Beer Tasting: Sam Adams Latitude 48 IPA Desconstructed 12 Pack

Sometimes experiments provide unexpected results.  Taoist monks set out to create an immortality pill and wound up creating gunpowder.  Scientists tried to create a drug to stop chest pain and wound up creating Viagra.  Sam Adams set out to showcase how individual hops affect the flavor of beer only to demonstrate that there’s a good reason why they were mixed together in the first place.

In other words, not all of the beers in the Sam Adams Latitude 48 Deconstructed 12 Pack are good.  Actually, a couple are pretty awful, but I think that’s the whole point. 

For those who don’t know, the Latitude 48 12 Pack contains six different beers: Latitude 48 brewed with the full complement of five different hops, and five other beers, each brewed with a single hop from the Latitude 48 recipe.  You get two bottles of each, and the who shebang adds up to 12 beers.  It’s a very cool idea that allows you to explore how each different hops affect the flavor of the beer (for better or worse).

The beginning and the end - the full-on Latitude 48

Let’s start at the beginning.  The five-hop version of Latitude 48 is a serviceable if unremarkable IPA, with a malty backbone and a hoppiness that’s more piney bitter than grapefruity sweet.  It’s brewed with a combination of  Zeus, East Kent Golding, Simcoe, Ahtanum and Hallertau Mittelfrueh hops.  All of these hops grow at the 48 degrees latitude mark around the globe, hence the name Latitude 48.  It’s a pretty neat idea for a beer and a great place to start a journey through the land of single hop brews.

The takeaway from that journey was a bit of a surprise for me.  I was expecting to have six pleasant bottles of beer, each with a different nuanced hop finish.  But what I got was one good brew, two decent ones and three hopominations.

Let’s start with the bad ones so we can finish in a happy place.  The worst of the lot was the single hop beer brewed with Zeus hops, which gave the brew a meaty and awful flavor.  My wife summed it up best as “putrid, like something died in the bottle.” All four people in our little tasting group quickly poured it out.

The next worse was a toss up between the meaty and bitter East Kent Golding brew and the equally awful Simcoe, which was piney resin bomb.  In both cases, the samples were left unfinished on the table.  These are clearly hops that are best used to round out the flavors of other hops. That, or they need a different grain bill to properly shine.

Things were better with the Antanum beer, which had a pleasant floral bitterness, but overall came off as tasting a bit acidic.  The others didn’t finish theirs, but I found it interesting enough to take a few runs at it and get through my entire glass.

The best of the lot was by far the Hallertau single hop brew, which also had a floral bitterness, but it was balanced by a delicate sweetness that made it easy to finish the whole glass.  Everyone gushed at how interesting and satisfying it was and we all finished our samples.  Again, this might be attributable to the fact that it’s an awesome hop, or that it was the one best suited for soloing with the particular grain bill used in Latitude 48.

The five-hop variety was tasted again at the end and elicited the same lukewarm response it garnered at the beginning of the tasting.  It wasn’t as good as the Hallertau brew, but clearly demonstrated why hops are usually best mixed together in a single beer.

Overall, I can’t say enough about how much I LOVED the Latitude 48 IPA Deconstructed 12 Pack.  Sure a few of the beers were awful, but the education we all took away from the tasting was truly awesome.  I’m thrilled that Sam Adams took the risk to bring such a great teaching tool to the masses and I highly recommend picking one up if you haven’t yet.  It’s a terrific way to spend an evening with friends, especially ones who like meaty-tasting beers. This way you can send them home with the bad beers and keep the goodies for yourself!




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Craft beer nerd, frequent beer blogger and occasional home brewer.

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19 Comments on “Beer Tasting: Sam Adams Latitude 48 IPA Desconstructed 12 Pack”

  1. June 13, 2011 at 11:44 am #

    I actually just bought one of these this weekend- thanks for the review & heads-up, looking forward to trying it & I’ll post my thoughts afterwards.

    • June 13, 2011 at 11:46 am #

      Cool David. I’m interested to hear what other folks thought of the beers. I actually had mine for a couple of weeks before I had enough folks around to crack it open – that’s a lot of beer for just one fella!

  2. June 13, 2011 at 11:57 am #

    I have a six pack waiting for me over the 4th of July weekend and I’m totally going to do the full taste test.

