The New Breed of Sweet IPAs

Last night, reclining on the roof of an undisclosed warehouse in the inner Southeast beneath an exploding sky, I poured out a measure of the new Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA.  It's one of the many IPAs out now that harnesses the intense fruitiness of new American hops, in this case Citra and Mosaic.  The name and tagline tell you everything you need to know about the beer's nature: "no fruit was harmed in the making of this beer."

When you have been tasting beer for decades, your mind has a tendency to become enclosed by habit.  IPAs have evolved in increments, from screamingly bitter, mildly grapefruity versions of the 90s to the increasingly aromatic, dank, dry-hopped incarnations in the mid aughts to now, when bitterness is dialed pretty far back in favor of vividly fruity IPAs.  Since it has gone in increments, I have mainly just revised my old mental model to accommodate for new trends.  IPAs are bitter beers rich with aromatics and hop flavor.  The formula may change, but these facts remain the same. 

But last night, one of the roof-sitters--not a beer geek--sampled Fresh Squeezed IPA and remarked: "Wow, that's a sweet beer."

He's right.  Deschutes put 60 bitterness units in this beer, but it has a ton of caramelly body (it's closer in color to Newcastle than Pilsner Urquell) that adds a lot of sugars to the mix.  Layer those intensely fruity new-variety hops on top and you add a level of juiciness the mind tracks as purely sweet.  From a sensory perspective, these aren't bitter beers at all--they are actually sweet. 

Even when the beer is stronger, has less sugars and more bitterness, the purity of the fruit flavors gives these beers a distinctly sweet character.  Boneyard and Gigantic make juicy IPAs that were, in Oregon, the harbingers of the sweetening trend.  Hop-growers have been going crazy bringing new products to the market, and what people seem to love most are the tropical fruit flavors.  (Hops with resiny, dank qualities or piney character seem to be fading, trendwise.)  I saw this in Europe, too, where breweries have more ready access to New Zealand hops, which also have saturated fruit flavors--though they tend toward berry and lychee. 

I was feeling somewhat oppressed by the heavy, ganja-like hopping that was most popular a few years back--those beers were a sensory and alcoholic kick to the head.  These new IPAs, sweet with the sunshine of fruit and often more sessionable, are right up my alley.