FOR A BREWERY to name a beer simply ‘IPA’ is direct and sensible if rather uninspired. To prefix it with ‘West Coast’, though, is a move of great audacity, staking claim to an entire time zone of flavors and a sub-style as famed as any America has produced. Such brio comes naturally to San Diego’s Green Flash, whose ales rank among the most powerfully bittered on the planet. Weighing in at 95 IBUs, their West Coast IPA isn’t even on the podium of their hoppiest brews.
Most beers this aggressive tend to be double IPAs, featuring enough extra malts and alcohol to (begin to) balance out skyscraping alpha acids. Not so here. Though no weakling at 7.3% ABV and with a solidly medium body, West Coast’s focus is overwhelmingly on hops. Virtually every iconic West Coast aroma—pine, cattiness, grapefruit, and resin—combine in a potent perfume of Simcoe and ‘C’ hops (Columbus, Cascade, Centennial) that is all kinds of assertive. The beer’s flavors are somewhat less layered, though, focusing mostly on the aggressive leafy tang of Columbus that clings immediately to the back of the palate and stays there. Carbonation levels are solid throughout the early stages before submitting to bitterness of the finish, which slay all comers. No surprise there.
The beer’s color is a strong amber and its body medium (estimated around 3.5 Plato), though it shows relatively little of crystal malts and even less of its base. This disconnect can actually be harsh at lower temperatures; the beer needs a little warmth to draw out its sweetness—part caramel, part orange—and soften its bite. This also allows some of the 7.3% ABV and nuances of golden toast to emerge from underneath the hop aroma. Yet this optimal window is rather narrow and with a bit more warmth the beer begins to roughen up again.
“Extravagantly hopped”, Green Flash says of West Coast, and it’s true. Perhaps a touch too much. Magnificently redolent and utterly unchained, it’s an inspiring celebration of frontier ingredients. But its revelry is raucous. Green Flash and Pipeworks must get along well.
Served: 12 oz bottle best by 3/4/14