Boston’s Samuel Adams and Escondido’s Stone Brewing: two big name breweries about 3,000 miles away from each other. Each has their fans and strengths, and each has a respected brewing history (you might scoff at Sam Adams, but you’d be wrong).
But if either decided to venture into a type of beer that doesn’t fit its usual mold, what would it look like? Probably the Sam Adams Rebel IPA and the Stone Saison.
Sam Adams, most known for its Boston Lager, has made a stupid number of beers. But it took them nearly 30 years to tackle a West Coast-style IPA, known for its in-your-face, tongue-assaulting hop flavors. Stone, on the other hand, specializes in that style (though they have more beers out there than Sam Adams). But in April, they released their Saison: a style that’s all over the place, but is mostly know for a complex spicy, fruity, earthy flavor. If the two styles were mobsters trying to get you to cooperate, the West Coast IPA would use a two-by-four while the saison would use a dental kit.
Seeing if these juggernaut breweries could tackle these styles, I decided to try them myself.
Sam Adams Rebel IPA
Notes: This 6.5% brew has five kinds of hops in it, but only has 45 IBUs (international bittering units). The typical IPA is 60+, with some West Coast IPAs in the 80+ range.
Sight and smell: A clear copper gold with some bubbles and a light white head. True to form, it smells like fresh grapefruit and pine.
Taste: The bitter hop oil’s there, but it’s balanced by a whole lot of malt. Mixed into the middle is more grapefruit and some caramel, with pine at the back. The flavor isn’t overwhelming, but it’s clean, crisp and refreshing.
Grade: B+. Typical West Coast IPA it’s not. But it’s still a refreshing IPA with all the flavors that I like without the palate-wrecking bitter that goes with it. One of the first Sam Adams beers I’d reach for.
Notes: Although a completely different style, this beer also has 6% ABV and 45 IBUs, which is relatively high for the style.
Sight and smell: A light, clear gold with a fine white head and sticky lacing. It smells like some kind of soap, with fresh lemon juice and lemon thyme (I didn’t make that up). There’s a little lavender, but it’s mostly fresh citrus.
Taste: There’s some spice up front – maybe pepper – with more of that thyme and lemon. Also mixed in is a little bit of wheatiness and littler bit of bubble gum, with crackery malt. Herbal hops blend with Belgian funk at the end.
Grade: A-. I had better saisons at Trinity, but this one was pretty summerific as well. It’s bright, complex and absolutely drinkable. If you’re reading this on a beach, throw out your Corona, drive to a liquor store and grab a six-pack of these instead. Grab some sun screen too, you’re looking a little red.
Overall: They’re both good beers that represent their breweries and do their brewers proud. Rebel gets points for balance and Saison gets points for drinkability, but both are delicious. Really, that’s the important thing.