The Lost Abbey does not come to mind when I think of San Diego breweries crafting IPAs. It doesn't come to mind at all, actually. The Lost Abbey is known for Belgian-style beers, corked and caged in imposing 750 ml bottles. It's time to change my thinking. The Lost Abbey's draft-only Holiday release, Merry Taj, is a serious IPA.
The burnt orange, near opaque beer is pure West Coast IPA. I didn't taste any Belgian spices, Belgian yeast, or any other Belgian influences. Merry Taj is a piney, bitter, full-bodied IPA. It has some spice zip, but not the dominating spices so common in Holiday beers. This is a meaty, complex beer. It has a malt sweetness, but hop bitterness commands the beer. Merry Taj is listed as an IPA but drinks bigger, and with an 8% abv it sits on the border between an IPA and a double IPA. This beer is a sipper not a pounder. Merry Taj is worth seeking out while it's still available.
(Two hat tips on this beer or I would not have known about it. I first heard about Merry Taj before Thanksgiving on FM 94.9's Friday night Rock & Roll Happy Hour, the radio station's weekly profile of local breweries. Second, Merry Taj made Brandon Hernandez's 2013 list of best new beers.)