1. Old Dominion Pale Ale
The fortunate thing for beer drinkers (and perhaps unfortunate thing for brewers) is that in this world of extreme beer brewing and innovative craft brewing, sometimes basic beer styles are overlooked but when they ARE looked at, standards are expected. I reviewed Old Dominion's Oak Barrel Stout a couple weeks ago, obviously a somewhat unique style. Now comes their Pale Ale. When it comes to a pale ale these days, people want quality. And I'm people. I definitely appreciate sticking to a standard style, like a basic Pale Ale, IPA, porter or stout. A beer like a pale ale all depends on the hops used - in this case, Cascade and Colombus hops were used in addition to a type of hop that I don't think I've ever had: Nelson-Sauvin hops, from New Zealand. The combination brings mostly a pine-like hop taste, which is pretty darn pleasant. Between the stout and this, I would definitely give this brewery a shot for those brews or any others if I saw it on tap or at the store.
Overall Rating: B+
2. Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA
Speaking of hops...let's bring on some west coast hop mentality. Drinking out of a 22 oz bomber (but I poured it into a glass, don't worry), this IPA was delicious. This one has a 4 hop combo: Chinook, Cascade, Columbus and Centennial. So they could have called it the C4 IPA but whatever, I guess they have a racing theme going on with their brewery. Anyway, this beer is fantastic. When it comes to IPAs, I'm looking for some really bold hop flavor AND combination. Some beers that I've had do have strong hop flavor but the combination of hops falls short. These Cali brewers found a great combination and this IPA is really one of my favorites, though in the IPA category, I do have a lot of favorites. I would love to see some more Bear Republic brews make their way to the east coast. Even though they mostly stick to traditional styles, if anything follows suit of this IPA, I'm game.
Overall Rating: A-