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The Bright, Juicy, Tropical, Fruit and Sour IPAs Freshening Up Beer

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A new wave of bright juicy, tropical, fruit and sour IPAs are freshening up the India Pale Ale category as New England/Vermont style IPA’s make the future hazy. The only trend hotter than a milky and fruity east coast IPA are new hop varieties adding a juicy tropical kick to already citrusy beers, while other brewers go straight to fruit additions or kettle souring techniques. One thing all these beers have in common is that they all exploit fruit flavors to maximum effect.
Three trends to look for today are the bright juicy and tropical IPAs that rely on new varietals like El Dorado, Azacca, and Citra; fruited IPAs that most often use citrus juices, but sometimes stone or tropical fruits; and soured IPAs that play tangy tartness against grassy and fruity hop character. If you have not tried them, here are examples of some of the best interpretations from across the country.

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Juicy and Tropical IPAs

We already burned through over a thousand words last week on the New England or Vermont-style IPA, but the style fits well into the subtrend of “juicy” or “tropical” IPA. The argument is that the flavor profile of these beers is the same as the NE IPA, but perhaps a touch more bitter and usually not cloudy. These are the juicified west coast ales that are the natural evolution of the citrus and piney IPAs to which we have become accustomed.

The flavors and inspiration for Tropical IPAs came from the new hop varieties of Australia and New Zealand like Galaxy, Motueka, Nelson Sauvin, Wakatu, and Pacifica that take fruity to a new level with notes of mango, pineapple, and citrus. But now we have our own new hop varieties in America blowing up the citrus fruit flavors our Pacific Northwest hops are known for, with new levels of tropical flavor in American grown varieties like El Dorado, Azacca, and Equinox. Even Germany is getting in on the trend by developing notable new varieties like Hallertau Blanc and Mandarina Bavaria. Here are some of the best examples:

Sierra Nevada Tropical IPA, Three Magnets Little Juice, No-Li Brewhouse Big Juicy, Flying Dog Tropical Bitch, Elysian Dayglow, Boulevard Tropical Pale

3 Magnets Smoothie Juicy IPA

Three Magnets Brewing: Little Juice IPA – Smoothie Edition –

Up and coming buzz-worthy Olympia, Washington-based Three Magnets Brewing makes some terrific IPAs and Belgian and Farmhouse-style ales. Head Brewer Patrick Jensen is a big fan of the more fruity and tropical flavor profiles that brewers like Russian River and Stone began experimenting with in the days before New England/Vermont-style IPAs were a thing. Though Pat is bottling a special “Smoothie Edition” of Little Juice IPA as a tribute to the NE IPAs, he is not a big fan –  “I’ve tried these beers and found them muddled in their acidity-bitterness balance. This, to me, is not IPA. Still a tasty beer.”

But Little Juice IPA Smoothie Edition would please any fan of NE IPAs, as well as West Coast IPAs. It’s full of tropical fruit and citrusy juice notes but is thick, cloudy and soft.

Little Juice Smoothie Edition was brewer on a lark. I was hanging out with one of our bartenders, Grant Bolt, one day and was making fun of NE/Vermont IPA’s and all of the nuance beer geeks attribute to their cloudiness. I said it would be easy to make that happen in one of our beers. That’s it. All we did different from a regular batch of Little Juice was add wheat and oats, like the Topaz Pale and leave the Whirlflock out. The regular Little Juice is only 2-row malt. So really the only thing that makes our “smoothie” beers what they are is no kettle coagulant. Well, the beer took off, people seem to dig it. Now we make it a little more often.”

Three Magnets is bottling the Little Juice IPA – Smoothie Edition- on April 25th, so look for 22oz bottles available in Washington and the Portland-area soon thereafter.

