Do you remember when India Pale Ales (IPAs) weren’t confused for juice? Do you remember when they actually had at least an ounce of bitterness? What about when they were not all hazy and distorted as to be confused with dirty dishwasher. Do you remember those days? Well, as much as I enjoy a fruity New England haze bomb of an IPA every now and then, it’s nice to be reminded of the classic American IPA. I was recently fortunate enough to try both Go West! IPA and Liberty Ale from Anchor Brewing out of San Francisco. This took me down memory lane to what IPAs tasted like when I first got into the world of craft beer years ago. So with two IPAs from Anchor at hand, I decided to do a beer battle and see which brew came out on top.
We’ve all heard the cliche “never judge a book by its cover,” but in beer it is an acceptable category to judge. Go West! poured a clear golden hue with respectable off-white head. In contrast, Liberty was a bit darker, but only slightly. Liberty poured somewhere between a deep gold and very light amber, but was still clear. As with Go West!, Liberty also had a nice off-white, pillow-y head. So far, the edge goes to Go West! with a score of 4/5 while Liberty receives a 3.5/5.
As far as aroma is concerned, I was more impressed by Go West! due to its more complex character. Go West! was dry hopped with 4 hops: Citra, Equinox, Caypso, and Eureka! I am a sucker for Eureka!, with its huge herbaceous character, also imparting subtle notes of mint and tropical fruits. Liberty, however, is a single hop beer brewed exclusively with Cascade hops, which are an excellent tool for bittering and can add some citrus and floral notes. In the aroma category, again, I give the edge to Go West! with 4.25/5 while Liberty again takes a 3.5/5.
Even with distinct hop profiles, both screamed West Coast IPA to me. Go West! had a citrus profile and packed a punch loaded with pine, resin, and herbal goodness. Liberty was much more straightforward. Liberty had that classic grapefruit rind character, was dank, and was nice and bitter. Both had the classic 2-row pale malt to add a little sweetness and a little balance to these bitter brews. Although I enjoyed it, I felt like Go West! didn’t live up to its nose and so it receives a 3.5/5, whereas I felt Liberty gave everything it promised and thus earns a 3.75/5.
As far as body/mouthfeel goes, it’s a wash for me. It’s not the most important category for me so I don’t have much to say other than both had fair carbonation and were medium light. I’d put both at a 3.5/5.
Although Go West! started to dominate the early categories, this edition of Battle Beers went right down to the wire with Go West! barely overcoming Liberty with a ranking of 3.63 compared to 3.56.
Overall, it was a nice change of pace to try some classic West Coast IPAs oozing with hops, resin, and bitterness while the rest of the world is obsessing over and adding to the New England juice bomb trend. Although Anchor Brewing out of San Francisco may not have any highly sought after whales, they are a brewery dedicated to history and tradition, which is evident in both Go West! IPA and Liberty Ale. Cheers!
Ryan Moyer is a graduate of Indiana University.
Go West! contains 6.7% alcohol by volume (ABV). Liberty Ale is 5.9% ABV.