Love Them Or Not, Juicy IPAs Are Hot #BrewedAwakening
When I first started writing about beer in the early 90s there were practically no IPAs, and fruity hops were a new thing. As homebrewers we were all excited about Cascade, from the west coast USA, which gave a grapefruit and floral note to our beers. I remember brewing a really good West Coast Style Amber Ale. It was nice as a changeup from the bitters and stouts I typically brewed.
These days, though, fruity hops, including a whole range of new ones developed in the USA, as well as in NZ and Australia, are all the rage, and play a big role in the trend towards “juicy” IPAs, as well as cloudy, tropical/citrus laden New England style IPAs (NEIPA) and the sweet and fruity “milkshake” IPAs <shudders>.
No one is forced to enjoy any style of beer, regardless of what’s trendy (just as in music) but, as a BJCP certified judge, I have to look at these beers using a neutral stance. Do I personally want to drink them at my local pub, or at home? Only a sample, please. But, if you put a line-up of them in front of me, blind, I would still be able to choose the ones that are the cleanest, most balanced, and true to style.
The problem, though, is that imbalance is the norm for these beers. They lean to the sweet and fruity, with a lack of malt balance, and in some cases they lack body and bitterness. Some are more like a radler than a beer.
I tried the Juicy! DIPA from Halifax’s Garrison this week as an example. It is a dangerous beer, being extremely fruity and relatively off-dry/easy drinking for an 8% alcohol beer. I don’t know the IBU but it has a lot of finishing hops, and the nose is all fruit juice. Blind, I would not identify this as a beer by its nose. That said, it has a fair amount of hop bitterness, although malt seems an afterthought. It is very well made, though, perfect on one level, in terms of “Did they get what they were aiming for?” If you like fruity, easy drinking strong beers, Juicy! might be for you.
“Juicy” beers are a bit of conundrum for me, though, as a critic and judge. If you like them, great – that’s your business – but I don’t want to encourage them, either from a consumer standpoint or when talking to breweries, anymore than I would encourage wineries to make sweet red wines or generic Pinot Grigio to appeal to novice drinkers.
I love a good, dry, grapefruity, 5% American Pale Ale, but I’m not down with juicy.