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No-Li Brewhouse Big Juicy

Spokane’s No-Li Brewhouse just announced its own “Big Juicy” IPA now available in cans. No-Li is relying–like many others–in Citra, El Dorado, and Azacca hops, along with a lesser-known new variety called Belma. At 55 IBUs and 6.15%ABV, the Big Juicy is practically sessionable compared to traditional west coast IPAs. I asked Carey Fristoe, the No-Li Brewery Operations Manager, if he had any influence or inspiration with this beer, and he cited Breakside and Firestone Walker IPAs overall, and said, “At the end of the day, we really wanted to make something that was easy to drink, full of interesting flavors and aromas, and utilized some of the newer hop varieties.” Big Juicy IPA is a brand new year-round release in 6-packs and 12oz cans and is available now in Oregon and Washington.

Flying Dog Tropical Bitch IPA

Flying Dog: Tropical Bitch

Maryland-based Flying Dog Brewing recently launched its Tropical Bitch Belgian-style IPA as a spring seasonal. Though fermented with a Belgian yeast, it’s a juicy/tropical IPA at heart and the fruity Belgian yeast just serves to play up that profile. Flying Dog compares this beer to a pineapple and mango margarita with sticky sweet passion fruit and hops notes. 8% ABV and available in 12oz bottles.

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Sierra Nevada: Tropical IPA

The Tropical IPA trend got its biggest boost yet when category leader Sierra Nevada released its own “Tropical IPA.” All American-grown Citra, Mosaic, and El Dorado hops create bright fruit- flavors of mango, papaya, and bitter orange. With this limited edition release available right now, Sierra Nevada is testing the waters of this new trend and perhaps trying to define it as a sub-style. Good thing that it is very, very good.

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Elysian: Dayglow IPA

Is Elysian Brewing attempting to emulate or at least nod to NE/Vermont IPAs with Dayglow? One can only speculate, but this bold 7.4% ABV summer release has a touch of wheat added to lend a purposeful haze. It is most definitely hopped/bittered like a West Coast IPA, though. Dayglow was one of the earlier beers to really pack in the juicy  pineapple-y hops with tropical, sunshiny Mosaic, and twinkles with touches of Eldorado and Centennial. Available draft and 220z bottles this May through August.

Boulevard Brewing Tropical Pale Ale can

Boulevard: Tropical Pale Ale

Boulevard Brewing in Kansas City, MO, is going all in on the Tropical and Fruit IPA popularity with a new year-round beer, “Tropical Pale” in cans. Boulevard is basing the beer on a collaboration with Florida’s Cigar City Brewing, so citrus naturally abounds. Though it’s technically a pale ale and not an IPA, this beer really “marries the breweries’ love of balanced pale ales with the bright, refreshing flavors of grapefruit and passionfruit accented by juicy, citrusy hops.” A blend of Mosaic, Citra, Topaz, and Azacca hop varieties lends bright flavors of mango, pear, blueberry, and citrus and then brewers actually add real grapefruit and passion fruit juice at the end of the boil. Cans of Tropical Pale Ale will be released later this month in April of 2016.

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Citrus/Fruit IPAs

The hottest trend in IPA is putting the juice back into the hops; rather than trying to just emulate the fruit flavors, brewers are actually using the real thing. Dogfish Head has been doing it since 1997, but it did not really catch on until Ballast Point launched Grapefruit Sculpin in bottles. The timing could not have been more perfect, with the increasing popularity of fruited sours and using real fruit rather than flavorings in events like the Portland Fruit Beer Festival. For a while, we were calling them Citrus IPAs, but brewers are no longer limiting themselves to just citrus fruits, finding all kinds of fruits can kick an IPA up a notch and even appeal to non-IPA drinkers.

Examples: Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin, Lompoc Pamplemousse, Green Flash Tangerine Soul Style IPA, Sam Adams Rebel Grapefruit, New Belgium Citradelic, Pineapple Sculpin, Victory Agave Grapefruit, Dogfish Head Romantic Chemistry

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Green Flash: Tangerine Soul Style IPA

Perhaps my favorite recent addition to the fruited IPA explosion, Green Flash adds refreshing tangerine to their already great Soul Style IPA. Again no coincidence, the webpage for Tangerine Soul Style says “Tropical & Juicy” in big bold letters. This is the opposite of Green Flash’s flagship West Coast IPA, which is more dank and piney, while this one aims to remind you of a SoCal summer with a bright golden color and effervescent aroma of tangerine. Hopped with one part classic 90’s grapefruit hop–Cascade–and equal part new wave lemony/citrusy Citra hops. Clean and crisp and available year round. 75 IBUs, 6.5% ABV and available year round on draft, 12oz bottles and 6-packs.

