Golden Road's Heal the Bay IPA returns: Tasting notes

This summer's Heal the Bay IPA from Golden Road may be even better than last year's

Golden Road Brewing’s fan-favorite summertime IPA makes its return to taps and cans in May. The brewery offered a preview tasting of Heal the Bay at each of the Simmzy’s restaurants Wednesday night.

When the beer was introduced in 2013, Golden Road was experiencing some growing pains. Its founding brewmaster has just departed the brewery and new brewmaster Jesse Houck had been busy revitalizing the core Golden Road brands.

Heal the Bay was announced as a partnership benefiting the Santa Monica-based nonprofit of the same name, and as an avid diver Houck plunged into formulating his first all-new recipe for the Los Angeles brewery.

“I’d seen the damage of [water] pollution firsthand, degradation of the bay was noticeable. It was really easy for me to get behind [the project],” he said over pints of the glittering golden ale.

Houck is known for crafting IPAs with rich, hoppy aromas and bone-dry finishes, and with Heal the Bay he hit on a winning combination of hops sourced from America and New Zealand. The beer is crisp and dry with a soft bitterness that lingers just long enough to compel your next sip. American hops like Citra and El Dorado provide the punchy fruit aromas, while the antipodean Nelson hops bring an earthy depth.

Houck says it can be tough to re-create the exact flavor profile of the hop-centric brew from year to year. The hop crops vary considerably, and it takes careful recollection and a keen palate to match previous batches. “I think it tastes the same this year,” he says after a gulp of the IPA, and we agree — for the most part.

The sub-7% alcohol brew exhibited the same drinkability and fruit-salad bouquet of past years, but there was something else in the aroma and flavor (and particularly in the finish) that was difficult to describe. A complexity that underlined the brightness of the hops.

“It’s more dank this year,” opined Golden Road special events coordinator Lauren Greenwood, and she was right. The new batch had a touch of that earthy musk that hop-heads prize, but it was subtle and balanced with the other hop flavors.

Maybe it was the extreme freshness, maybe the hop crop, or maybe we all just misremembered the exact way that Heal the Bay tastes in the months since the last cans disappeared from shelves and the last taps went dry. Whatever the cause, this fresh batch of the lauded IPA may be even better this year.

When Heal the Bay was introduced it became a sensation and one of the first brews to earn praise from the always difficult to please beer geek set. Houck says he was excited about the beer as soon as he formulated it, but he “didn’t imagine it would be so well received.”

The cause is worthy, and the cans and packaging are certainly eye-catching (“every can reminds me of diving off Catalina,” he says), but it’s the liquid inside that has made the IPA a perfect match for hundreds of days of summer in L.A.

The brew is on tap now at Golden Road Brewing’s Atwater Village pub, and it will be everywhere in May. Check Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and even Costco for four-packs of cans, and the brew will be included in Golden Road's Summer IPA mix-pack (which also contains Point the Way IPA and Wolf Among Weeds double IPA).

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