Fans of hoppy beers have made them the fastest-growing segment of the craft beer market. The Brewers Association says that IPAs alone accounted for approximately 21% of the volume of craft beer that was sold in 2014. A recent trend from brewers is to emphasize sub-flavors, especially citrus notes — orange, tangerine and grapefruit. Milwaukee Brewing Company recently announced a whole new line of beers that accentuate the tropical bitterness found in specific varieties of hops. The name of its newest release says it all: Grapefruit IPA.
What is it? Grapefruit IPA from Milwaukee Brewing Company.
Style: India Pale Ales (IPAs) in general emphasize hops with herbal, citrus and piney character in their aroma and flavor. IPAs are medium-bodied, often golden- to copper-colored, and 5.5% to 7.5% ABV.
Background: This is the first offering in Milwaukee Brewing’s new Citrus Happy series of beers. The brewery is basing these quarterly releases on its popular Hop Happy IPA, only with a dialed-back base beer to allow the citrus hop additions and special adjuncts to emerge even more. “Citrus and beer seem to go really well together,” says Sean Benson, the brewery’s Wisconsin sales manager. “It’s a natural progression to add fruits like grapefruit on top of the already citrusy aroma and flavor of the hops.”
Grapefruit IPA began as a draught beer a few months ago in the company’s Milwaukee Ale House, where many beers get their start. The hops at the center of this IPA are nearly all Centennials; the beer is dry-hopped with a touch of Australian Summer. Both varieties have citrus bitterness on their own; the beer gets an extra tropical punch from real grapefruit added early in the brewing and in fermentation. Brewery staff had to peel and juice over 100 pounds of fruit for each 80-barrel batch. “We use a little bit of the rind along with the pulp and the juice,” says Benson.
Milwaukee Brewing’s Grapefruit IPA finishes at 6% ABV and 55 IBUs. It’s available in six-packs for around $10 each.
Next up in the Citrus Happy Series will be a Tangerine IPA that is expected to be released by mid-summer.
Aroma: Strong aroma of grapefruit.
Appearance: Hazy, golden orange color; a thick, bubbly white head.
Texture: Medium- to full-bodied and bubbly.
Taste: Lots of grapefruit citrus from beginning to end.
Finish/Aftertaste: Grapefruit dryness, like the fruit’s juice; not really a hop dryness.
Glassware: The Willi Becher will show off the beer's vivid golden-orange color, while the inward lip focuses the grapefruit aroma. Serve this beer cold — the colder the better — to bring out the tropical citrus qualities. Don’t try to cellar this beer; you’ll want to enjoy it as soon as you buy it while the aromas and flavors of grapefruit and hops are fresh.
Pairs well with: This is a great beer for grilling and for spicy dishes. Its citrus sharpness is well-suited for spicy barbecue sauces and Cajun, Indian and Thai dishes.
The Verdict: Wow, you’ll notice that this is an IPA with assertive grapefruit character without a huge lingering hop-type bitterness. There’s lots of juice-like citrus flavors that emerge from the fresh grapefruit. But it’s the aroma that really amazed me, from the combination of the fruit and the dry-hopping with Australian Summer hops. Altogether there’s grapefruit with hints of lemon and melon. Hop purists might quibble about adding so much actual fruit for such dramatic enhancement; I found those citrus qualities make the beer surprisingly refreshing. Given the dominance of actual grapefruit, it’s tempting to serve this as you might a mimosa for brunch. If you like tropical IPAs, put this one on your summer list of brews.