San Diego has long been recognized as a leader in the IPA game and living in Southern California, I have been lucky enough to take full advantage of that over the past decade. The years of driving down to San Diego to get fresh growlers of Alpine Nelson or bombers of the original Ballast Point Sculpin were always a treat. Even beers like West Coast IPA from Green Flash and Stone IPA were staples in my fridge back in the day.
With the advent of the New England IPAs and the advancement of IPA brewing in other parts of the country the competition has caught up nicely and the bar has been raised. With that being said there is a reason hop-forward higher IBU IPAs are still referred to as “West Coast IPAs.”
These days beers like Pizza Port Swami’s and Stone’s rotating cast of IPAs have taken their place amongst the big sellers coming out of San Diego but a smaller brewery in San Diego has been cranking out world-class hoppy beers for close to a decade that you haven’t historically seen in bottle shops or liquor stores.
Societe Brewing Co. in the Kearny Mesa area in San Diego opened its doors back in 2012 with its flagship IPA The Pupil. Over eight years later you can now find it on over 1,200 tap handles throughout the greater San Diego area. In early 2020, Societe had a stroke of impeccable timing in rolling out its new canning line just before all breweries and restaurants were shut down in the county due to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. This means I now have access to the San Diego favorite in my own fridge.
The Pupil is a 7.5 percent ABV West Coast Style IPA brewed with Centennial, Citra and Nelson Sauvin hops along with 2-row pale malt and malted wheat. It pours a hazy straw gold with two fingers bright white pillowy head that fills the glass and lingers. The aroma jumps out of the glass the second I pour the beer. Bright tropical citrus, passion fruit and white grapes are the backdrops with just a touch of malty sweetness coming through in the nose.
The hops take a bit of a different role in the flavor with pine mixed with a bit of tropical fruit, an herbal note and a spot on level of malt sweetness that is just enough to balances out the hops. The wheat rounds out the mouthfeel and the effervescent carbonation helps accentuate the flavors and aroma of the beer. The bitterness in the finish cleans off my palate just enough but doesn’t leave the lasting bitter punch the style is known for. After the bitterness washes through you are left with a touch of pithy grapefruit and the malty sweetness peaks out once again to finish it off. The 7.5 percent ABV is very well hidden in this very flavorful beer.