To drinkers' chagrin, the once iconic beer was completely overhauled in 2014.
Some craft beers are simply more historically significant than others. It's a topic I've delved into before, especially when writing The 25 Most Important American Craft Beers Ever Brewed. For example, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale was instrumental in bringing craft beer into the mainstream, Widmer Hefeweizen essentially created the style of American wheat, and Oskar Blues Dale's Pale Ale began the path that made cans craft beer's hippest packaging.
Green Flash West Coast IPA is one of those beers. Green Flash didn't create the style of West Coast IPA. Far from it. But the brewery did jump on the trend early enough that it was able to trademark the name (as a result, all other brands had to say "West Coast-style IPA"), and Green Flash's iteration certainly helped popularize the style… because regardless of everything else, West Coast IPA was a damn good beer: a delicious, near-perfect representation of what was, at the time of its first release in 2005, the coolest style in the beer world.
But in 2014, Green Flash completely reformulated West Coast IPA, their flagship beer, an iconic beer. They didn't opt for a different name or to call it West Coast IPA 2.0: It was just a different beer with the same name. Then, earlier this year, Green Flash went bankrupt and was sold to new ownership.
I didn't see this as a coincidence. In explaining Green Flash's demise, I wrote, "Green Flash died a spiritual death when they reformulated West Coast IPA." Before that I had posited that once "West Coast IPA had officially gone off the rails … in some ways, Green Flash had as well."
However, this week, Green Flash's new ownership announced plans to do likely the smartest thing they could to revive the brand: They're bringing back the original recipe of West Coast IPA. The craft beer news site The Full Pint had recently noticed some original iterations of West Coast IPA being served during San Diego Beer Week. The site reached out to Green Flash and got this response: "Over the years we've … heard from our loyal drinkers who reminisced about the original 7.0% ABV recipe, so we're excited to announce that we're bringing back this recipe as part of the brand refresh. Stay tuned in 2019 as we continue to update our packaging and celebrate Our Toast from the Coast!"
At a time when drinkers have thousands of new breweries, let alone new beers, to choose from — and during an era when the West Coast IPA has ceded its coolness to the New England IPA — it might seem strange to get excited about the return of a beer I loved over a decade ago. But my excitement isn't even about the beer specifically: Green Flash was once an important brewery in America's craft beer scene, and as much as its downfall was based on poor decision making, I was sad to see it go. The return of original West Coast IPA might not be the move that brings the brand back to its former glory, but frankly, it's just nice to see the brand doing something right.
Green Flash West Coast IPA may never taste the same as I remember it during its late 2000s heyday, but I look forward to drinking it again — if only to appreciate the chance to bring back those fond memories one more time.