see it, Karl found themselves in the unenviable position of trying to catch up in quality and credibility, with their only edge being the size of their operation.  Within the last five years they clearly are coming to some sort of stride, but they've been quite  hit (Two Tortugas) and miss (Fullsuit) with their seasonal and specialty brews (let's not even talk about their "light" summer ale).  Perhaps they found a new brewmaster, but what's the motivation behind the "Oh shit we better produce quality beer" attitude?  Did they know their beer has always been sub-par, or did they realize most of it sucks?  I'll bet sales numbers tell a more vivid picture though.

So let's proceed under the assumption Karl's specialty brews are now of acceptable quality for their given NSP.  I've had this in my fridge for half a year, so the freshness of the hop character may have degraded.  Although I predict a dead last finish if it had been included in our DIPA tasting, this is not a bad double IPA.  (The scourge of bad-double-IPA is well described here.)  There's a hefty malt backbone, reasonably well-balanced bitterness, and some pleasant aromas.  No, the problem is the (scaled) NSP is too low relative to other San Diego beers in the same category, namely Alpine's Pure Hoppiness, Stone's Ruination, and Ballast's Dorado.   Call it what you will, bit I find that to be a liberating way to drink beer, and it's not based in snobbery at all.


  1. You're saying that Tower 20's flaw is that its scaled NSP is too low. But you determined the scaling. So why's the scaling low?

  2. Ahh, there's the rub. Normally I don't scale NSP, but in the range from 1 to 10 (NSP: 1.5 to 15.4) I gave it a 5, because it just didn't do much for me besides give me something to drink during Breaking Bad, and I have a hard time believing it deserves much higher. Your point is taken though.