As former pub owners, Mark and Lisa Hinkley always had an appreciation for great beer. Which is why the husband and wife duo got to work building a brewery of their own. San Diego-based Green Flash Brewing Company opened its doors in 2002, added brewmaster Chuck Silva to the team in 2004, and has been churning out some mighty tasty brews. And we aren't the only ones to take notice.
With a slew of awards under their belt, Green Flash is best known for their hop-heavy IPAs - which while absolutely delicious - is not to say their other styles should be overlooked. Some of our favorites from this tasting were the smooth, sweet Double Stout Black Ale, Le Freak, and Rayon Vert, a refreshing Belgian-style pale ale.
Rayon Vert, we like this beer a lot. Imagine plunking west coast IPA-loving brewers down in a monastery in Belgium. You'll get a dry belgian ale with a bright pillowy head and super-fine bubbles galore--each bursting with fragrant hop aroma. Close you eyes and imagine a field of untamed grass and wildflowers flowing into a resinous pine forest. We had our bottle on the young side (just a few months out of the brewhouse), but this beer certainly wouldn't mind aging. The addition of brettanomyces while bottling means this beer will evolve over time--getting less bubble-gummy and floral and hint more dry and tart. While we never like making direct comparisons in beer, it's difficult to not think of this as the best an American brewery has come to making something close to a bottle of Orval.
West Coast IPAs are known for being quite brazen when it comes to their use of hops. A nicely poured pint provides a full on lesson for what American hops are all about. Perhaps the only source for more on hops than a pint of this beer is our Hop of the Month page, which we fully encourage you to read while enjoying this full-on hop showcase. Bold, bright, citrusy, floral, and piney, Green Flash throws in the proverbial kit and caboodle for their West Coast IPA. Simcoe, centennial, cascade, and columbus all get thrown in the mix to form the American hop version of the 1992 Dream Team.
Red ales are a complex beast. Maltier than a typical IPA, they also need a surprising amount of hops to balance the grain's natural sweetness. And when Green Flash makes one, they need even more hops to go well beyond just making a balanced beer. Apparently they dry-hop Hop Head Red "bucket-loads" of Amarillo hops (one of our absolute favorite hops). You may find it confusing when you realize you're not wandering through a grove of Florida grapefruit trees while sipping this red.
Like a sunshine in a glass, Le Freak poured a bright yellow-orange with a medium head. A mix between a Belgian Trippel and an Imperial IPA, it leans more toward the Belgian side in smell with notes of bubblegum, banana and wheat upfront, but a pleasant low hop aroma is also present. The mix of the two styles is more apparent in the taste with sweet notes of cotton candy, strawberry and clove balanced out by a nice hop bitterness.
True to its name, this black stout pours near black with a thin head and fine lacing. The aroma is fantastic - boozy and sweet like a black Russian, but also with a hint of coffee and hazelnut, more like Frangelico. The sweetness in the taste is much more subtle than the nose would lead you to believe. With its tiny bubbles giving this beer a velvety mouthfeel and a roasted finish, we can't wait until it gets a bit colder out and we can curl up with Double Stout by the fire.