There’s nothing ambiguous about a beer called Palate Wrecker.
The aptly named brew from San Diego’s Green Flash Brewing Co. makes its intentions known. The label warns that the beer is “hop-forward and aggressive.” Next to a picture of an old-timey boxer putting his dukes up is this: “Our heavy hitter. Your palate will recover, but you will remember that last round forever.”
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Why would anyone want his or her palate wrecked? Personally, I don’t mind being walloped with hops. A better beer writer won’t admit this, but India Pale Ales are the first thing I look for when I walk into a store. They’re the category my eyes are drawn to on restaurant menus. I like all types of beer, but when it comes to IPAs, I’m a repeat customer.
But this beer claims to be so extreme in its hoppiness that it purports to strip us of the ability to taste anything afterward.
Six pounds of Centennial, Columbus, and Simcoe hops go into each barrel of Palate Wrecker. The beer was first brewed seven years ago, as a one-off for San Diego’s Hamilton’s Tavern, the favorite pub of Green Flash brewmaster Chuck Silva. Silva brewed the beer at the behest of pub owner Scot Blair, who insisted on a huge, hoppy beer despite a shortage of the ingredient at that time. It caught on, and has been in heavy rotation as Green Flash’s spring seasonal for three years. “This beer is really made for ‘hop heads’ who dig the flavors from a full-on hop charge,” says Silva. “Palate Wrecker has tested in excess of 130 IBU [international bitterness units].” He describes the brew as having “the bitterness level that could numb, or even sting, the palate to the point that any beer you taste afterward will lose its luster.”
I decide to taste, unsure about what havoc the beer will unleash on me. Green Flash has the aromatics down. Hops are in your nose before they’re in your face. If a smell could be addictive, this would be the one.
But I drink a lot of hoppy beer, so I didn’t find the first sip off-putting. It’s not puckering so much as it is a prolonged bitterness, dry grapefruit lingering in the back of your throat. That bitterness takes a long time to go away, and builds up the more you drink. The overall effect can be prohibitive if you’re drinking more than one, especially at 9.5 percent alcohol by volume.
This beer is really made for ‘hop heads’ who dig the flavors from a full-on hop charge.
Can a beer be too hoppy?
“Sure, a beer can be too hoppy,” says Silva. “Especially so when it is brash enough to become harsh or unpleasant on your palate. I strive to deliver a huge flavor impact but also with a certain degree of finesse.”
I’m not going to lie: I enjoyed it.
Palate Wrecker is available at Craft Beer Cellar, Braintree, 781-428-3283; American Provisions, South Boston, 617-269-6100; Kappy’s Fine Wine & Spirits, East Boston, 617-567-9500.
Gary Dzen can be reached at [email protected]