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The Third Beer of Christmas: Union Jack

Reading Time: 3 minutes read

As I mentioned in the first post of this series, our 12 beers lineup isn’t about holiday beers. In fact, our selections are all over the map, both in terms of style and origin. By now, you may be wondering what does tie the series together. Basically, we shot for beers that are, or should be, legendary—in our opinions, obviously. Whether they’re rare, simply delicious and don’t get much credit, or great and they do get credit, these are all excellent beers. If you haven’t drank them yet, you should.

Just from the label, I might have expected Union Jack’s Firestone Walker to be closer to a British IPA, with a somewhat bready, perhaps even caramelly malt character.* And I would’ve been quite wrong. Brewed in Paso Robles, CA this 7.5% ABV beer is very much an American IPA—crisp, clean, and hop-focused.* And though it’s not listed in the 2014 BJCP guide (draft) as a commercial example of the style, another Firestone Walker offering, Pale 31, is. But let’s get on with the Union Jack review, shall we?

Union Jack 1

Pour/appearance: (Ben) Pours a perfectly transparent gold with a short-lived, white head of one finger. From a bottle dated 7/22/14 into a nonic glass, the lacing stayed on the sides, beautiful.

Nose: (Meagan) Hoppy, naturally. Some piney, citrusy cascade notes, probably from the two Cascade additions—one in the boil, one in the dry-hop (there’s other hops too, but I mostly smell the Cascade). There are also hints of malt in the nose, but they’re not very strong. Mostly, it’s hops.

Flavor: (Ben) Despite the happy hop yummness that suffused my palate with the first cleansing sip, the first thing I tasted was malt. Shortly thereafter, that malt was kicked to the back of the Volkswagen by some big bold hops. Not surprising; word of mouth says that Firestone Walker uses a two-stage dry hopping system with 3 days each stage, Blah blah blah.

On the second sip; there’s that residual sweetness I didn’t catch the first time around. Multiple gulps are required to turn this into the full-blown mouth party (I almost said Oral Party, but I think that’s something else) that is happening right now.

Body/mouthfeel: (Meagan) Characteristically thin body, with low viscosity. All those delicious hops produced a tingle on the front and middle of my tongue, before waking up the back taste buds with a bitter citrus bite that faded to a grapefruit bitter aftertaste.

Union Jack 2

Overall: (Ben) A balanced, sweet and bitter hoppy brew, from some of the best masters of the brewer’s art out there. Bam. IPA is one of my favorite styles. The evolution of a working sailor’s drink, it propelled a small island nation to excellence and greatness on the seas. Delicious, crisp, good cold or cellared, and surprisingly hoppy after some bottle age.

(Meagan) The Firestone Walker website describes Union Jack as “An aggressively-hopped West-Coast IPA,” which it most certainly is. This 70 IBU brew scores a 95 from both Beer Advocate and the Bros, and I’d definitely have to agree with them. I really dig the complex hop presence, and the strong grapefruit aftertaste that sort of makes me think of sunshine and summer. Don’t look at me like that; you know you’re already tired of winter, too. Unless you actually live on the West Coast right now, or somewhere super warm and sunny, like Guam. In which case I stick my figurative tongue out at you, yer lucky barstud.


Beer Advocate: Union Jack India Pale Ale | Firestone Walker Brewing Co. | Paso Robles, CA.

“Firestone Walker Brewing Company – Union Jack.” Firestone Walker Brewing Company – Union Jack.

Manol, Jeff. “Brewing a West Coast Classic: Firestone Walker’s Union Jack I.P.A….” Hoptomology. 11 Mar. 2013.

*Strong, Gordon, and Kristen England, eds. “18B. American Pale Ale.” BJCP STYLE GUIDELINES: Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) Style Guidelines for Beer, Mead and Cider. 2014 ed. BJCP, 2014.

*Strong, Gordon, and Kristen England, eds. “12C. English IPA.” BJCP STYLE GUIDELINES: Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) Style Guidelines for Beer, Mead and Cider. 2014 ed. BJCP, 2014.


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Pacific Northwest native, travel and craft beverage writer. Exploring the intersections where beer (and coffee and spirits), food, travel and culture meet.

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