I’ve got a bone to pick with this beer, and it has nothing to do with how it tastes — which is delicious.
Let’s get that out of the way first — Matt Brynildson, the brewmaster at Firestone-Walker and the man behind this beer, understands how to get the most out of his hops. He does exactly that with this beer, and the result is a beautiful mix of orange rind, orange blossoms and cantaloupe melon in the nose and on the palate. The malt is there with a touch of honey-on-toast sweetness. Its individual elements are very enjoyable and as a whole its even better.
So what’s my beef?
I can’t figure out where this beer belongs. It’s referred to as a Session IPA, meaning a lighter IPA, but isn’t that just an American Pale Ale? For comparison’s sake we should think of this beer on the level of the brewery’s Pale 31, not its IPA — Union Jack — and that’s a problem. For me, I don’t think any Pale Ale can hold its own alongside Pale 31. Easy Jack is similar in execution in that it has a huge hop aroma, maybe even bigger than Pale 31’s, and a beautifully balanced flavor. But why mess with perfection when Pale 31 already covers that ground so incredibly well. What good is a beer that takes customers away from another beer from the same brand?
And if the consumer wanted a different version of Pale Ale, there was always Double Barrel Ale, which has its roots in English Pale Ale.
I enjoy the beer, I really do, but I can’t see myself buying a whole lot of it. It’s new, so that always helps, but if I’m in the mood for an IPA I’ll probably go for something that has a little more bitterness, like Union Jack. If I’m in the mood for a Pale Ale I will always go for Pale 31. And if I’m in the mood for a low-ish alcohol beer with a nice hop presence, I’ll probably take Pivo Pils. And that’s not including any of the other brands on the shelf.
It’s a great beer, truly well done. I’m just not sure it was necessary.