Beer Review 0598: Samuel Adams Rebel IPA

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The Boston Beer Company decided to add a new beer to their year-round lineup for 2014, and it’s a popular take on the India Pale Ale: they’re doing it “West Coast-style,” using hops popular in many IPAs that come from the left coast.

Founded in 1984 by Jim Koch, Boston Beer Company are the makers of the Samuel Adams brand, named for the American patriot famous for his role in the Boston Tea Party and American Revolution. Koch, a graduate of Harvard University, was connected to the brewing world by his great-great-great grandfather Louis Koch, who was a brewer. Jim became the first in his family to follow in the brewing footsteps of Louis; Boston Lager, Samuel Adams flagship brand (84 points) was an original Louis Koch recipe and was once called “Louis Koch Lager.”

Rebel IPA has slick marketing copy behind it. We’ll avoid all the glitter and just tell you the basics about the brew: it uses Cascade, Simcoe, Chinook, Centennial, and Amarillo hops, comes in at 6.5% ABV (alcohol by volume), and hits 45 IBUs (International Bitterness Units).

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The pour made a small, soapy head that diminished quickly. Color of the beer was golden with darker hints of copper out of light. The body was perfectly clear, filled with zooming carbonation bubbles; there were no particles or sediment, and lacing was excellent, leaving trails of suds as I sampled.

The aroma features a moderate dosage of hops — not a hop bomb like you might be expecting. There’s lots of grapefruit and spicy citrus, especially orange peel and lemon, and there’s definitely some pine. The malt backing is toasted bread with just a touch of caramel sweetness. It doesn’t gain in complexity as it warms; if anything, only the spicy citrus notes ramp up just a touch. Overall, I was expecting more hop aroma, especially for the five varieties this beer employs…

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As for the taste, well… let’s just say this isn’t a “West Coast-style” IPA. There’s spicy grapefruit up front that is quickly overtaken by a dominant lemon peel — the lemon becomes steady and coupled with the bitterness, turns to furniture polish. The malts are light and mostly toasted, with only a bit of caramel and residual sweetness. The finish comes on strong, providing lots of bitterness, but not in a good way. Rebel IPA may only say 45 IBU, but they’re packing tons of medicinal, salty, sharp bitterness in, which would be fine…IF THERE WERE SOME HOP FLAVORS TO GO ALONG WITH IT! There’s not — just spicy citrus and some dry, soapy grapefruit. Sigh. This beer is medium-bodied, with a thin, foamy texture.

I would really hate for an inexperienced drinker to get one of these bottles and this be his or her first introduction to a “West Coast-style” IPA. This is just another American IPA, and not even a very good one, at that. To me, Rebel IPA tastes like it has the bittering down solid, but they must have forgotten the aroma/flavor hops. Not to mention…dry hops. And those two things are two of the defining aspects of “West Coast-style” IPA, late addition hops and dryhopping. I’ve had IPAs that hit double the IBUs found here yet still taste sweeter.

It’s not a bad beer, by any means, but don’t expect a West Coast IPA.

Samuel Adams Rebel IPA, 76 points. Price: $1.79 US for one 12 oz. bottle.

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