REVIEW: Rebel IPA from Samuel Adams Brewing Company

Quick Characteristics
Brewery: Samuel Adams Brewing Co.
Location: Boston, MA
Style: West Coast IPA
ABV: 6.5%
IBU: 45
Appearance: Light Amber, Liquid Copper
Aroma: Citrus-Dense, Piney Grapefruit
Flavor: Surging Citrus, Crisp & Clean Pine, Dry Aftertaste
Availability: Year-Round
Pairs With: Tex-Mex, BBQ Ribs, Stuffed Jalapenos, Aged Cheddar

A year-around IPA from Samuel Adams, all I can say is, “about time.” Samuel Adams has done a couple seasonal IPA’s (Latitude 48 and Whitewater), and maybe a couple more are buried in the depths of their specialty collections (Grumpy Monk comes to mind), but they have never put up a year-around offering.

Samuel Adams was started back in 1984 and is one of the original breweries that started the reemergence and upward swing of craft brew popularity in America, which makes the absence of an IPA in their lineup that much more puzzling.

Rebel is marketed as a “West Coast” IPA. What does this mean? Well, this beer combines five varieties of hops grown on the west coast (Cascade, Simcoe, Centennial, Chinook, and Amarillo). Is this all that separates it from other IPA’s? I’m not sure. Maybe. I’ve never quiet understood the distinctions of west coast and east coast IPA (or why it was felt this distinction had to be made).

“Five Coastals did contrive their oils to inhive, in a bitter ploy of bottled joy.”

Sure, one is supposed to have more hop character, one is supposed to have more malt presence; one is more citrus and tropical fruit, the other more pine and wood. But, across the IPA spectrum, crossover of these typical characteristics makes this type of distinction rather moot (IMO). If it’s a good IPA, it’s a good IPA.

Pour and Aroma

The rebel pours a very light amber color, settling into the glass like liquid copper washed-out under the direct blaze of a desert sun. Two fingers of strong, densely packed foam slowly collapse to a thinner layer that persists throughout the beer.

Rebel IPA

The aroma here is very fresh and light on the nose. It is citrus-dense; grapefruit and pine come through the strongest, but I can catch suggestions of tangerine and maybe even some non-citrus fruits… papaya possibly, which could be contributed by Samuel Adams’ Ale yeast. Safe to say, it overwhelms in its freshness, like peeling an orange in a pine forest after a hard rain.

Mouthfeel and Taste

The mouthfeel is much like most IPA’s, leaning toward the lighter side of medium. It carries the surging wash of citrus well, though I find the crisp-clean effect of pine also. The back of the taste has a almost-hidden woodsy quality to it. Warming alcohol is noticeable, as is a slight grain-malt character. The after taste is dry, with noticeable astringency across the palate.

I was expecting much more of a forward “tropical fruit” presence, which from what I gather, is a “west-coast” defining characteristic. It might have more citrus then other IPA’s; but is it enough of a defining point to distinguish it from other IPA’s? I’m not sure.

Finishing the Impression

This is a highly drinkable IPA. It has less woodsy depth than other IPA’s, but again, this could be called a style defining characteristic and not something to be frowned upon. To me, IPA’s do start to fall into two distinct categories, but the differences don’t have much to do with a designation on a map.

They either fall into those that stay in the sun. Bear with me here… Think of the edge of a wood. Trees once in a while, but mostly open and bright, it is fresh and warm here. There is less depth to explore, but the place holds up well to a spring foray. The other, tracks the heartwood, leaves the sun behind. It brings a complexity forth that is somewhat lacking in the other. Something only found when the open brightness is left behind and the sun-dappled darkness of the woods is ventured. Both are excellent experiences; both contain subtleties of memory and place for me.

The Rebel IPA falls nicely into the first of these categories. Its lower IBU of 45, big citrus character, and higher, but not Imperial-level alcohol, makes it easily enjoyed. The lower hoppyness, along with the fact that it comes from Samuel Adams, a craft brewing company known by even the mainstream, speaks well for its chances at enticing a little adventure out of those who have yet to try (and like) an IPA. It is certainly an IPA I will revisit in the coming months.

More IPA Reviews:

Nick Carr

About Author

Nicoli Carr has been tinkering with homebrewing for over 10 years and graduated from the American Brewers Guild (CBA) Craft Brewers program in 2014. When he’s not busy freelance writing, he is likely out foraging wild brewing options, writing, or hunting stillness in remote places. You can contact him through his website


  1. Paul says

    I have had this beer on several occasions when SA Rebel was the only craft beer option. This beer is adequate, but despite the use several hops, I didn’t get much hoppiness from this beer. To me, it’s just another disappointing entry from Sam Adams. I think they rested on their laurels for far too long and seldom take big risks with big beers. Yes, Utopia was big, but at $200 a growler doesn’t really qualify. Jack’s Abbey, located only 30 minutes from Sam Adams, has been far more bold in their approach to brewing great beer.

    • says

      Hey Paul,
      I’ve never heard of Jack’s Abbey.. though I guess that’s not too surprising. I’m a little off the beaten beer path. Just curious have you ever tried the Grumpy Monk… I haven’t though I always look for it when I am in bigger cities.

    • says

      Your right new favorite, It is a nice easy IPA… and does well as a lead into the style. Glad you’ve found something new to enjoy.

  2. Lew R says

    Drinking my first one now! I like IPA’s. This is actually a really nice offering. Not too heavy and very drinkable. Yes folks will say, “heavy is IPA”… Well yes and no… Sometimes you need the flavor without all the ‘power’

  3. Blondie says

    My husband bought this IPA by mistake, and I am so happy he did, normally I am not a fan of other brands, but I have to say this brew is great, it does not have the same bitterness as other IPA’s, Thank you Samuel Adams, I can now add this to my many Samuel Adams favorites

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *