Reporter's Notebook

Cavalcade of Beers
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Quasi-monthly celebrations, by James Fallows and friends and cronies, of beers worth noticing.

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It's National Craft Beer Week!

CraftBeer.com

I had somehow missed the fact that we are already four days into American Craft Beer Week! Fortunately it runs all the way through Sunday evening. In its honor, these updates:

1) Best Beer Gardens. Via Foursquare, an interactive map of the most highly rated beer gardens around the country. What you see below is a screen shot. More info at the site.

America’s Best Beer Gardens

I don’t know when it happened, but I’m actually glad that it did. Within the past ten days, four different citrus-infused IPAs, from four well-regarded breweries, have made their way into my awareness. You see them above, starting at the left:

I say that I “actually” enjoyed these beers, because I start out being highly skeptical of any beer you could classify as fruity. But these, which are different but all worthwhile from my POV, make vivid something I’d heard a million times but not really reflected on: that hops themselves, a powerful element of the IPA taste, bring a varying range of citrus flavors and smells to a brew.

And so I find in an authoritative piece on Citrus IPAs (which lists a number of other entries) on CraftBeer.com:

Cascade hops, of course, are redolent of grapefruit pith, and stylish Citra hops live up to their tangy namesake. Increasingly, brewers embellish these already citrusy IPAs with actual zest, peel or juice from grapefruits, oranges, lemons, and/or limes to create complementary flavor profiles ideal for both hopheads and lovers of fruit beer.

Worth checking out. Larger theme: America already becoming great again.

Grapefruit Sculpin, from Ballast Point: a carton of cans

In the previous post I mentioned that the new-to-me wave of citrus-flavored IPAs, which I’d looked on askance on the assumption that they were novelty brews, actually includes some great offerings.

After that appeared, I received a slew of recommendations that I try the one shown above: Grapefruit Sculpin IPA, from Ballast Point in San Diego. I had known and liked BP’s famed regular, non-grapefruit Sculpin, but I found the pink-striped grapefruit version in a local Kwik-E-Mart and checked it out, as you see above.

This is worth trying too; I like it. I can see that formulating beers like this must be tricky, because if they were any heavier on the citrus flavor they might drift into Orangina territory. In its own setting Orangina is just right, but it’s not what I’m looking for in a beer. Fortunately Grapefruit Sculpin (and the others) stay on the right side of the line.

Update Jeff Alworth, author of The Beer Bible, puts these IPA trends into perspective in a good item at AllAboutBeer. He also boldly predicts what the Next Big Thing will be: Trump IPA! No, not really, but he has an interesting other candidate.