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Friday, July 05, 2013

The New Breed of Sweet IPAs

Last night, reclining on the roof of an undisclosed warehouse in the inner Southeast beneath an exploding sky, I poured out a measure of the new Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA.  It's one of the many IPAs out now that harnesses the intense fruitiness of new American hops, in this case Citra and Mosaic.  The name and tagline tell you everything you need to know about the beer's nature: "no fruit was harmed in the making of this beer."

When you have been tasting beer for decades, your mind has a tendency to become enclosed by habit.  IPAs have evolved in increments, from screamingly bitter, mildly grapefruity versions of the 90s to the increasingly aromatic, dank, dry-hopped incarnations in the mid aughts to now, when bitterness is dialed pretty far back in favor of vividly fruity IPAs.  Since it has gone in increments, I have mainly just revised my old mental model to accommodate for new trends.  IPAs are bitter beers rich with aromatics and hop flavor.  The formula may change, but these facts remain the same. 

But last night, one of the roof-sitters--not a beer geek--sampled Fresh Squeezed IPA and remarked: "Wow, that's a sweet beer."

He's right.  Deschutes put 60 bitterness units in this beer, but it has a ton of caramelly body (it's closer in color to Newcastle than Pilsner Urquell) that adds a lot of sugars to the mix.  Layer those intensely fruity new-variety hops on top and you add a level of juiciness the mind tracks as purely sweet.  From a sensory perspective, these aren't bitter beers at all--they are actually sweet. 

Even when the beer is stronger, has less sugars and more bitterness, the purity of the fruit flavors gives these beers a distinctly sweet character.  Boneyard and Gigantic make juicy IPAs that were, in Oregon, the harbingers of the sweetening trend.  Hop-growers have been going crazy bringing new products to the market, and what people seem to love most are the tropical fruit flavors.  (Hops with resiny, dank qualities or piney character seem to be fading, trendwise.)  I saw this in Europe, too, where breweries have more ready access to New Zealand hops, which also have saturated fruit flavors--though they tend toward berry and lychee. 

I was feeling somewhat oppressed by the heavy, ganja-like hopping that was most popular a few years back--those beers were a sensory and alcoholic kick to the head.  These new IPAs, sweet with the sunshine of fruit and often more sessionable, are right up my alley. 

9 comments:

Jesse Adams said...

Well said! I couldn't agree more, especially with "These new IPAs, sweet with the sunshine of fruit and often more sessionable, are right up my alley."

Cheers!

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's the Corn Dextrose everyone is adding?

vasili said...

The Dextrose would dry the beer out, as it's an easily fermentable sugar. It is really the opposite of what Jeff is talking about, used mostly for boosting alcohol without leaving the body all grain brewing would. Sweetness would be a combination of creating more complex sugars average beer yeasts can not ferment as well as hop variety choice and de-emphasizing the bittering additions for late kettle additions that retain more of the flavor of hops.

Anonymous said...

Isn't that basically an India Red Ale?

Vasili said...

I think the only hard and fast criteria there is that it is "Red". Interpretations could be dry or sweet in either category, relative to each other. I suppose they could likewise be Lighter or Darker; or edge closer to Red, but just because it has more body doesn't mean it is darker. You can achieve that with mash temps, Carapils or Dextrin malts. I think "red" is typically the (heavier) use of mid range color/caramel malts. Trying to create clear lines between some of these styles can get silly. For example India Session Ale? Delicious? yes! I would think so even if they called it pale ale. Jeff is picking up on a trend to back off the bittering (early) hop adds. not radical stuff, but distinct from how many had been making them.

Jeff Alworth said...

I'm with Vasili here. It's the shift from early kettle/high BU hopping to late kettle/high flavor and aroma hopping, all combined with these new ultra-fruity hop varieties that didn't exist even five years ago.

Reds--that's a whole nother deal, isn't it? (A style in flux or no style, not sure which.)

Pete Dunlop said...

Fresh Squeezed IPA definitely isn't a red, but it's darker than many current IPAs...reminiscent of an English-style IPA in color. I tasted it for the first time last night and it wasn't quite what I expected. Bitterness is definitely in the background and it is mildly sweet. I thought it would be a golden, citrusy hop bomb.

Clearly, the trend toward late addition hops and dry-hopping has transformed the IPA. I think RPM set the bar for these fruity, not-so bitter IPAs. RPM is a good deal lighter in color than Fresh Squeezed, and not as sweet...it relies on flavor and aroma, not bitterness. On that subject, Vasili recently created Citra IPA, a terrific late addition hop bomb that was to die for. It lasted about a week in the pub. Fantastic stuff.

Doug Sottoway said...

I had many Double-Wide IPAs this past week...I'm not ready to give up my mouth blasting piney, bitter, fruity IPA. Adding another type of IPA (sweet if you will), only makes life better! Cheers to the craft!

Eric Steen said...

While I love the danker IPAs, the newest citrus blast IPAs are a ton of fun. I wrote about the Odell Imperial Peach IPA, and while it does have peaches in the mix, the hops clearly complement them and were chosen to massively boost that profile. It was awesome.

http://www.focusonthebeer.com/2013/04/a-beer-worth-buying-odell-brewings-tree.html

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