The omnipresence of the IPA in American craft beer culture has been much bemoaned. Purists lambast brewers for hiding flaws beneath high IBUs, and even the most stoic beer nerds turn their noses up at hop chasers.
But the IPA has grown and evolved in unpredictable and exciting ways. Subgenres like West Coast, session, black, wild, and New England have enlivened the IPA, turning it into a category that’s richer and more nuanced than any other in the beer world.
This month, four of the five beers featured are IPAs, and the broad swath of flavors they represent is great evidence that the popularity of the IPA in America is not a limiting factor for breweries.
Fair State Pahlay'Ahlay
American pale ale, 4.8% ABV, 45 IBU
Six months into 2017, Fair State Brewing Cooperative is making a strong case for Best Brewery (see April’s Local Suds for reference), but their latest can release isn’t a huge evolution for the Northeast beermakers. Pahlay'Ahlay was first released in 2015 (first in the taproom, then in bomber bottles), but it’s been given new life in 16-ounce cans this summer.
With beautiful notes of lemon and lime, Pahlay'Ahlay was born for tallboys. The citra and simcoe hops punctuate a very light body that’s given some cloudiness from the addition of flaked oat. The oats add some creaminess to the body, pushing this APA towards the NE IPA territory in mouthfeel, but Fair State’s signature crisp finish distinguishes Pahlay'Ahlay from other sessionable beers hitting the market this season.
Indeed Peach Bum
IPA, 6.2% ABV, 70 IBU
Peach Bum, Indeed’s fruity new 12-ounce IPA, has a slight addition of peach, but most of the peachiness comes from the A4 Barbarian yeast the Northeast brewery uses, creating a sweetness that’d soon be mistaken for hand fruit. It's a fruit beer that even the beer nerds can get on board with
What’s unexpected in Peach Bum is the delightful burst of azacca, centennial, mosaic, and citra hops that burst out of the can. The bitterness (70 IBU) of Peach Bum is present and strong, but it melts into a fruity, malty swallow that balances out each sip. This summer seasonal (available early June until October) should be a go-to for sunset patio drinking in the Twin Cities.
Bent Paddle Kanu
American pale ale, 4.8% ABV, 48 IBU
Just as Surly is releasing 12 packs of 12-ounce cans, Duluth brewer Bent Paddle is coming to compete with a dozen of its own. But instead of going with a standby, Bent Paddle is testing the crisp new flagship Kanu, which, as its name suggests, is aiming to crowd your fishing cooler.
Kanu is billed at a session ale, following in the mandatory sub-5 percent category, but it barely qualifies. At 4.8 percent ABV, each can is like a Bud Light and a half. That's okay because Kanu is in a league far above poundable macros. Bright citra, El Dorado, and Idaho 7 lead the way to a clean, almost pilsner-like finish. This is a beer for all things summer. If you haven’t made Bent Paddle a regular in your beer fridge, Kanu is the beer that will convert you.
IPA, 4.9% ABV, 37 IBU
Fulton’s calling card has always been the grain star — the five-pointed barley logo has been their brand leader since inception. But at this year’s Gran Fundo, they decided to switch elements, releasing their Northeast session IPA Hopstar. Now, that anniversary special has been given new life in tallboy cans that position the grain star opposite a gorgeously illustrated hop.
As a Northeast (or, in Fulton’s terminology, Northeast Minneapolis) IPA, Hopstar is cloudy and has all those wonderful milkshake juices that’ve made the style the hottest beer trend of 2017. But the double dry hopping of citra, mosaic, and amarillo make Hopstar drier and grassier than its peers. Also unlike its peers, Hopstar comes in at a breezy 4.9 percent ABV and sells for a generous $8 per four pack.
Inbound Hibiscus Saison
Saison, 6% ABV, 16 IBU
Many breweries around the country are dabbling with hibiscus — the acidic tropical flower used to make the Mexican drink jamaica (see also Fair State’s Roselle). Famed for its cranberry-like pinkishness and tart flavor, hibiscus can totally redefine a style if used correctly. If used incorrectly, it can add a harshness to a beer that’s unforgivable.
Inbound BrewCo’s Hibiscus Saison harnesses the Belgian style’s herbal flavor to support the floral notes of natural dried hibiscus petals. It’s a beer that drinks almost like a rosé. The ruby red color looks great in a tulip glass, and taking a moment to inhale the beautiful bouquet of clover and cranberry only deepens the appreciation. HBS, a former taproom favorite, is available in 750 mL bottles right now.
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