IMPERIAL IPAs are known to stake their claim to grandeur: Hoptimum, Dreadnaught, Hop Stoopid, Ruination, Hopslam, Rampant…the list goes on. Few, though, have thrown down the gauntlet as bluntly as Green Flash does with the name Palate Wrecker. The glossal equivalent of the Tsar Bomba, this beer is 9.5% ABV, 100+ IBU (How much of a plus? Does it matter?), and hopped with a whopping six pounds per barrel. Its color, like most of Green Flash’s imperial pale ales, is a dense but clear amber approaching bronze when the glass is full—perhaps 10 SRM, with a reasonably strong pale head and decent retention. But no one is drinking Palate Wrecker for the wraparounds—the liquid here is really all that matters.
True to its name, this beer has a serious hop density, saturated from front to back with resin, florals, citrus, and a bit of spice—probably drawing heavily from the usual ‘C’ suspects (Centennial, Columbus, etc.). Yet it actually doesn’t have as much pure hop leaf aroma as expected, instead blooming with a concentrated fruit mélange almost akin to a crushed packet of Smarties—lemon, orange, grapefruit, and further tropical tones all mixed in together in one package. Once on the palate some other qualities come forward—spice and pine, most notably—though considerable sweetness lingers throughout thanks to dense dollops of caramel in the medium body. The persistence of that malt presence in the face of such hopping rates likely stems from the ‘double’ brewing method, whereby a portion of boiled wort is used for sparging the mash, thus introducing kettle-caramelization (and hops) to the mix very early and emphasizing a unique density that crystal grains and single infusions can’t precisely replicate. This approach also ensures a high gravity, allowing the beer to reach its nearly 10% ABV without fermenting below a solidly medium mouthfeel. More spice and a bit of dry herbs rises late, along with some crackle from a 9.5% ABV that penetrates the finish and nearly overpowers the moderate carbonation.
Indeed, Green Flash weren’t far off when they dubbed this beer Palate Wrecker. But ye who seek unmitigated hop wreckage should look elsewhere. This beer’s dominance is achieved more by fatiguing the palate from all quarters, overwhelming it through attrition instead of a surgical, slaughtering strike. Still sound appealing? Then enter the lists—your adversary awaits.
Served: 12 oz bottle