Review: Sam Adams Rebel Juiced IPA

I’m growing attached to Beers and Cheers Too in Gaithersburg. It’s very convenient to my work and their rotating tap selection is pretty varied most of the time. I went ahead and got my growler filled here again on a Friday. This time, I went with a brewery that I’ve learned to lean on when I can’t decide what I want: Sam Adams. They’re not exceptional, generally, but they’re very reliable. I hadn’t had this IPA before and I was in the mood for something bright and fruity, so this seemed like a good match based on the taste that I tried.

I had a pint glass of this at home that same evening and, as usual, made another somewhat sloppy pour from the too-heavy growler, full of beer. This picture and review are of the second glass, poured a day later, and which still tasted perfectly fresh after being open for a day. There was a finger of fluffy head on day two. There’s some strong lacing and a little wisp of foam that’s slow to fade away.

It’s very aromatic, I don’t even need to put my nose right up to the glass; I get tons of big, juicy, citrusy hops without getting in close. But when I do put my nose down to the beer, I get plenty of the same. It’s not a simple one-note orange smell, but lots of tropical fruit and citrus and even some green notes. Not dank green, not sharp or bright, but a fresh and somewhat grassy green.

The first taste is orange with maybe a little mango or pineapple flavor to it. Again, not one-note orange, it’s fairly complex. It’s very refreshing up front with some well-balanced hoppiness that’s a hint dry, but not more than I like. I’m very into the wide range of tropical and citrus flavors at work in this beer. I would buy it again for sure, but it’s nothing terribly risky from Sam Adams as citrusy IPAs are really having their day right now. This is a gentler IPA for the crowd that isn’t into too high an IBU rating. Four out of five for me.

 

Review: Sam Adams Ginger Beer

This was brought to me by a thoughtful friend as a housewarming gift. He arrived, winter beer sampler pack in hand, and stay for an evening of board games and card games. We consumed several of those beers that night and I admit that I take absolutely no notes, so none of those got reviewed. Oops. This was one of the remainders from that night of revelry and so I pulled it out of its box in the fridge and gave it a taste.

All right. So. Real talk. This is called ginger beer. When I think of ginger beer, I think of a spicy-and-slightly-sweet soda beverage, kind of like Goslings in the ever-popular Dark and Stormy. This? This is not what this Sam Adams drink is.

This beer pours a rich, absolutely beautiful golden color, very clear. It has a fine wisp of a white head that leaves a little lacing. It has a nose like a light pilsner, I think, but with a little hint of a ginger zip to it.

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Up front, there’s some gentle ginger and spice with a kind of soft heat to it. It’s sort of malty and balanced. No hops to speak of and it’s only just slightly sweet. I’d call it crisp overall. It has some more Christmassy spice taste as it warms up, but the mouthfeel thins a little as the carbonation peters out.

It’s not at all what I expected from something calling itself “ginger beer.” To me, ginger beer is a wholly different animal. There’s nothing wrong with this beer, but I wanted something else from it. I expected more flavor and got a beer that is, quite honestly, a little bit bland. I would most definitely not buy this beer again. I would, however, opt in for some extra bird cuddle from a little friend who I’m bird sitting.

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Review: Goose Island Oktoberfest

If I had to pick one beer style to drink basically forever, I think I would have to go with Märzen. It’s generally a really well-balanced brew with some maltiness, but without being sweet and without being hoppy, either. One of my all-time favorite beers is Sam Adams Octoberfest; I used to buy a few cases of it in season and then store it for the spring and summer time to enjoy then.

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Goose Island Oktoberfest sounded like a beer that would suit my needs and wants! I’ve had the Goose Island IPA a thousand times at Capitals hockey games, but I couldn’t remember for certain if I’d had the Oktoberfest so I grabbed one from my local bottle shop and brought it home in a build-your-own-six-pack arrangement.

Poured from a bottle into a Perfect Pint Glass, this beer is a nice, strong, dark golden color. It has a decent off-white head that dissipates in a few minutes’ time.  It has a very bready nose, malty and sweet, very indicative of a classic Märzen.