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Ballast Point: Pineapple Sculpin IPA

San Diego-based Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits hit on a billion dollar idea when it began infusing its category-leading west coast Sculpin IPA with different fruits, spices, and herbs. When the brewery launched Grapefruit Sculpin as a year-round release on draft, bottles and cans, it became the leader of this new trend and recently expanded it with a Pineapple Sculpin. The addition of fruit to an IPA makes lots of sense; American brewers and drinkers have already been obsessed with getting fruit flavors out of their hops, and fermentations and fruit can add a whole new complexity. The addition of pineapple also falls perfectly well into the oh-so-trendy attempt to get a pineapple flavor out of the new wave of tropical hops. This is big and definitely west coast with 70 IBUs and 7% ABV, available year-round in 12oz bottles and draft.

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Dogfish Head: Romantic Chemistry IPA

It’s no surprise that Dogfish Head notes a “lingering aroma of tropical fruits” in its new limited release Romantic Chemistry IPA (which can be found on tap this June at the Portland Fruit Beer Festival). It’s brewed with actual apricots and mangos from one of the first brewers to make fruited IPA with beers like Aprihop. The name Romantic Chemistry hints at the connection between the beer’s three main ingredients of hops, mango, and apricot. Myrcene is a part of an essential oil in apricots and infuses well with the piney and citrusy flavors from the mango and hops. Available now in 12oz bottles and on draft.

Lompoc Pamplemousse Citrus IPA 6-pack

Lompoc Brewing: Pamplemousse Citrus IPA

Portland’s own Lompoc Brewing just announced it will be putting its popular Pamplemousse Citrus IPA into 12oz bottles and 6-packs for the first time. Pamplemousse is Lompoc’s 2nd year-round IPA, and I think the better of the 2. This is a medium-bodied, golden IPA with real grapefruit juice added. It’s relatively low alcohol at 5.8% ABV and very easy-drinking, with a balanced bitterness and sweet-bitter tangy twang of grapefuit lingering on your tongue. Available now on draft, 22oz bottles and 12oz bottles.

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Odell: Tree Shaker Imperial Peach IPA

Odell Brewing out of Fort Collins, Colorado is one of the few breweries stretching away from the citrus fruits to use peaches to flavor its IPA. Apparently Colorado’s Western Slope has some great juicy peaches growing. Odell uses 3,000 pounds of peaches to add some fruity sweetness and depth, complementing Tree Shaker’s citrusy hops, and the result is a delicious 8% ABV and 48 IBU Double IPA. Available seasonally in the spring on draft and in 12oz bottles and 4-packs.

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Sam Adams: Grapefruit Rebel IPA

As Boston Beer Co. (maker of Samuel Adams) chases the IPA trend in many categories, the Rebel Grapefruit IPA may be its best hoppy offering. Though because of its size and ubiquity Sam Adams often gets overlooked for smaller craft brands–and the brewery’s new and experimental offerings are often hit and miss–I believe the Rebel Grapefruit IPA is one of the category’s finest. New batches of Rebel Grapefruit captures the bittersweet juiciness of a Stiegl Grapefruit Radler, but with the fresh grassy, citrus, and pine of hops and a crisper lighter bodied finish. Available in many forms, 12oz bottles, 12oz cans and 16oz cans. Try it alongside a Grapefruit Sculpin.

Sour-IPA's

Sour IPAs

This a fresh new category; like a newborn, it’s crawling out from behind a baby gate, but not yet ready to walk on its own. Now is the perfect time for craft brewers to get in early and make an impression as these brewers have done.

