While at Cardinal Liquors a couple of weeks ago, I spotted a beer on the shelf whose label intrigued me. The label itself was pretty much nondescript but the name of the beer was what got me. The beer was from a brewery that’s relatively new to the area and it too had an odd name.
The Green Flash Brewing Co. out of San Diego comes on the heels of Ballast Point in making its way to shelves of flatland Illinois. As of March of this year, the Land of Lincoln and incarcerated governors was added to the list of distributors.
The beer I remembered from that previous time was Green Flash Palate Wrecker. It even came with the Surgeon General’s warning (although the warning had nothing to do with wrecking one’s palate or any mouth injuries at all.) The beer was obviously a big double IPA and I accepted the name as a personal challenge now that I, myself, am finally considered a hophead.
I returned to Cardinal this last Friday with the express purpose of picking up a couple of bombers of Palate Wrecker and write about how my palate got wrecked come Saturday night. 9 bucks each for 9.5% alcohol and hoppy goodness.
An interesting note, the beer is subtitled Hamilton’s Ale. Here’s what they say on the label:
Palate Wrecker was originally brewed for the Hamilton’s Tavern 2nd Anniversary celebration. It’s the most complicated West Coast–inspired IPA we have ever brewed—mashing and sparging with hopped wort, in addition to our hop layering regimen for IPA. By popular demand, it is now released for the world to enjoy.
RateBeer had some extra facts in brewer’s description:
(tested at 149 IBUs and no extracts in case you were wondering.) and (even though this beer isn’t for everyone, only the real hop heads!!!)
Here’s a link to a bit of background on Hamilton’s Tavern also located in San Diego.
The beer I had in hand had a bottled on date. This one was marked that it was bottled on 2/26/2013. The beer was about 4 months old but at over 9%, I thought I’d still be good. That the beer’s freshness wasn’t an issue.
The beer poured a little darker than expected, kind of a rusty orange. The liquid was quite hazy and what carbonation I could see was minimal. The head was a nice, billowy white with close-knit foam bubbles. The aroma gave off a little bit of those orangey tropical ones.
The first sip provided me with a nice medium mouthfeel and the swallow packed a wallop of bitterness with a little bit of either orange or grapefruit peels. The fruity flavors really didn’t pop in this beer. There was a small amount, but the big show with this beer is in the truly outrageous and almost sharp bitterness at the swallow. The first couple of sips were almost brutal.
Every so often, a small tinge of orange-grapefruit flavor would surface and then disappear. As they went away, the back of my throat felt like it was getting rubbed raw. This beer was truly a hop monster destined for only the most diehard of hopheads. According to the brewer’s website, this beer is rated at 100+ IBUs. All that bitterness with 9.5% alcohol to back it up.
As the sips went on, my palate became more accustomed to the beer and some of the middle malt flavors came out. But I was still a bit disappointed that the sweetness was minuscule and the fruitiness came and went sip to sip. Still, the back of my throat felt like it glowed a bit.
It’s a bit unfortunate that this beer wasn’t a bit more balanced. The hops outshone the malts in this one. Without knowing what strain of hops were used in the recipe, I’d prefer substituting those that lend the more tropical flavors such as peach and mango. Maybe pull back a little bit on the bittering hops at the beginning and load up with Mosaic and Citra and Cascade toward the end. But what do I know.
Maybe you’re thinking that I’ve been spoiled by Stone’s RuinTen IPA. But if this PW beer came a little closer to that taste I’d like it a lot more than I do right now. It’s like the Maxwell Smart quote: “Missed it by that much.” I’ll more than likely finish both bombers tonight before it’s off to bed. But if I had some Arctic Panzer Wolf or Double Jack in the fridge, I’d grab one of those next to finish off the night instead of the second bomber of PW.
After reading many reviews and opinions of this beer by many craft beer drinkers, I have realized that their opinions about Palate Wrecker are just that, their opinions. This missive is my opinion. This episode reminded me of that time awhile ago when I reviewed Pliny the Elder from Russian River. I thought that the beer was overrated. The same goes for this one.
I’m not condemning this beer. Green Flash makes excellent beer. Palate Wrecker would be perfect for those masochistic hopheads who want to get punished. The beer really packs a punch to the throat but just misses a bit on the complexity and balance. If you see it on your local bottle store shelf, pick up a bomber and let me know what you think.
You never know… my palate may be having an off day or going through a respawn or morph of sorts. Palate Wrecker is a good example of the style but misses being great by just a little bit. And that’s my opinion.
Style: American Double/Imperial IPA
Taste: Business up front, fight club in the back.
Smoothness: It started out easy and then the trouble began.
Drinkability: More than two glassfuls may be pushing it.
Bang for the buck: Ya get what ya paid for and then some.
Paid price: $8.99 / 22-ounce bottle.
Get it again? I dunno. There are a lot of other really good DIPAs out there.
Wife’s all-encompassing opinion: It’s cloudy. Can’t say it’s brown, can’t say it’s orange. (sip) It’s bitter. Dry. (sip) Yeah it’s real dry. (sip) It’s very bitter. And drying. It’s not my cup of beer. (I have to hand it to her for trying these beers week after week.)