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It is, as this style should be, balanced in flavor. It has a slightly sweet finish with maybe a hint of apricot or orange. It has, I would say, moderate carbonation and a good mouthfeel. It’s very mild on the hops front, really more malt-forward, but not sweet, really. I drank this while eating some spicy chicken fajitas that I’d made and the beer held up just fine against those – maybe fajitas aren’t traditional Octoberfest fare, but pretty tasty none the less.

Review: Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA

This Union Jack IPA is described as a double dry hopped India pale ale and let me tell you, it is pretty aggressive! I wouldn’t call it a palate destroyer exactly, but it has punch to it.

If I’m remembering my early beer drinking days correctly (and they involved plenty of beer, so maybe I’m not, to be fair), this IPA by California brewery Firestone Walker might have been one of my first IPA experiences. At that time, I was still pretty new to beer in general and tended to prefer roasty, dark stouts so an IPA was a pretty big long shot. I would bet that I didn’t like it very much. It’s no wonder it might have scared me off of the style, considering its big, bold hops flavors.

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I decided to give it another go now that I’m older, wiser, and very much into IPAs. I poured this from a bottle into a Sam Adams Perfect Pint Glass. This is one of my favorite ways to enjoy a beer! These glasses have a laser-etched bottom inside, which generates activation sites for the CO2 bubbles in beer to form up. These bubbles are part of what delivers the flavors of beer to us, as well as what creates the experience of carbonation. Sadly, I did not get these glasses in the divorce. Dang!

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This beer poured a rich golden yellow with a significant head that stays for days. There’s a very green, grassy nose that’s hoppy as well. It’s maybe even a little bit bready, too. The taste is all hops! Hops, hops, hops! It never got too dry, though, and there was maybe just a hint of citrus on the back end. It’s odd, but I’d even say that this beer gets a little sweeter as it warms up. Very strong hops flavor, but a very drinkable beer to be sure.

Craft Beer Beginnings

Beer as a part of pop culture is nothing new. It’s been deeply tied to sports culture for decades and plays a big role in poker nights and movie nights everywhere. The idea of a cold brew paired with some kind of entertainment is etched deeply into our American brains.

Frat parties and beer chugging didn’t originate with the 1978 movie Animal House, but the parody of Greek culture popularized the idea of wearing a bedsheets toga while shotgunning a beer. Cheers let us know that there’s somewhere where everybody knows your name and where you can get a cold brew. Budweiser dropped memorable commercials full of clydesdales and people shouting waaaazzzzup at one another during big events like the Super Bowl.

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The thing is, most of these examples come from an era before the craft beer movement was even a twinkle in most brewers’ eyes. Generally, frat parties, Super Bowl parties, and neighborhood watering holes have featured – and continue to feature – sub-par swill from the biggest brewers and distributors in the world. These watery, additive-filled beers are best served icy cold (so you can’t taste them) and drunk quickly (so they don’t get warm, so you can’t taste them) while paying attention to something else.

But there’s been a shift in the past 20 years, and an even more rapid progression toward craft brewing and wide distribution in then past 10. It was only in 1982 that Hilton Harvest House in Boulder, Colorado, hosted a mere 20 breweries (serving only 35 beers) for the first Great American Beer Festival. Today, the annual event features more than 2,000 beers. I’d call that a turning point in the trends of what really mattered to beer drinkers.

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The Boston Beer Company was founded in 1984 and, better known as Sam Adams, it revolutionized the kind and quality of beer that was being made readily available to drinkers in the U.S. While it is now debatably too big to be called a “craft brewery” any longer, it was undeniably a huge influence on the movement as we know it. Love it or hate it, the Boston Beer Company shaped the way we drink today.

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Photo from phillymag.com

The United States is now home to over 4,000 breweries and that number is growing every month. Not all will survive. Business is booming for craft beer, sure, but it’s not sure thing. Remember: closings are a sign of competition and not necessarily a problem or a brewing “bubble” that might soon pop. Competition is good. It’s healthy. It pushes those businesses that do survive to be better, smarter, and more dedicated to their craft.

Still, let us raise a glass to fallen friends (and fallen breweries) and hope that we can all be as hard-working and successful as those who continue to thrive.