The IPA is not only the most popular of all craft beer styles, it is arguably nowadays also the broadest, and the one that is most constantly evolving.
From something that originally was intended to use the preserving qualities of hops, the IPA was reborn by the American craft beer revolution, from where the focus shifted to being completely about the character of the hops, and the priority shifted from how long the beer could last on a boat, to how fresh that hop character itself could be.
We explored its evolution in last year’s 6 Innovators IPA series, tracking it from its beginnings in England, through its evolution in America. From citrusy, to super bitter, to ultra thick and juicy, to dry, and then to the evolution of how to extract different characters from the same hop.
This time around, we have decided to simply shift the focus to fruit.
While hops can be earthy, spicy, resinous, or herbal, what the majority of the population thinks of when they talk about IPAs is “fruity” or “juicy”. Hops have been developed in increasing numbers over the last few decades, and while many hundreds have come through, the ones that have really made it big have been the ones that are reminiscent of particular types of fruit that have exploded.
There was a period about 10 years ago that breweries looked to mix actual fruit in the production of IPAs to heighten the character of the hops. Ballast Point’s Grapefruit Sculpin was an example of this that really exploded, resulting in plenty of other breweries that followed a similar suit.
Since then, hazy IPAs have upped the juiciness, brut IPAs have made things drier, and, most lately, thiols (compounds that can be released with enzymes produced by certain yeast strains) have been unlocking even more fruity notes. We thought this might be the right time to go back to playing about with fruit in IPAs.
So what does all of this mean? Well, we are going for adding juice or purees from citrus and other tropical fruit varieties, and thinking what style of IPA, and what hops within there, will get the best out of the character, both from the actual fruit and the hops that generally represent them well. Rather than “more on more”, the goal of this is to how to get across what we like about the fruit best, and express it in IPA form.
For the series name, we have gone for Rokkasen. As with many names in Japanese, they can be expressed with different kanji, and there are a historical group of 6 infamous poets referred to as Rokkasen (六歌仙). We changed the second and third characters to mean "chosen fruit" (六果撰), indicating our intention to select 6 different types of fruit, with the hope that our expression of them can be as poetic as the original Rokkasen!
We will be releasing 6 beers in this series over the course of the year, and look forward to introducing the first in early Feb, so keep an eye out for our first introductory post and release this coming Friday and following Monday!