Given how insanely popular IPAs have become, it’s surprising that a heavy hitter like Sam Adams, the biggest craft brewer in the country, hasn’t had one in their year-round lineup until now.
Rebel IPA is billed as a “West Coast IPA,” which is a nebulous term but usually implies palate-scorching levels of bitterness and very little malt to balance it out. Ironically, that’s the exact opposite of how Rebel IPA tastes (more on that in a minute), so it’s odd and kinda disingenuous that Sam Adams bills it as one.
That said, this is is not a bad beer. It is, though, part of a category with outstandingly tough competition. Bell’s Two Hearted, Sierra Nevada Torpedo, and Dogfish 60 Minute, just to name a few, are terrific and easy to find.
Here’s how Sam Adams measures up:
Appearance: Deep copper color and a quickly dissipating head.
Smell: There’s a slight bread-y and sweet aroma, but it’s all very faint. No noticeable hop aroma.
Taste: The malts dominate, and there’s only a little bit of orange-y bitterness. It’s got a clean finish and is very drinkable — it would be easy to knock back three of these — but there isn’t the floral, juicy, or pine-y hop character that you’d expect from an IPA. Instead, it’s mostly malty with a slight dark fruit note, kind of like a Belgian dubbel.
Mouthfeel: Thin and moderately carbonated.
Overall: If you hadn’t told me that this was an IPA, I never, ever would have guessed it. It just doesn’t have anything even close to the hoppy flavors, especially not in the West Coast, in-your-face kind of way, that you’d expect from the style. But aside from that, it’s not a bad beer — just a misleading one.
It’s a mild, accessible addition to their lineup that’s similar enough to their other offerings that it won’t alienate people and will probably appeal to a very broad group, but it tastes a whole lot closer to a lager than it does an IPA. So if you want a hoppy fix, this is definitely not going to do it for you. But as a malty, easy-drinking offering with a bit of sweetness and very faint bitterness, it’s not bad.
Want to find some in your hood? Plug your zip code into BeerMenus.com's listing of bars and stores that have it in stock. Given Sam Adam's huge distribution network, it's a safe bet that it'll be available at most places you buy beer.
Andrew Craig is Bespoke’s editor and resident drink nerd. Got something you think he might like? Get in touch by dropping a line to Andrew (at) bespokepost.com, and follow him on Untappd for a glimpse at potential new reviews.