    I did, however get a chance to same the Hallertau and Simcoe at American Craft Beer Fest a couple weekends ago and I agree that the Hallertau was hands down better than the Simcoe and the 5 hop IPA. But, I did enjoy the Simcoe a fair bit and I’m curious how things will work out!

    • June 13, 2011 at 12:03 pm #

      I know Weyerbacher makes a Simcoe IPA that folks love, so I know it can shine. But what a clunker here! Enjoy your six pack and try to share!

      • June 13, 2011 at 1:45 pm #

        Yes, Weyerbacher’s Double Simcoe Ale is indeed very good. However, it’s a 9% ABV beer with tons of residual sugars to offset some of the pine and bitterness of the Simcoe.

        I’ve got a few of the Mikkeller single hop IPAs that I’m hoping to crack open soon – including the Simcoe variety. I haven’t seen the Sam Adams pack yet, but I’d like to give it a try at some point… I don’t get the impression that Sam Adams has ever been big into IPAs though…

        • June 13, 2011 at 1:50 pm #

          You get the impression that Sam Adams isn’t big into IPA when you taste Latitude 48, that’s for sure! 🙂

          What I love about this is you get 12 beers for the price of a few of the Mikkeller single hop brews. Of course they’re not a s good, but just as educational.

  3. June 13, 2011 at 12:06 pm #

    I’ve been meaning to pick this up. I agree, I am pretty happy to see Sam Adams doing this. They haven’t settled for just being a big craft brewery.

    • June 13, 2011 at 12:15 pm #

      Yeah, it shows their hearts are in the right place I think. It’s something a beer geek would do if he were running the show!

  4. June 13, 2011 at 12:51 pm #

    Yo Jim!

    Lovely review. While our results were slightly different (we liked the Simcoe best and the German hops were a close second), the experience was the same, i.e. this was a great learning experience. I hope something like this comes out again. All good fun!


    • June 13, 2011 at 1:05 pm #

      I think everyone will have different favorites (except the Zeus!!), which is why something like this is so much fun. I would have been even better if a furry friend had hidden it in my back yard! 🙂

      • June 13, 2011 at 2:40 pm #

        True true! It was one hell of a scavenger hunt find.

  5. June 13, 2011 at 3:31 pm #

    Nice post, Jim! I also liked the opportunity to taste them all, but I didn’t share any of mine! (I didn’t have them all at once btw) As a result, I’m thinking that I’m done with IPAs for awhile!!

    For what its worth…

    • June 13, 2011 at 3:34 pm #

      I think it’s better to drink them all at once, as the differences are pretty startling back to back. Not sure if this would be the case if you worked through them over a few days.

  6. June 13, 2011 at 3:38 pm #

    You’re right Jim, but I don’t have any friends so I do what I can in the name of science!

    • Don
      June 13, 2011 at 3:55 pm #

      Scott, you are too hard on yourself. You remember there was that one kid from fourth grade. Too bad he had to move back to South Africa…

  7. June 14, 2011 at 12:33 pm #

    Good job guys you beat me to it. I haven’t posted my back to back review yet. I’m glad to see someone else doing it back to back because most of the reviews are one bottle at a time. I don’t think you would ever discern the differences between them if you drank them a whole bottle at a time. Unfortunately I was all by my lonesome in my tasting. So after I got through the tasting and the note taking, I had to finish the 6 IPAs before they got warm. Well they got warm but I finished them. Twas a great day!


    • Don
      June 14, 2011 at 12:59 pm #

      Well you really didn’t have to finish them. But as long as you weren’t driving anywhere, it is hard to beat that for a blog induced drunk! Oh the sacrifices we make for our readers!

  8. June 15, 2011 at 8:04 am #

    I ran through one of the 12-packs about a month ago and while I wasn’t terribly impressed with anything, I didn’t loath anything either. The Zeus and East Kent were unremarkable and Hallertau was serviceable, I thought Simcoe was ok and Ahtanum was the best of all the single hops with a nice citrus flavor to go along with the big malt backbone. It’s nothing I would buy when i was on a hop crave, but I thought it was a much cheaper way to experience several types of hops compared to the other prevalent single-hop series around my parts from Mikkeller. To each their own I suppose. With that said SN Torpedo is still my go-to year-round IPA.

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