The Sour IPA Phenomenon Goes Nationwide with New Belgium's Latest Release
In the ‘90s, the emergence of the IPA transformed the whole beer industry. And from there, brewers have continued to tease out new iterations looking for more hits. In recent years, the popularity of New England-style or hazy IPAs has completely altered the landscape, but the search for the next big thing continues: Brut IPAs had their moment in the sun, and lo-cal IPAs are currently making a push. But for diehard beer snobs, one major subcategory has been quietly killing it: sour IPAs.
In sour IPA circles, the must-have beers come from brewers like Hudson Valley, Homes, and Wiley Roots. Never heard of them? Well, here’s a brewery you almost certainly know: New Belgium Brewing. America’s 11th largest brewer (recently acquired by the beer giant Kirin) is hoping to blow the lid off the sour IPA scene by releasing the first one available nationally in all 50 states: New Belgium Sour IPA.
Sour IPAs tend to shine when the tartness from the souring process effortlessly elevates an IPA's fruit characteristics. So whereas other IPAs can be bogged down with bitterness or maltiness, the best sour IPAs have a fruit juice-like drinkability. As a result, many of the most popular versions are accentuated with actual fruit; however, for its Sour IPA, New Belgium took a more straightforward approach. The beer simply starts with a hazy IPA base and then adds a 20-percent blend of a wood-aged golden sour from New Belgium’s traditional foeders. The result is a Citra and Amarillo dry-hopped IPA that purportedly starts tart on the tongue, resulting in flavors and aromas described by the brewery as “sweet lemon, tangerine, peach, guava, and grapefruit.” (I have not tried the beer, so I cannot vouch for the tasting notes.)
In announcing the release, New Belgium pointed to its track record as “America’s most award-winning sour producer” by Great American Beer Festival medal count and their distinction as “home to the largest cellar of French and American Oak foeders.” “Perfecting the balance of hops and acidity is very difficult and we’ve been doing it for over ten years now. We’re experts in this space,” Lauren Limbach, wood cellar director and blender for the brewery, said in the announcement. “Sour IPA is another example of approaching IPA through an artisanal lens to create a completely unique experience for the craft beer drinker.”
The 7-percent ABV Sour IPA is available on draft and sold in six-packs of 12-ounce cans with a suggested retail price of $10.99. Regardless of whether you grab one or not, if you’ve never tried any sour IPAs before, this new release is a great reminder that you should.