Last week I reviewed a light, delicate beer perfect for a summer day — the Troegs Sunshine Pils. This week I’ll be shifting gears a bit by reviewing a veritable hop bomb, Green Flash Brewing Co.’s West Coast IPA.
The India pale ale style originated in England in the mid-1800s. The famed brewing waters of villages like Burton upon Trent contained large amounts of minerals, which served to bring forth and accentuate the flavor of the hops. It’s interesting to note that to this day, many brewers of IPAs intentionally add gypsum and other minerals to their brewing water in an attempt to achieve that extra hop “punch.” I’ll touch more on the wonderful early history of the IPA style in later musings, but in case you’re interested, I recommend Stone Brewing Co. brewmaster Mitch Steele’s recent book on the topic (creatively titled “IPA”).
IPAs were originally aged in large wooden barrels for many months, resulting in a pale and mellow beer, far different from what we call an IPA today. American IPA has become a style unto itself, and in many ways it is becoming one of the defining modern American beer styles. Go to a bar with more than a couple beers on tap, and I bet you’ll find an American IPA.
In the American version of India pale ale, the dominating flavors come from the huge amounts of hops used, typically highly aromatic American varieties grown in the Pacific Northwest. The hops really take center stage in these ales. Breweries on the West Coast of the U.S. are especially known for taking this to a new level, using insane amounts of hops in their IPAs. Green Flash’s aptly named West Coast IPA is a shining example.
Green Flash Brewing Co., located in the hills of sunny San Diego, was founded in 2002 by former pub owners Mike and Lisa Hinkley. The name of the brewery comes from an awesome optical phenomenon that appears very briefly during sunsets over the ocean (Google “green flash” —it’s pretty cool). The West Coast IPA is Green Flash’s flagship offering. At $12 per four-pack, it’s not hard to see that they think pretty highly of this beer — but rightly so! Let me explain.
I uncapped a bottle and was immediately hit with strong hop aromas. As I poured the beer into a glass, I could smell the hops from across the room — they definitely dominate the aroma. The beer pours a cloudy red-tinged amber. Somewhat surprisingly, hop flavor doesn’t dominate the taste of the beer as much as would be expected from the powerful nose. There is a noticeable sweet malt character mixed with wild and eclectic hop flavors. This beer is very bitter and full-bodied. It is certainly not a beer to play flip cup with, especially at 7.3 percent ABV.
This is the kind of beer to enjoy over a long period, allowing it to warm slowly to room temperature. It’s amazing the way the flavors evolve as it warms. The hops really open up, and the nuanced flavors of the beer really start to come forth. One sip of this beer certainly goes a long way — I could still taste it five minutes after drinking it.
This beer is awesome. It’s a fabulous example of a hop-heavy, well-brewed American IPA. Whether you are an unapologetic hophead or are simply in an adventurous mood, grab a West Coast IPA. This beer is definitely a flavorful adventure that brings mirth and merriment to the palate in a hundred different ways.