Vol. 17 No. 4 www.brewingnews.com 5 Wanted: More IPA Categories I think I need a vacation from my vacation! My weary wings have carried me from Portland to Washington, DC to San Diego. As geographically challenging as this commute was, it did provide me with a unique perspective on the state of IPAs, and, more specifically, the state of judging IPAs. From the very start, American brewers wanted to be known for their daring takes on the traditional West Coast-style IPA, setting it ever further apart from the English IPA. Even though there were detectable nuances within IPAs (they tended to get maltier the farther north and east they migrated from Southern California), the regional lines began to blur some time ago. Today the moniker "American-style IPA" has replaced West Coast IPA. It's now quite possible to travel north, south, east and west and never be far from a great IPA. Then, when Vinnie Cilurzo brewed his Blind Pig Double IPA , judges knew there was something that set it apart from the rest, so the 7.5%-abv threshold came into being and IPAs were separated from imperial or double IPAs based on that number. Today, we are enjoying a post-modern IPA renaissance. The down side is that there just aren’t enough stylistic categories to properly judge the wide variety of IPAs being made. To quote Shakespeare, that master of combining comedy and tragedy, "Ay, there's the rub.” Case in point: The winner of Category 23 in this year's National Homebrewers Competition, Jason Bryant of Reston, Va. Jason has been brewing since 2009, when a friend found an expired Mr. Beer kit and threatened to throw it out. He made his first beer with that kit, and six years later he’s brewing 10-gallon, all-grain batches and is a member of the Northern Virginia-based Wort Hogs homebrew club. His winning entry was one of his personal favorites, a session IPA he just happened to be tapping when the deadline approached. He used Nugget in his first-wort hopping and finished with Mosaic and Citra in the late boil, whirlpool and dry-hopping. However, because of its low alcohol content (3.9% abv), his brew didn’t fit the criteria for the IPA category. So he figured the Specialty Beer category was the only place he could enter it. The judges concurred wholeheartedly. Jason’s victory is great news for us hopheads, but it's really not fair to all parties Northern Virginia homebrewer Jason Bryant took first prize with his session IPA in the Specialty Beer category at this year's National Homebrewers Competition. PHOTO BY LARRY JACKSON concerned. What comes to mind when you think of Specialty Beers? Maybe some bourbon-barrel-aged concoction infused with allspice, smoked cicada and scorpion venom? It's not a level playing field for that category if some hoppy IPA can waltz off with first prize. But the fact that a session IPA emerged victorious just clamors for the powers-that-be to come up with a definitive category for this style. It’s the clarion call that your Fairy Hopmother has so longed for. Of course, this opens up a can of worms since there are arguments to be made that a whole bunch of other IPA subsets deserve their own category. Surely, one day black IPAs will be judged separately from others of their ilk. And what about fruit IPAs? This brings up an anecdote passed on by my colleague George Rivers: “Recently, a customer at the liquor store asked me if we sold any pale ales that didn’t have grapefruit juice in them. She was dead serious. She found that most of the pale ales she had tried recently tasted like, well, grapefruit juice. I finally sold her a sixpack of Dogfish 60 Minute IPA . She has not returned for more." What would that customer think of an IPA that really did contain fruit, like Ballast Point's Grapefruit Sculpin ? And what would she think of one of the beers featured at this year’s SAVOR festival: St. Lawrence Brewing Co.'s Maple Chipotle Pineapple Black IPA ? That one was surprisingly good no matter which category you want to shove it in. That leads to another of your Fairy Hopmother’s pet peeves: IPAs are often underrepresented at beer festivals. Many breweries don’t bring their IPAs to beer events because they fear IPA saturation, or they don't want their IPA to be compared to others (especially to those that are recognized as excelling in the style). One brewery that recently bucked this trend is Knee Deep Brewing Co. from Auburn, Calif., which showed up at this year's SAVOR with two outstanding IPAs: Hoptologist DIPA and Simtra Triple India Pale Ale . They also make other top-notch IPAs, including Lupulin River DIPA and Breaking Bud IPA , both of which highlight the Mosaic hop. Ah, Mosaic. That’s a hop that might one day merit its own category.