San Diego's Green Flash Brewing Company kinda goes their own way, which is a funny thing to say about a Southern California brewery built around stuffing hops into every crevice of every beer they produce—the most radical thing a West Coast beer company could do in 2014 is just settle down and make a nice, calm blonde ale. But over the past dozen years, they've managed to stand out for its steadfast refusal to compromise on the hops without resorting to the sort of self-promotional bombast typical of a certain strain of brewery, particularly the IBU-obsessives.
Whereas Stone constantly reminds us we're not worthy of their beers, and Rogue acts as if every goddamn ounce they bottle is a strike fired directly into the black heart of The Man, these guys just quietly do their thing. One of the recent things was reformulating the recipe for their West Coast IPA, which resulted in the ABV increasing from 7.5 percent to 8.1. But they didn't issue a thousand press releases to trumpet this newfound exxxtremity, and a lot of beer sites still list the outdated figure. They're not trying to win any races—or if they are, they're subtle and inoffensive about it. I like Green Flash's style. Well-cut jib you got there, Green Flash.
But get the fuck out of here with this Green Bullet Triple IPA. This is ridiculous, even though I love it. No one needs a 10.1-percent-ABV pale ale. Anything that strong should be a slow-sipper, like an imperial stout or a barleywine or a Mad Dog. And it's a pretty cowardly move to blame the poor Kiwis. Green Bullet is named for one of the two New Zealand varieties used in the dry-hopping of this beast (Pacific Gem is the other), which Green Flash has released as their fall seasonal, presumably because they couldn't figure out how to make cinnamon, nutmeg, and squash taste like overripe tropical fruit fermenting in a pine forest.
I paid $9 for a 22-ounce bottle of Green Bullet, then I drank it. But first I looked at it. It's on the dark side of the IPA color spectrum, basically brown with a few red highlights, and the assertive carbonation produces a thick off-white head. The smell is almost overwhelming: It's juicy as hell but also plenty spicy, bringing to mind grapefruit and pineapple dusted with a thick layer of black pepper. The taste is less citrus-inflected than the aroma, with the pineapple sticking around while the grapefruit eases back in favor of mango and apricot, along with heavy, heavy pine and a slight bit of wet dog fur (but the good kind, like from a nice dog that's had all its shots and a somewhat recent bath).
The extraordinarily bitter finish lacks the balance promised in the marketing material—there's some faint caramel malt up front, but by the time it's all over, this is a pure hop colossus—but it's still a fitting conclusion to a very good beer that the world absolutely does not need.
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Will Gordon loves life and tolerates dissent. He lives in Cambridge, Mass., and has visited all of the other New England states, including, come to think of it, Vermont. Find him on Twitter@WillGordonAgain. Image by Jim Cooke.
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