When the Boston Beer Company debuted its first official West Coast-style India Pale Ale, Samuel Adams Rebel IPA, last year, the craft beer community was a bit confounded. After all, founder Jim Koch built his brewing empire on the malt-forward Samuel Adams Boston Lager and has famously eschewed West Coast IPAs for being overly bitter and imbalanced.
Craft beer lovers, on the other hand, can't get enough hops, according to Brewers Association, as sales of IPA rose 49 percent in 2014. Consumer demand has a funny way of changing a person's mind, and Rebel IPA went on to become one of the most successful craft beer launches of 2014, selling more than 2 million cases.
Building on that success, Boston Beer recently launched two more IPA-centric beers, Rebel Rider Session IPA and Rebel Rouser Double IPA, rounding out what the company now calls The Rebel Family. While the Rebel and Rebel Rider IPAs are perfectly fine and delicious, it's the Rebel Rouser Double IPA that caught our attention for its pairability with a premium cigar.
Koch, during a recent visit to the Cigar Aficionado office, affirmed that one of the reasons he was reluctant to produce a Samuel Adams West Coast-style IPA was because he personally enjoys a more balanced beer. "We don't release a beer unless I like it," he said. Koch specifically noted his dislike of the "cattiness" odor—a smell that can faintly resemble cat urine—that some hops grown in the Western U.S. can emit.
According to Koch, Rebel Rouser Double IPA, like the rest of the Rebel Family, was created to "showcase a wide variety of hop characteristics, rather than just hop bitterness." The beer was born after dozens of batches were tested in the company's nanobrewery, a 10-gallon pilot system that offers brewers a way to experiment and play with a variety of recipes and ingredients.
Five different hop varietals—Zeus, Bravo, Simcoe, Centennial and Galaxy—were thrown into the kettle during Rebel Rouser's boiling phase. To offset the bitterness of so many hops and create the balance Koch wanted, the beer was then dry-hopped with Amarillo, Cascade, Centennial, Simcoe and Zeus varietals. The result is a double IPA that offers plenty of clean, bright hop flavors, but balanced nicely by the beer's malts.
When asked if Boston Beer plans on adding to the Rebel Family, the always witty Koch replied "As of of right now we don't have immediate plans to brew any more beers to be included in the ‘Rebel Family.' But, I have learned to never say never..."
Samuel Adams Rebel Rouser IPA (8.4 percent alcohol by volume, $10.99 for a 6-pack)
APPEARANCE: A white frothy head rests atop the slightly hazy, amber liquid and remains throughout life of beer.
NOSE: Hoppy notes dominate this bouquet: pine and citrus (sliced pineapple, orange peel), with some dried strawberry notes, too. Cut grass and just a hint of booze round it out.
PALATE: A touch of malt sweetness hits the tongue at the start but then it's time to climb aboard the hops train. Choo-choo! The seven different hops layer the palate with a cornucopia of flavors: grapefruit, passion fruit, lychee jam and lavender. The finish is distinctly resinous, with a hint of spice (clove). Marvelously complex.
CIGAR PAIRING: Padilla Miami 8&11 Torpedo (U.S.A., 6 1/2 by 54, $14.30, 92 points, June 2015 Cigar Aficionado) The draw of this torpedo imparts copious amounts of smoke that layers the palate with notes of leather and almond balanced by honey and a touch of citrus. The body of the cigar matches the beer perfectly, and so there is a lot of interplay at work here. The spicy finish in the beer gets kicked up a notch by the cigar, while the beer teases out cereal and bread notes from the cigar. At the cigar's midpoint, the beer meshes with the honey to take on an orange blossom honey quality. A superb pairing.