Firestone Walker Brewing Company of Paso Robles, CA is one of the most highly respected craft breweries in the country. There have been numerous awards and honors bestowed upon their beers, and the brewery has been named the mid-sized brewery of the year at the World Beer Cup four different times. One of Firestone Walker’s flagship beers is Union Jack, a West Coast style IPA originally released in 2008. This is one of the aggressively hopped IPAs of the West Coast that helped define American craft beer which started the rise in popularity of craft beer in general. Union Jack uses Magnum, Cascade and Centennial hops during the boil followed by aggressive double dry-hopping with Amarillo, Cascade, Centennial, Citra, Chinook and Simcoe varieties. That’s essentially a who’s who of popular American hops. These hops are balanced with Munich, CaraPils and Light Crystal malts. Union Jack is sold in 12 and 22 ounce bottles as well as on draft.
Firestone Walker Union Jack pours a clear light orange with a mild white head and solid lacing on the glass as you drink. The hops dominate the smell, scents of pine, woodsy earth and a little citrus. In the first sip, the hops are evident, with notes of cut grass, pine trees and some lemon. The hop flavor is nicely balanced by some malt flavors with tastes of cracker, toffee and bread. The beer is aggressively bitter, it is listed at 70 IBUs (which isn’t insignificant), but tastes like even more. Union Jack has a full mouthfeel for an IPA, and at 7.5% ABV it has substantial alcohol although it doesn’t come through in the flavor. The finish is pretty clean but leaves a noticeable lingering bitterness on the tongue. This is a solid IPA, balanced flavor that highlights the great characteristics of American hops. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.