The beer is 5% ABV and it has 15 IBUs. Existential question: is it an IPA?
The answer doesn’t really matter (and wouldn’t be definitive in any case). But whatever you think of this trend in nomenclature, it’s pretty good evidence that “IPA’s” new meaning is settling into place. It’s been just a couple of years since I first made the case that, at least to customers, “IPA” doesn’t have anything at all to do with beers shipped from Burton to India.
To the average drinker, slapping the word “India” on a label communicates a very specific, easily-understandable meaning. It’s shorthand for “saturated in the flavors and aromas of American hops.” Gigantic IPL, for all the ways it wasn’t an IPA, instantly met the expectations I’d had–it was decadently perfumed and soaked in Simcoe and Citra hops.
The beer in question is brewed by pFriem, and I’ve written about it before. Over the weekend, I stopped into the brewery on a trip out the Gorge and was delighted to find it on tap again. It definitely fits the bill of “saturated in the flavors and aromas of American hops.” In this case, if I had any problem with the name, it’s the “sour.” It’s lightly acidified via kettle souring, and this gives it a tartness akin to citrus fruit. Add the fruity hops on top, and it really has the effect of making it more fruit-like. Many fruits have an element of acidity, but we don’t think of them as “sour” because they’re balanced by sweetness. In this case, it’s the hops that sell the fruitiness, adding their flavors and aromas to that snappy tartness. It’s like a scoop of mandarin-melon sorbet.
The IPA part–that’s wholly defensible. The one thing I didn’t mention so much back in 2014 was how IPAs have been decoupled from bitterness. IPAs have become so flavor-and-aroma-centered that people have become habituated to relatively low-IBU IPAs that nevertheless have deeply saturated hop flavors. pFriem’s IPA has all that flavor, and it’s actually accentuated by the acidity. The “sour” part of the title may scare some people away, but I doubt few people complain that it fails to meet their expectations for an IPA.
When I wrote that post back in 2014, the comments were not entirely supportive of the thesis. I become ever more convinced that it’s happening in front of us, and this is a good case in point.
from Beervana http://beervana.blogspot.com/2016/09/yup-its-ipa.html