Citrus IPAs: The flavor of summer

Orange juice isn’t just for mimosas. From the bitter orange peels used in the brewing of witbiers to the lemon soda blended with beer to make a shandy, and especially the ever growing citrus IPA style, citrus fruits have often found their way into beer. Citrus fruits and beer make a particularly potent combination during the summer. Citrus has a refreshing character that naturally brightens a beer’s flavor and helps highlight its crisp carbonation. Many varieties of hops actually contain some of the same chemical compounds that are found in the essential oils of citrus fruits. This is why IPAs often have aromas that are reminiscent of grapefruit, orange, and other citrus fruits. Many of the brewers have started adding in different parts of citrus fruits as a way to enhance this natural citrus character of hops, and these days one of the most popular beer trends are citrus IPAs.

The zest or the peel of the fruit is most often used however some brewers will use the fruit juice as well. Usually the only part of citrus fruit that is not used is the pith (that white part between the peel and the fruit) as it contains a harsh, astringent flavor. The aromatics found in citrus peels help bulk up the hop aromas and when the actual fruit is used the acidity helps sharpen the malt character in a beer. Citrus peel is normally added during the final stages of brewing where the hot liquid can extract the essential oils from the peel. Citrus peels are not added during the boiling period of the brewing process because the vigor of boiling liquid will push off the aromatic compounds and run the risk of extracting tannin from the peel. Instead, the fruit peels are often added just after the heat has been turned off on the boiling kettle.

A special grapefruit brew

At M.Special Brewing Co., they have been experimenting with a whole melange of different flavors, including citrus fruits. In their cask series, brewer and co-owner, Josh Ellis, has been seeing how a variety of ingredients like raspberries, mangoes, blueberries, and even cucumbers, combine with the flavors of their base beers. Of the different ingredients they experimented with, grapefruit and coffee grabbed their attention most (albeit not in the same beer). They just packaged a coffee pale ale called the Greenstar Special in kegs so expect to see it circulating around the area in the next week or two. While attending the Craft Brewers Conference in Philadelphia in 2016, Josh met someone who was producing a variety of fruit emulsions for brewing. The emulsions are all natural, using agar and honey as an emulsifying agent. He loved the flavor of their grapefruit emulsion and began experimenting with it in his beers.

While these flavor experiments have all been single batches, Josh recently had a chance to use the grapefruit emulsion on a larger scale for the Good Bar Special Grapefruit IPA, a collaboration between The Goodland Hotel in Goleta and M.Special. His first day on the job, Aaron Grinnell, GM of The Goodland, attended an employee party at M.Special. He had always been a huge IPA fan and was impressed by M.Special’s lineup. Being close neighbors, the brewery seemed like the perfect opportunity to design something special for the hotel. The Goodland and M.Special staff began discussing the possibility of a collaboration brew and wanted to craft a beer that was the perfect fit to drink poolside. Josh tasted them on several of the experimental beers but it was the grapefruit character that seemed like the ideal poolside companion.

For the Good Bar Special Grapefruit IPA, Josh uses their Greatland Special IPA as a base beer and then blends it with the grapefruit emulsion in the tank before kegging the brew. The finished beer has a bright fruit aroma of ruby red grapefruits with notes of Meyer lemons, mango, and lime peel coming from the hops. The beer is unfiltered and uses a touch of malted white wheat to give it a firmer body with a hint of sweetness that still allows the fruit character to shine. In addition to being served at the brewery, the beer is available at both the Outpost and Good Bar located inside The Goodland. If feeling peckish while at the hotel, the brew goes particularly well with their pork ribs. The ribs come beautifully charred with meat that falls easily off the bone. A chipotle-pomegranate glaze slathered on the ribs complements the fruitiness of the beer while pickled onions and chives brighten the hop aromas. They even have a cocktail called Easy Like Sunday Morning which blends the beer with Espolon Reposado tequila, Aperol, Ancho Chile, and Fresh Lime. Since introducing the Good Bar Special at the hotel, it has become their number one selling beer and it is definitely worth a visit.

Citrus in all its forms

At Telegraph Brewing Co. citrus has found its way into a good amount of their brews. Brewer Patrick Ceriale notes that the Belgian yeast used in the majority of Telegraph’s brews works particularly well with citrus flavors and since many of the hops they use contain these characters as well, adding citrus is a good way of bumping up these flavors. Most of their citrus-containing beers use only the peels. For example, White Ale uses orange peel and Buellton Silent Partner was brewed with Meyer lemon peels. However, some of their beers take the citrus one step further. Recently, they brewed a Blood Orange White Ale which had the blood orange juice added into the beer post-fermentation. This means that the juice does not ferment out and adds a subtle sweetness to the brew. The blood oranges brings out the wheat character a bit more and embraces the soft body of the beer.

One of Telegraph’s year-round brews, Goodland Orange Pale Ale, uses a particularly unique technique. The whole fruit is pureed in a food processor and then added to the fermenter. This means that the sugars in the juice will ferment out, contributing a drier character to the finished beer.

In this case the pith is added to the beer but since the fruit puree is added to cold liquid inside the fermenter, a minimal amount of astringency is extracted and the pith only contributes a gentle bitterness to the beer. Goodland Orange Pale Ale is made year-round which means that the variety of orange changes depending on the season. Sometimes the beer will contain Valencia oranges and sometimes it will be navels or other varieties. This change in orange type results in a fruit character that is subtly different between each batch. While the oranges may change with each season, the Goodland Orange Pale Ale, or any citrus IPA, usually tastes best during summer.

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Sentinel, May 30, 2017


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