Well folks here it is: yet another new beer from Boston Beer Company: Samuel Adams Rebel IPA, a West Coast style IPA, really even modeled after the San Diego-style IPA that is becoming increasingly popular. Of course, Samuel Adams already has an IPA, several in fact. Their flagship IPA has been Samuel Adams Latitude 48 IPA, an English-style IPA that uses multiple hop varieties. Recently, it was changed up a bit with the addition of Mosaic hops. If you were lucky enough to pick up the Latitude 48 Deconstructed 12-pack as I did a few years ago, you got to taste a further 5 different Latitude 48 IPAs, each made solely with one of the 5 hop varities that were used in the beer at the time.
Times change, though, and tastes change. Today’s beer consumers are gravitating towards newer, “San Diego” style IPAs that are less malty, more sharply hoppy in aroma, with notes of tropical fruit and a big bitterness in the finish. So, we now have Samuel Adams Rebel IPA in that frame of mind. With Rebel IPA, Boston Beer is going after different market than brewers like Green Flash and Ballast Point, but more on that later.
Boston Beer says of Samuel Adams Rebel IPA:
Introducing Rebel IPA, the first all-American hops, West Coast style IPA from the same brewers that started a craft beer revolution in 1984.
Rebel IPA has an alcohol content of 6.5% by volume and IBU count of 45. The beer was just released on draft this January; it will be sold in bottles as well next month. My local Taco Mac got a keg in this week and so I raced on down to try it before it was gone. On tap, it features and interesting looking tap handle that looks like a spray can. I paid $5.50 for a 20-ounce mug. Ingredients from the website:
American Cascade, Simcoe®, Chinook, Centennial, and Amarillo
Samuel Adams two-row pale malt blend, Caramel 60
Samuel Adams Ale Yeast
My draft mug of Samuel Adams Rebel IPA arrived a bright orange in color with a thick vivacious head of rocky foam and alluring tropical fruit aromas in the nose. There’s a hint of resin there to boot. Sipping, a medium caramel maltiness up front quickly yields to the fruity (passion fruit, pineapple, citrus), resiny hop aromatics and favors and then into a lingering dry bitterness. The hops are sharp and cut through the malt wonderfully, with lots and lots of hop aroma washing over the palate (as the beer warms an herbal grassiness emerges in the finish, as well).
This is a solid San Diego IPA, though nowhere near as bitter as say, a Green Flash West Coast IPA or a Ballast Point Big Eye IPA. If you try to compare those beers to Rebel IPA, you will see the difference, and of course most beer geeks are going to prefer the Green Flash and Ballast Point and slam the Samuel Adams Rebel IPA.
Thankfully, Samuel Adams doesn’t make its beer for beer geeks. Sure, lots of beer geeks drink Samuel Adams beers, but the company’s target audience is the everyday craft beer drinker, the guy or gal perhaps just getting into trying different styles of beer. Watch the ads for this beer on the Samuel Adams website and you will see who they are going after. Give a newcomer a Green Flash and you might scare them off; Rebel IPA will east them up a notch in hoppiness from say, Latitude 48 IPA. Then too, you’ll pay $7.99 to $8.99 for six bottles of Samuel Adams Rebel IPA, while Green Flash costs $9.99 for a 4-pack in these parts.
It’s become the in thing these days for beer geeks to slam Samuel Adams, but I’ll have no part of that. Should they have wanted to, Boston Beer could easily have made a beer as hoppy as Green Flash does. Anyone fortunate enough to have tried their Longshot Double IPA could tell you that. One last time, though, they brewed exactly what they wanted to.
Don’t fail to give Samuel Adams Rebel IPA a try. You will enjoy it for sure.
Update 2/9/2017: Hey Boston Beer, why did you have to go messing with my Samuel Adams Rebel IPA? See, I loved this beer when it was first released, even if a lot of beer geeks didn't. Problem, you see, was the resiny pine and citrus notes Rebel IPA featured, which the modern beer nerd crowd eschews for the new fangled fruit loopy hop varieties like Mosaic. Did I just mention Mosaics? I did. They've been added to the reformulated Rebel IPA to make to more pleasing to the beer geek crowd. Here's the new hop lineup from Boston Beer's website:
HBC 566, HBC 682, Mosaic, Cascade, Simcoe, Centennial, Chinook
Subtract Amarillos, add a few more hop varieties, and perhaps change up the proportions and you get a different beer, one that I will admit I like less than the original. But that's me, I've been drinking craft beer since 1982 and was an avid fan right through the American IPA craze of the 90s. I prefer those beers to today's IPAs, so I'm biased. That's not even considering the fact the beer had malt. Beer should have malt. It's the heart and soul of beer, and hops are merely a seasoning.
Boston Beer says about the new Rebel IPA:
When we first brewed Rebel IPA in our nano brewery in 2014, we wanted to do something that went a little bit against the grain by brewing a West Coast style IPA that wasn’t just about bitterness, but had balance and paid homage to the aromatics and flavors of some of our favorite West Coast hops. We loved Rebel IPA, but our brewers challenged themselves to make it even better.
...As part of this project, we collaborated with a hop breeder in Yakima Valley, WA to create a new hop variety that is proprietary and exclusive to us called HBC 566.
Paying homage to the original recipe, Rebel IPA is brewed with a few of the original hop varieties including Cascade, Centennial, Simcoe® and Chinook – with the addition of Mosaic hops, HBC 566, and HBC 682, a new, experimental bittering hop. Rebel IPA now has a more intense juicy, tropical and citrus flavor supported by a leaner body and a crisp, clean finish to optimize the hop character. To dial up the hop impression, the newly reborn Rebel IPA removed caramel malt from the grain bill and now is brewed only with Samuel Adams special two-row malt blend.
And there you go. They removed caramel malt from the recipe too. It's all downhill from here, and what we're left with is closer to the modern thin malty, namby pamby fruit loopy IPAs popular with the modern beer geek crowd. Boston Beer sent me a bottle of the newly formulated Rebel IPA for review purposes, and I found it much more tropical fruity, far less resiny, and thinner in body. If that's what you like, you should try this beer again. As for me? Rebel IPA will no longer be the staple it once was, and I've knocked off a full star in my rating system. Would I buy it again? I might, but I am very disappointed in the transformation of a great, classic American IPA into just another modern thin malty, fruit loopy one.
And remember, try a new beer today, and drink outside the box.
*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.