There’s a new philosophy bubbling up in the realm of IPAs. Up until recently, bitterness had been the hallmark of hoppy American beers. Sure, hop flavor plays a very major role, but IBUs make the headlines. It seems that’s beginning to shift: We’re starting to see the soft side of IPAs.
The first encounter I had with the “new” form of IPA happened earlier this year, when I popped open a bottle of Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA. I was amazed at how the brewery was able to pack so much hop flavor into the beer without overwhelming the tongue with bitterness—Fresh Squeezed went on to make our list of Top 25 Beers of 2013. Here’s how I summed up the profile:
“Dripping with tropical mango and pineapple, and beaming with sunny orange and grapefruit, the virtual juice profile of Fresh Squeezed delivers all the hop color without the sharp, bitter bite. This new-school IPA is an exquisite remedy to IBU fatigue, and the vanguard of the style’s refinement.”
A few months later, I spoke with Boston Beer founder Jim Koch and, to my surprise, the concept of a smoother IPA popped up again. Koch tipped me off to a new beer they’ve been developing; one that maximizes hop flavor over bitterness. In his words:
“It has a boatload of hops, but we’re trying to basically use that boatload of hops to get hop character rather than simple bitterness. Everyone’s fixated on IBUs. What we try to do with Rebel IPA is have a big, hoppy West Coast IPA that doesn’t rely on bitterness.”
The brewing trials seemed to have paid off: Samples of Rebel IPA, which is slated for national distribution beginning Feb. 1, 2014, arrived in our office last week and the beer was everything he promised.
Like Fresh Squeezed, Rebel IPA’s packed with hop flavor, but maintains an incredibly smooth mouthfeel. A big orange-and-pineapple aroma augments a swallow that’s colored with classic grapefruit and orange hop tones; slightly sweet bready malts add to the beer’s easy, creamy swallow.
Like many hopheads, I spent years chasing down the bitterest of beers, in search of palate-wrecking swallows laced with big hop flavor. I’ll still reach for the wickedly bitter bombers, but I’m welcoming this new breed of IPAs with open arms.
Bring on the smooth IPAs.