Brewers are marrying two disparate flavors of bitter and sour by subduing those major traits, but playing up the fruity qualities each share to create something unique. At best, they make the beer brighter, complex, and tantalizingly unique and refreshing. At worst, they can be milquetoast and flat in character without complexity. I believe the trend started with dry-hopped sour wild ales, popularized in Colorado by breweries like Crooked Stave. However, the style is coming more into its own with the exploding popularity and relative ease of kettle souring. Here are 7 beers that explore the range of history, flavors and techniques in the emerging Sour IPA trend.

Examples: Lagunitas Aunt Sally, Almanac Simcoe Sour, Epic Ales Sour IPA, New Belgium Hop Tart, Victory WildDevil, Stone Enjoy After, Wicked Weed Amorous Sour IPA

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Almanac Simcoe Sour

Though San Francisco-based Almanac Brewing does not market this beer (or its other single hop sours) as an IPA, the brewery is about as hoppy as any other sour IPA and was an early example of this trend. Simcoe Sour is one of my favorites, and unlike most of the new “Sour IPAs” that are kettle soured, this one is brettanomyces and lactobacillus fermented in wine barrels so it has the funky complexities of a wild sour combined with dank and citrusy Simcoe hops. Not very bitter but highly aromatic with plenty of hop flavor, you can’t go wrong with Simcoe Sour or the similar Citra Sour and other releases in the “Hoppy Sour Series.” Look for it in highly limited draft and 375ml bottles. 7% ABV.

Epic  Tart 'n Juicy Sour IPA can

Epic Brewing: Tart ‘n Juicy Sour IPA

Both a session IPA as well as a kettle soured IPA and even complemented by “Juicy” hopping, it combines 3 IPA trends into one 12oz can. I am dying to try Epic Brewing’s new Tart ‘n Juicy Sour IPA when cans start to appear sometime this April. The brewery says it has bright notes of grapefruit, agave, tangerine, and passionfruit and is hopped with loads of Citra and Amarillo hops. Matthew Allred at Epic Brewing says, “While ‘sour’ and ‘IPA’ would normally be an oxymoron, our brewers have dialed in the flavor profile.” 6-packs of 12oz cans should be available in April and are only 4.5% ABV.

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pFriem Family Brewers: Sour IPA

Local fave pFriem in Hood River, Oregon, has released a draft-only IPA that was kettle-soured over 20 hours before fermentation when it was hopped with Equinox and Hallertau Blanc varieties. This is really a good light intro beer to these flavors, as it’s lightly tart and very lightly bitter, with more flavor and aroma hops onto a light acidic zing of a malt base. In the vein of Breakside Brewery’s dry-hopped sour ‘La Tormenta.’ 5% ABV and 15 IBUs.

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Wicked Weed Amorous Sour IPA

The great Asheville, North Carolina brewers Wicked Weed take a different approach with Amorous Sour IPA. It’s a blend of dry-hopped sour wine barrel-aged beers. I am guessing it was not kettle soured like most, as it was aged for 8-10 months before being dry-hopped with over 3.5lbs of Mosaic and Centennial hops. Amorous Sour IPA is lightly sour with big notes of guava and grapefruit from the dry-hopping. The tartness accentuates the tropical and citrusy profile of the hops. Limited availability in 500ml bottles. 7% ABV.

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Stone: Enjoy After Brett IPA

Another early example of Sour IPAs was Stone Brewing’s Enjoy After Brett IPA. The beer spins Stone Brewing’s Best By series of fresh IPAs with an IPA spiked at bottling with brettanomyces wild yeast and meant to cellar. With some time this beer has gained some funk and acidity along with the earthy brett flavors and a soapy, fruity, spicy hop profile. Enjoy After Brett IPA is tasting great now if you can find a bottle. Hopped with Super Galena, Simcoe, Delta, Target, Amarillo, Calypso, and Cascade hops, 70 IBUs and 7% ABV. Bottled in 750ml caged and corked bottles.

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Victory: Wild Devil

Just like the Stone Enjoy After, Victory Brewing dosed its HopDevil IPA with brettanomyces for Wild Devil IPA. With German malts and whole flower American hops, you get a full floral and bitter bouquet and the brett gives it a sharp tang and deep funk. Limited release in 750ml caged and corked bottles and draft.

