If you ask Josh Rapp, the Bitterness Wars are over in the brewing world. “I love how much IPAs have changed and grown over the years,” says the senior brewer for Avery Brewing Company (4910 Nautilus Court North, Boulder), which became the first Colorado brewery to package an India Pale Ale 30 years ago. “It used to be [about] how many IBUs [or International Bitterness Units] can you get into this thing, and there was kind of an IBU-off between brewers for many years. Now it’s a little bit more nuanced.
“People don’t really care how bitter it is anymore,” Rapp adds. “They want to have unique aromas and flavors in their IPAs, whether it’s 20 IBUs or 80. What I really love about IPAs is that you can kind of do anything [with them], and that comes back to the hop as a plant — it’s so versatile. We can get so many different aromas and flavors out of that ingredient. It’s just fun to experiment with.”
“Experiment” is just what Avery Brewing has done with its Hop Freaks Exploration Series, a run of four IPAs set to debut over the next year. You can currently drop by Avery’s Gunbarrel brewery to try the two core beers in the series: Clear Horizons and Nomadic Wanderer.
Rapp calls the series of beers — which will include Majestic Voyage and Infinite Wanderer — “a fun challenge” for the brew team at Avery.
“I think it really comes down to using a lot of brand new ingredients, as well as getting with the times a little bit,” Rapps says, which, for Avery Brewing, meant embracing the hazy-style IPA. “We were maybe a little bit stuck in our past with really clean, clear beers with a bunch of IBUs, and we’ve had to evolve our thinking a little bit and be like, actually, you know what, [hazy IPAs] are really good, and they can be done really well. It’s been exciting to just find new practices and ways to make our beer better in ways that we wouldn’t have even thought of five or six years ago.”
“For Clear Horizons, we wanted to make something really clean and drinkable that would showcase some hop character that we’ve never really done before at Avery,” Rapp says.
Avery has always “kind of relied” on what Rapp calls the “C hops”: Centennial, Chinook, Columbus — hops with piney, dank, earthy profiles. But with this first release in the Hop Freaks Exploration Series, Rapp’s team leaned on Citra hops, which creates the highly-sought-after aroma compound Citronellol that has become popular in fruit-forward IPAs. Strata, Amarillo and Mosiac hops add splashes of spice and berries to Citra’s tropical palette. Pale barley provides a bit of body and some balance to the bitterness to create an easy-drinking beer with brilliant clarity. You can try Clear Horizons on tap or pick up a six-pack to take home.
Rapp’s brew team experimented with Azacca hops for this New England-style hazy IPA. Named after the Haitian god of agriculture, Azacca hops offer a bright aroma of mango, tropical fruits and citrus.
“It took many test batches, but the first time I tasted the one that I liked, I really felt like I was almost drinking a mimosa,” Rapp says.
“This one’s kind of redefining the word ‘hoppy,’ because we have low bitterness, but tons of aroma and hop flavor. You still have all those hop oils in there … [that] kind of coat your tongue, and make the beer feel heavy, but they don’t give you that kind of bitter pucker on your tongue that can be unsettling.”
You can currently only get Nomadic Dreamer on draft at Avery’s taproom. Check in around March 1 to see if it’s available in a six-pack to take home.
While this third beer in the series is still in development, Rapp says Majestic Voyage will be an Imperial West Coast-style IPA.
“So higher IBUs and [Alcohol By Volume], probably 8.8% or 9%,” he says. “We want to use some Southern Hemisphere hops … grown in New Zealand or South Africa, which are well known for having that kind of juicy tropical component as well. We’re looking at Galaxy hops, Motueka hops, Vic’s Secret hops, and we’ll see if all those make it into the beer or not.”
Again, expect juicy tropical flavors in this brew, but, unlike the lower IBUs in Clear Horizons and Nomadic Dreamer, Majestic Voyage will feature high bitterness and a mid-palate hop flavor.
Infinite Wanderer likely won’t surface until 2024. This “really juicy, hazy double IPA” will rotate with Majestic Voyage, offering similarly higher ABV and IBU. Rapp says a test batch of Infinite Wanderer included Sabro and Talus hops, which impart a coconut flavor on the brew.