I wasn’t especially amped up to try this beer; it became apparent to me after the bottle sat in my fridge for about a month. Probably bad form when it comes to an IPA…or just in general. But oh well. For some reason, after I bought it, the thought of drinking it didn’t appeal to me anymore. Even when I finally poured it yesterday, it felt more like a chore. I think I’m not quite settled in the world of IPAs. Perhaps I feel as though many brewers try to annihilate my taste buds with bitterness rather than create something more subtle and unique with the incredible palate of available hops.
At 95 IBUs, West Coast IPA certainly doesn’t aim for the lower end of the bitterness spectrum (for some perspective, Goose Island’s IPA, one of my all time favorites, comes in at 55). Simcoe, Centennial, Columbus, and Cascade hops are used in abundance. You get a nice wave of flower and citrus emanating from your glass, and there’s even some caramel malt in there that I found surprisingly easy to detect through the hops. Carbonation is pretty abundant as well. I thought it smelled great…most IPAs do in my opinion.
The taste was surprisingly satisfying, despite the fact that after a few sips the bitterness gave the back of my tongue a numb, tingly sensation. This beer does have a little nuance. You get some sweetness right up front from the malt before the hops kick in, and despite the heavy bitterness that lingers, you’re left with a great warming sensation in the back of your throat from the alcohol. The body is what I’d describe as a quintessential American hop experience, as the four types of hops mentioned are perhaps the most popular American hop varieties. But I still feel as though the true characters of each hop get somewhat lost in the bitterness. Sure, there’s plenty of floral and citrus, and it’s extremely crisp and refreshing, but the human taste bud can only take so much. At what point does aggressive hopping become almost worthless? And can it even detract from an otherwise great brew? I have to believe that’s a possibility, even though this is still a very good beer. The finish is akin to what you might expect from an extremely tart grapefruit.
I dunno, I’d be interested to hear what a more “experienced” IPA drinker thinks of West Coast IPA. On Green Flash’s website, they display that it actually won first place at the 2008 California State Fair, but as a Double IPA. Maybe it fits a bit nicer into that category…? Definitely worth a second look if you pass it on the shelf, though.