Monday, July 18, 2011

Green Flash Imperial India Pale Ale - Review

My favorite types of beers to drink right now are imperial IPA's, a style which San Diego does best.  San Diegoans are as proud of their hop-dominant beers as they are of their local brewery and perfecter of the style, Green Flash Brewing.  You have to love the fact that Green Flash makes a beer called West Coast IPA that is perhaps the most ruggedly hopped herbaceous beer on the planet.  It took me a while to work up a taste for it, and now I enjoy it when I'm in the mood for a punch-me-in-the-face hop attack.  I had heard rumors about Green Flash's imperial IPA but had never been able to try it until a month or so ago, and the other day was the first time I tried it on a clean palate.  How would it stack up?

I was in the perfect setting to taste it.  As if the beer brought the San Diego climate with it plus ten extra degrees, I was sitting outdoors at Sheffield's Pub in their beer garden on a hot, sunny afternoon, ideal outdoor IPA drinking weather.  It arrived in a standard pint glass; it's kind of refreshing to receive an IPA in one of those as opposed to the tulip glass, which has become the standard serving vessel for imperial IPA's at bars.  I get why they do this, but when you have just finished playing football with your buddies and want a brew, the tulip glass just takes something away from the effect of sitting around drinking with footballers.  Know what I mean?

That aside, the Green Flash Imperial looked gorgeous, a cloudy orange, announcing its unfiltered status.  It boasted a tremendous head and left a spackling of lacing on the glass as I made it disappear.  The West Coast just does IPA's better because they all smell so wonderful from there.  Green Flash's imperial entry smelled of tangy citrus fruits, clementines and grapefruit, and also desert flowers; the aroma was bursting out.  It tasted of delicious sticky hops, grapefruit and citrus flavors, and contained a hint of pine and a grassiness, like a Sauvignon Blanc.

Most impressive was beer's buoyancy. It felt rather light, which was important given the hot, humid weather, and although the malts tamed the massive hop presence, they did not add substantial density.  The magic of San Diego IPA's is their ability to stay lean, even at an imperial level.  Port's beers do this.  Same with Stone.  But neither of them makes a beer this feathery. I had two of the Green Flash and enjoyed the second one just as much as the first, although the air temperature cut down on my enjoyment of the last third of it just a tad.  The first few sips of this in each serving were practically magical.  But it warmed up a bit too quickly and my glass sweat substantially due to the intense outdoor heat.  It is a testament to the quality of this beer that it sparred with the July hear in Chicago yet held its ground and remained wickedly enjoyable. 

As an overall brew, I'd rate Green Flash's Imperial dandy just a hair behind its California cousins, Pliny the Elder and Coronado Idiot, having never tried Pliny the Younger.  Green Flash's Imperial falls into the IPA grouping which includes the more tropical IPAs like Pliny, Idiot, Deschutes Hop Henge, Dreadnaught, Port's Wipeout and Mongo IPA's, and, I imagine, Pliny the Younger.  Stone, Green Flash West Coast, and Bear Republic Racer 5 tend to have more pine and herb dominated IPA's.  I'm also dying to try a full glass of a beer I sampled to positive effect, greater San Diego's Ballast Point Sculpin IPA that gets rave reviews, so if anyone wants to make a trade, let me know. 

Green Flash Imperial IPA is a stunning and quintessential example of the West Coast style of IPA brewing and an absolute treat, simply divine. This guy did an intriguing write-up about it.  I will be hard-pressed to pass this up in the future. This has opened the door to my seeking out other Green Flash beers.

4.5 of 5 stars.

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