LE FREAK, apropos of its name, never quite finds its fit. From the first impression of its appearance through the lingering aftertaste, it vacillates between pros and cons, rarely notching more than a couple in a row on either side of the scales before shifting back again. Fortunately, the beer’s basics are appealing enough (albeit extreme)—joining sweet Belgian tripel-style yeast to an assertively-hopped West Coast pale ale, roughly similar to Lagunitas’ A Little Sumpin’ Wild or Stone’s Cali-Belgique. So for all its ambivalence Le Freak is still rather good. It just could have been so much better.
Very few Green Flash beers pour much lighter than 8 or 9 SRM and Le Freak is no exception; its dense orange color could easily be mistaken for Green Bullet or the West Coast IPA. Its head is slightly subpar, especially when compared to the magnificent fluffy crowns found on traditional Belgian tripels. But it wins back some points on the first nosing through a complicated interplay between citric hops and that Belgian signature—lightly candied, yeasty, with a touch of biscuit. The fuller aroma takes a step back, though, once the dry-hopping unfurls and leafy, piney, and pungent West Coast hops run a little roughshod over the yeast’s delicate fruit esters.
The first flavors replicate the aroma plus another layer of complexity from an herbal zip and bit of baking spice—almost cinnamon, though clove/coriander is likely closer to the mark. The malt character is present but restrained, showing pale grains, a little orange, clearing room for the yeast (more responsible for the biscuit tones) and hops to define the beer’s flavors. Green Flash calls Le Freak ‘zesty’, and there are indeed some Belgian-style phenols that give a piquancy and faint medicinal edge to the mix. But they are a little too tame to be particularly notable in the full context.
No sugar was used in the brewing process, as would be expected in a tripel-style beer (even a hybrid). Still, a high ABV of 9.2% was achieved without leaving excessive traces of malt or caramel in the flavor. Refermented in the bottle, the beer does also have some residual yeast, if not enough to dramatically alter the texture or aftertaste. Effervescence is quite elevated, more suitable for the style, and the body neatly straddles the lighter side of a double IPA and heavier tripels.
Massive bitterness ratings are a calling card of Green Flash’s, but even so this beer would have benefitted from more modest dosing. Le Freak’s hopping rate of 101 IBUs is just too aggressive to integrate with a Belgian tripel, a style rarely hopped beyond 40 IBUs. The beer we end up with is still a tasty twist on Green Flash’s typically pungent and almost savory hop assault, but overall it just seems to have missed the point.
Served: 22 oz bottle best by 9/18/15