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New Belgium: Hop Tart

More of a pale ale, really, but just about all of the Sour IPAs have more of a mild hopping to begin with, so New Belgium’s Hop Tart qualifies. Again, the brewery is going for the tropical notes here and the slight sourness from a blend of lactobacillus soured beer and fresh ale, the Hop Tart is a refreshing seasonal spin by the Colorado brewers. New Belgium hits it on the head with New Zealand varieties that started the tropical IPA trend – Nelson Sauvin, Galaxy and an Experimental Hop 522 dry-hopping. Released in the Hop Kitchen series on draft. 5% ABV and 30 IBUs.

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Lagunitas: Aunt Sally

The latest release in the Sour IPA category and perhaps the biggest release yet is Lagunitas’ Aunt Sally dry-hopped sweet tart sour mash ale. The brewery describes this kettle soured beer as tasting “like a big bowl of fruity candy or some chewable flavored vitamins, but what’s the difference?” I am not sure what the hops are in this one, but it’s very full of lemongrass and apricot notes. Lagunitas may be priming this release for year-round production in 12oz bottles, 6-packs and draft, so if its popular it might be the beer that really breaks the style. 5.7% ABV and 33 IBUs.

Founder of The New School and most frequent contributor Ezra Johnson-Greenough has worked in the craft beer industry for almost 10 years, doing everything from illustrating beer labels to bartending at renowned beer bars and breweries like Belmont Station, Apex, Laurelwood and Upright Brewing. He has also had a hand in creating events like the Portland Fruit Beer Festival, Portland Beer Week, and the Brewing up Cocktails series. He is available for freelance consultation in marketing, events, graphic design and branding. Contact: SamuraiArtist@NewSchoolBeer.com

4 Comments

  1. Charlie Quills

    April 15, 2016 at 8:30 am

    Dry-hopped sours have a slight but rightfully growing pedigree in the States. See Tonsmeire’s work for examples, or nearly any recent farmhouse/wild ale hitting the market…Good to see the niche taking off, but why associate such gems so closely with IPA? Seems many, if not most, dry-hopped sours/wild ales will lack the isomerized AAs, and most other qualities, of true IPAs…aside from some Brett or Drie-fermented IPAs that focus on utilization of wild/novel sacc strains which are not souring mechanisms (without bacterial help) but which do lend tropical, juicy notes when young, and help keep oxidation minimal to preserve dry-hop character while Brett grows older and funkier (not tart, nor sour), leading to complex, tasty beer. Even Brett IPAs, I think, would avoid excessive bitterimg additions found in their clean kin. Why not associate this dry-hopped trend with its traditionally non-dry-hopped sour/wild/aged ancestors? Dry-hopping doesn’t make a pale ale an IPA, just like dry-hopping New Belgium’s Felix doesn’t make it an IPA…it makes Le Terroir…a dry-hopped sour that defies stylistic classification. Maybe I’m missing the point? Seems the IPA/sour link is tenuos–like what a stretch a “lite beer/IPA” comparison would have been 6 years ago, or what a “lite beer/session IPA” comparison would’ve been in the last two years.

  2. Samurai Artist

    April 17, 2016 at 10:45 pm

    Your missing the point in just that this article is specifically focusing on IPA’s so naturally that is the association. Not saying they could not be associated with something else or that it might be used somewhere else. I think its more interesting because we are all familiar with fruit and sourness being used in other styles.

  3. Charlie Quills

    April 18, 2016 at 7:30 pm

    Ah…guess one of us lost focus. Not sure how sour-mashed, dry-hopped tart ales classify as IPAs, but…sure. Whatever. Seems like a lot of bogus market shakedown and spooky voodoo…all this talk of sour IPA related to a handful of beers that don’t even mention IPA in their labelling (perhaps for good reason). Lame.

    • Samurai Artist

      April 18, 2016 at 9:41 pm

      Many of them do mention IPA in their name. Draft Magazine just had a story on them and Jeff Alworth called them the next big thing. Does not mean it’s true, but it’s certainly worth writing about.

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