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Boulder Beer Flashback IBA Review

January 17, 2010

My previous sampling of a Boulder Beer Co. brew, Killer Penguin Barleywine, left me underwhelmed.  I came across their Flashback  30th Anniversary Ale styled as an IBA (India Brown Ale) while surfing the bottle list of the pub I was going to visit after work on Friday.  Since I had neither heard of the beer or this style I made a mental note that I was going to give it a whirl come 5 pm.  I was convinced that Killer Penguin was a fluke and that Flashback would leave me feeling awestruck after trying my first IBA.

Being a beer bottle collector I was immediately aroused at the label artwork on Flashback.  The purple and gold theme pays homage to both my high school and college colors and works perfectly with the hippie/spin-art visuals.  According to the label Flashback celebrates Boulder’s 30th anniversary and is the ninth edition of the Looking Glass series of beers.

Since this was listed as an India Brown Ale I was pretty much expecting a hoppier version of the standard brown.  Some post drinking research led me to find out that IBAs are also being brewed by Dogfish Head, Terrapin, and a few others.  Who woulda known? Neither Beeradvocate or Ratebeer list an actual style under the name IBA.  The former lists it as an “American Brown” and the latter has it as plain old “Brown Ale.”


Beer: Flashback 30th Anniversary Ale

Brewer: Boulder Beer Company

Style: IBA, India Brown Ale (a.k.a. American Brown Ale, Brown Ale)

Serving: 12 oz. Bottle

ABV: 6.8%


Poured into the pub-provided pint glass this one comes out clear and dark brown with hints of red.  The head is medium height, light brown, and leaves a good amount of lace behind.

The aroma is hoppy, which is surprising for a brown, but pretty much what I was expecting here.  The hops are giving off a mostly herbal aroma.  Also in the nose is caramel malt.

The flavor is again mostly hops, herbal hops, but quite a bit more toasty-ness comes through as opposed to the smell.  Also, I’m picking up a grassy flavor from the hops.

The mouthfeel of Flashback is medium with prickly carbonation.  It has quite a bitter finish and leaves a grassy feeling in the mouth.  It is drinkable, but not for more than one or two.  The lowish alcohol by volume makes this almost sessionable, but the flavors and aromas don’t make you rush for another bottle.  When I was done with this I was very ready to move on to something else.

Overall, I was pleased, but not impressed by Boulder’s Flashback IBA.  I got what I was expecting, a hoppy brown, but it sounded much better in theory than in practice.  I feel this could possibly be a style that doesn’t need to exist, and judging by BA and RB’s lack of acknowledging the style, they don’t either.  However, before I write off this brew or other IBAs I  shall try others and see their interpretation.

Boulder gets an “A” for effort and I always encourage brewers to try new styles or reinvent old ones.


Appearance: 3.8/5

Aroma: 3.8/5

Flavor: 3.8/5

Mouthfeel: 3.5/5

Drinkability: 3.7/5

Overall: 3.62/5

Chance of Beer Epiphany: 25%

I don’t think anyone is going to jump up and down cheering for craft beer if first introduced via an India Brown Ale.  Flashback IBA is good, don’t get me wrong.  I enjoyed it, but I think it is more of a niche beer and beer style.  Some are going to love it and others aren’t.  This is not what I would hand someone and say “try this and now tell me if you still want to drink Miller all the time.”  They might just say “I’ll stick with Miller.”


Boulder Beer Co.




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