You Tore Your Dress: Samuel Adams Rebel IPA Series

Craft beer has exploded in America, but you already knew this. It’s not unlike the 1990s and coffee, when Starbucks exploded and you couldn’t swing a cat without hitting someone drinking a cappuccino or an artificially-flavored coffee (one does not grow hazelnut coffee beans). The big macho man complaint was about how you could not find a cup of coffee-flavored coffee. Well, now the man-flavored men are complaining that you cannot just get a beer anymore. It has to be a pale ale, or IPA, or infused with grapefruit. Hell, Budweiser ran an ad during the Super Bowl about how it makes real beer for real beer drinkers, not that flavored crap that girls and sissy boys drink. Never mind that it had just closed escrow on the excellent Elysian Brewing Company from Seattle which, among its lineup, brews a jasmine IPA and a blood orange pale ale

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With the explosion of craft beer has been the issue of what to do with Samuel Adams and the Boston Beer Company. Jim Koch, its chairman and founder, truly blazed a trail in this arena, promising more than just 12 oz. of swill in a bottle. Koch understood that beer in a dark bottle stood up better in a well-lit grocery store. He made the effort to source higher quality ingredients. He knew that beer should have body and weight, and could be savored just a like a wine. And, he did it at a time when no one else was on a large scale. Sure, Sierra Nevada has been brewing since 1979 and Anchor Brewing before that. Yes, there were quality smaller brewers all over the place. But, no one was doing it on as large of a scale.

Of course, The Boston Beer Company has found itself on the outs with the movement it created. It’s the fifth-largest brewer in the United States and the top craft brewer in the country. Because of its volume, the question has been raised as to whether Samuel Adams can claim its craft title. I’ll admit that I find fault with a lot of its beers — Old Fezziwig was not very good and the summer seasonals need an overhaul — but they do a lot of things well. Sam Adams Light is an excellent attempt to bring in the light beer crowd, the Latitude 48 series (particularly the single-hop varieties) was a standout, and the Octoberfest has been a transformative beer for fall seasonals.

2015-02-11 at 18-02-13 (1)And, though I was prepared to dislike it, I have found myself surprised by the Rebels, Sam Adams version of the west coast India pale ale. West coast IPAs derive much of their flavors from the myriad of hops used in their production, whereas those from the east utilize more malt in the brewing process. The original Rebel, released in 2014, used five hops, including Amarillo, Simcoe and Cascade, to create a 45 IBU/6.5% ABV beer. The Rebel is your basic hoppy IPA from smell to taste. Pine, grapefruit and orange, with a warming bitterness. If put up against other beers in its class — Lagunitas IPA, Sierra’s Torpedo, Stone IPA — it would fit right in though I’m not sure you could tell it apart from the others.

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New for 2015 are the Rebel Rouser and the Rebel Rider. The first is a double IPA that uses seven hops. I’m not sure why you need seven types of hops, but there you go. Anyhow, Bravo and Galaxy hops are introduced here, creating a heavier bitterness and more intense hop profile. It also packs an 8.5% ABV and nearly doubles the IBUs to 85. One would expect it to be scorchingly bitter, but its quite deceptive for that high of a rating. It also brings along something I was not expecting: a creamy mouthfeel. Very confusing, but enjoyable.

2015-02-12 at 18-22-46Session IPAs are the new hotness (see also Stone’s Go To IPA and the world-class Founders All Day IPA), and that’s where the Rebel Rider comes in. The bottle says 4.5% ABV and 45 IBUs, but there is a subtlety here that makes me question the latter. As for flavor, it tastes more like a pale ale but with a sharpness rather than the bitter hops. It was enjoyable and inoffensive, but felt a little more like a diluted beer than a session.

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I think that I have fallen into a trap as a beer enthusiast/drinker/consumer/glutton. I see a Samuel Adams label, think “That’s not going to be any good,” and buy a competing beer within the same exact category. It’s why I resisted the Rebel all along. It’s the same closed-mindedness that causes beer snobs to shun The Boston Beer Company as a craft brewer because of its success. It turns out that, as consumers, we’re just wrong.

NOTE I: The Boston Beer Company provided samples of its beers for this review. No other compensation was received for this review, nor were any animals harmed during the tasting process.

NOTE II: For the sake of consistency, I tasted all three of these beers in my Jim Koch designed, specially engineered Samuel Adams beer glass that makes all beers taste better, or so I have been told.

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2015-02-11 at 18-02-33Brewer: Samuel Adams
Beer: IPA-West Coast
Style: IPA/Fruit beer
ABV: 6.5%   IBU: 45
Container: 12 oz. bottle
Price: n/a   Point of Purchase: Sample provided by brewery
To The Eye: Golden to amber with a frothy head. Good carbonation moving from the bottom of the glass.
To The Nose: Typical IPA smells of pine and citrus. I caught a lot of grapefruit here.
To The Palate: Clean and citrusy. Good hop profile with an average bitter bite. 
Aftertaste: I got a lot of pine in the aftertaste.
Boozy Factor: Warming. The 6.5% is there and lets you know all about itself.
On a Scale of 1 to 10, with 10 as highest: 7.5

 

2015-02-12 at 17-56-43Brewer: Samuel Adams
Beer: Rebel Rouser
Style: Double IPA
ABV: 6.5%   IBU: 45
Container: 12 oz. bottle
Price: n/a   Point of Purchase: Sample provided by brewery
To The Eye: Amber and cloudy. Soft fluffy foam.
To The Nose: Heavy pine smell.
To The Palate: There’s a heavy bitterness up front from the hops, though full drink doesn’t feel like a high IBU beer. Creamier mouthfeel than you might expect from an IPA.
Aftertaste: Dry and malty.
Boozy Factor: Big time. Very warming and smacks you in the jaw.
On a Scale of 1 to 10, with 10 as highest: 8

 

2015-02-12 at 18-23-36Brewer: Samuel Adams
Beer: Rebel Rider
Style: Session IPA
ABV: 6.0%   IBU: 40
Container: 12 oz. bottle
Price: n/a   Point of Purchase: Sample provided by brewery
To The Eye: Golden and clear. Quickly diminishing foam.
To The Nose: Faint citrus smell. I picked up some malt.
To The Palate: It was more like a diluted pale ale. Very light-bodied. Almost like it has no presence. Others have found a way to bring the hops and reduce the alcohol without being so thin.
Aftertaste: A faint bitterness that fades quickly.
Boozy Factor: Hardly present.
On a Scale of 1 to 10, with 10 as highest: 7

4 Comments

  • Jim Walter says:

    Jim Koch is one of the most fascinating people in the beer business. His company funds start up breweries with a rising tide philosophy, and he seems very bitter (rightly so) about the way the craft movement has started to turn their backs on him. The traditional Boston Lager will always be his baby, and they are a little late to the IPA game, but I’m glad these are quality beers. Thanks for the good review.

  • Ryan says:

    I’m sorry, but these “IPA”s are a joke. At the best they are intense session IPAs, but they still don’t have nearly the flavor nor the punch that accompanies a true beer of this classification. Particularly when compared with the likes of what breweries such as Stone produce, there is just no comparison.

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