left coast is the best coast

17 Mar
not particularly rebellious…pretty tame, really

not particularly rebellious…pretty tame, really

There are so many new beers showing up that it’s damn near impossible to keep up anymore.  Truth is, I rarely grab the new stuff if it’s from a brewery I know to be average.  Just not worth the time, really.  But this time?  This time, Samuel Adams drew me in.  Truth is, this is a big company.  In 2011 the Brewers Association changed their bylaws to allow breweries that produce up to 6 million barrels a year to still be defined as “craft breweries”.  I guess this was good and bad, as Boston Beer Company has been a leader in getting craft beer out to the masses, but it’s also the only company that stood to gain from the increase from 2 million barrels to 6 million, as there were financial incentives that they stood to gain from the change.  It has been argued to death all over the web and in pubs across the country and I’m not here to re-litigate the issue.  What is interesting is that this giant of the beer industry is making a play for a very specific (and currently hot) portion of the market: IPAs.

Samuel Adams has done some IPA making in the past, but this Rebel West Coast IPA is a new venture for them. Branded as it is, as a West Coast-style IPA, it carries with it a certain weight of expectation.  With their sheer size, resources and distribution power, Boston Beer Company is looking to take some market share from someone…maybe trying to grab a slice off of local markets in far flung locales?  More important to me, though, was how did the beer taste?  And the honest truth is?  It tastes like a Samuel Adams beer.  Has the same malt profile and yeast flavors I have come to expect from the brand.  Difference is, it’s got some generous hop additions done on the back end, so you get some of the juiciness and pungent hop nose many are after.  But beyond a nice color and smell, the beer is really pretty pedestrian.  And in most cases, that’s going to be fine.  The masses are going to find this beer really appealing.  It’s hoppy, after all.  For some that seems to be enough.  For me? It has all the hops in the nose and initial flavors, but without the body and malt to balance it out.  This is not really a true representation of a West Coast IPA.  It’s a thinner, sharper version of much better beers that can be found locally.

It will be really interesting to see if Rebel catches hold.  There will be large portions of the country that will love this beer, because it will be easy to find and scratch that IPA itch that so many have.  Here?  Not so sure it will dominate when breweries like Ninkasi, Ft. George, Boneyard, and 10 Barrel are dropping quality IPAs in pubs (Boneyard does draft accounts only), bottle shops, and grocery stores all over Oregon.  I’m not recommending this beer, unless you want to see what Boston Beer Company thinks about inserting itself into some pretty heady waters.  If you have tried it, I would love to hear what you think.

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