Because the medium-sized city in which I live never passes up an opportunity to be a self-parody of limousine-liberal gentrification, there are three Whole Foods outlets within reasonable walking distance of my apartment. I always go to the same one, though, because it's the closest, and also the smallest.
Big grocery stores sort of freak me out, and since I have too much dignity and fat to hook myself up to one of those ridiculous stride-counting devices, I get no kind of thrill from walking three-quarters of a mile to reach the aisle where they keep all 1,300 brands of spaghetti sauce. Giant supermarkets—and I've never even been to a Costco or one of the really big Targets or Walmarts where you can buy cars and houses and 100-can cases of sliced black olives; I'm just talking about a regular strip-mall store, like Star Market here in the Boston area or, I dunno, Piggly Wiggly or whatever out where you live—create a false sense of convenience and choice. It's never convenient to spend 45 minutes buying a bag of chips, and you don't really need three dozen brands of sour-cream-and-onion flavoring to choose from.
But that's just a personal shopping preference, not a firmly held philosophical belief. I didn't invent the system of capitalism based on an endlessly redundant supply of same-damn-things, but I benefit from it just as much as the next guy. What I'm saying is, no shit, the world didn't need another beer blog, but I needed another job, so here we are. This self-awareness is what generally keeps me off the "Do we really need 3,500 breweries in America?" and/or "Do we really need another pale ale?" bandwagons.
That said, Christ, there are a lot of IPAs out there now, huh? So many, in fact, that Stone saw fit to name its recent collaboration with Heretic Brewing Company and Beachwood Brewing "Unapologetic," as a nod to both Stone's barely sufferable institutional self-importance but also to the fact that each new IPA release these days elicits a chorus of "Fine, but why?" The tagline on the bottle says, "Who says the world needs another IPA? We do." I guess they told us. I haven't tried it. Let's talk about another new IPA, then.
Samuel Adams introduced Rebel IPA a little over a year ago. Their version of a "West Coast IPA" gets mixed reviews from most casual drinkers; I find it to be a bit tame but in no way flawed. This year, they've gotten more ambitious with the new Rebel Rouser, an 8.4-percent alcohol-by-volume double IPA. They claim it's more than just a goosed-up version of the Rebel, which seems fair given that Rouser uses seven kinds of hops: Bravo, Galaxy, Zeus, Simcoe, Centennial, Cascade, and Amarillo (the original Rebel employs Centennial, Cascade, Chinook, Simcoe, and Amarillo; subbing Bravo, Galaxy, and Zeus in for Chinook would certainly seem capable of altering the flavor profile quite a bit. Sorry for all the hop talk. To answer your question, no, the world doesn't need this many kinds of hops, but we've got them and might as well use them).
I had moderate expectations for Rebel Rouser. Samuel Adams is unique among modern-era craft brewers in that they made their first billion without leaning too heavily on the hops. Boston Lager isn't bitter at all, and a lot of their previous attempts at hop-focused beers have been duds. That said, I've never had a bad double/imperial India pale ale. I've been told they're so expensive to produce that shoddy outfits don't bother to try, and brewers who do go for it make sure they get it right. Plus one of the ancillary benefits of heavily hopping your beer is that all that pine and citrus can cover up a lot of mistakes. So I didn't think Rebel Rouser would be great, but I was pretty confident it wouldn't suck, either.
The free sample they sent turned out to be on the better end of the "good-to-great" scale on which I generally rate DIPAs. It smells like pineapple, grapefruit, pine resin, and a small dose of bready malt; it tastes like all of that plus a bit of lemon, some caramel, and maybe the faintest hint of fake-banana candy that probably isn't intentional but didn't detract from the overall experience. Official Beer Judge Certification Program guidelines for the style probably don't specify that an imperial IPA should in any way resemble the lewdest flavor of Runts, but it didn't taste off to me. The finish is long and piney and pleasant.
Samuel Adams Rebel Rouser is very good. It's not quite objectively great—it's got a gritty, grainy sweetness not present in the very best of its kind—but when you factor in its price and availability ($10 for a six-pack that requires no shady Craigslist transactions or trips to Vermont farmsteads), it is the rarest of beers: a new IPA that the world actually does need.
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Will Gordon loves life and tolerates dissent. He lives in Cambridge, Mass., and some of his closest friends have met Certified Cicerones. Find him on Twitter @WillGordonAgain. Image by Jim Cooke.
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