Tap This: Grapefruit an ideal partner for hops in experimental IPA world
The craft beer community has many similarities to the culinary community. The focus is flavors and finding ways to accentuate these flavors with new ingredients.
The IPA has long been the favored style in craft beer, and with a variety of new hops that have been introduced, the runaway favorites have been those that contribute citrus flavors and aromas, namely grapefruit. This has led to the inclusion of grapefruits into a variety of beers with resounding success.
While fruit in beer is nothing new and has a long history dating back to the days before Blue Moon, it has come a long way. The idea of placing a slice of fruit into a beer has become a custom with some beers, but directly adding fruit into the beer during brewing is far different and requires a great deal more skill.
Beers such as lambics have been brewed for hundreds of years. The beers feature fruit and a subtle sour flavor from wild yeast. Lambics are firmly planted in the “fruit beer” category, but brewers have begun a category that is very different. Instead of making fruit beers, brewers are creating fruit-in beers.
Fruit beers are notoriously sweet with a seemingly larger than average addition of sugar. For some, the beers can be difficult to enjoy in larger quantities due to this residual sugar. Fruit beers are often gateway beers for the craft initiate because of their approachable sweetness, but as sippers mature, they often leave this sweetness behind for more refined tastes.
While lambics are more sophisticated than the average fruit beer, the sweetness does leave a lasting impact that can result in heart burn and a general uneasy feeling. This is where fruit-in beer can be very different when tasting beers side by side.
Brewers add fruit to beer to enhance many naturally occurring flavors already within the beer.
One ingredient that has seen an explosion in craft beer is grapefruit. Popular hops such as citra, cascade and chinook offer a strong grapefruit presence in both aroma and taste.
As these hops grew in popularity with it grew the love of juicy citrus-forward IPAs. The next logical step was to begin to add citrus fruit to the same beers to enhance the citrus flavors already present.
IPAs like Ballast Point’s Sculpin IPA have gained a loyal following in every area where the beer is distributed. The flood of citrus notes was noted by many devotees as the reason the IPA was so good. The brewery made the decision to begin brewing Grapefruit Sculpin, and the results were overwhelmingly positive.
The most important element to adding complementary flavors to beers is balance. Just because a beer already has a strong grapefruit presence does not mean that making it stronger is going to make the beer better. In fact, it can ruin the beer. We have all had beers that became unbalanced, were too saturated with certain flavors and made the beer off-putting, so balance is key.
Grapefruit is a tricky flavor with IPAs in that it is naturally bitter and keeping the base recipe the same with the same amount of hops can make the beer far too bitter. Sure, many hop lovers crave bitter beers, but when taste tips too far in that general direction, many will no longer enjoy the beer.
While recipe development lies in the minds of brewers, it is important to remember these facts as you enjoy some of these wonderful beers in order to appreciate the work that went into crafting them. Brewing true craft beer is far more than just jotting down some numbers, throwing ingredients together and hoping for the best. There is much trial and error that goes into each and every batch.
As the summer approaches, one thing will be true: More beer with fruit in it will appear in bars and on shelves, and grapefruit will be leading the way. The refreshing qualities make it the perfect ingredient for a light summer beer. So grab yourself a few six packs and get ready for summer!
Derek Warren is a beer fanatic, avid homebrewer and beer historian. Derek can be heard weekly on the Beer Geeks Radio Hour at noon on Sundays on WILK 103.1 FM with past episodes available on iTunes.