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Belt's Beer Garden: reaping the (grape)fruits of their labor

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This week I've got two takes on grapefruit IPAs.

Spilling beer is the adult equivalent of a child letting go of a balloon
Spilling beer is the adult equivalent of a child letting go of a balloon

This week I was left to review beers on my own and, since I love citrusy IPAs, when I found two different grapefruit IPAs, I just had to try them. This week I'll be breaking down a San Diego powerhouse and a small-time Chicago brewery's take on how to add grapefruit to a beer.

First up, the underdog - Arcade Brewery's Grapefruit IPA.

grapefruit ipa

Arcade Brewery started just last year in Chicago, and actually work out of the same building as Ale Syndicate (another local brewer). They work with some major designers to create their labels, including the main artist of the Walking Dead graphic novels.

And if that's not cool enough, their bottle caps double as tokens and can be collected and used at some local comic shops for merchandise. A full list can be found here. The only draw back is that right now, Arcade is only distributed in Chicago and some of the Western suburbs.

As they are a new brewery, I have a bottle from what is only their ninth batch of Grapefruit IPA. It pours a dark copper color with about a finger of head that lingers for quite some time. As the name would suggest, you get the strong smell of grapefruit with a hint of hops and a dash of malts.

The taste, however, is quite the opposite of what you'd expect. Sure, you get a hint of the grapefruit, but it's mostly the malts that come out in the flavor. The citrus flavor lasts for just a brief moment on your tongue before the bitterness and malty aftertaste kick it out of the way and, at 65 IBU, there is a definite bitterness to it. I figured the more I drank the more the grapefruit and citrus would emerge, but it never really did.

Overall, I wish it would have tasted like it smelled - citrusy and hoppy. Despite the missed opportunity there, it was still a good IPA, just not what I was expecting.

At 6.3 ABV, it's not a beer that's going to hit you too hard but, at $7.99 for a 22 ounce bomber, it will make a dent in your wallet. Grapefruit IPA is a tricky one to rate, because it was good, but there wasn't much grapefruit to it...or at least not enough in my opinion (whatever that's worth). I'm going to give it a seven.

7 beers 2

The other grapefruit beer comes from Ballast Point in San Diego, with a modified version of their great Sculpin IPA.

grapefruit sculpin 2

Ballast Point began in 1996 in the back room of a San Diego Home Brew Mart (a store to purchase beer making equipment). Since then they have grown and grown to one of the best in the nation. For now they can only be found on in Cali, Nevada, Washington, Arizona, Texas, Ohio, Minnesota, Illinois, and the entire East Coast.

I've had their original Sculpin, which is a delicious IPA, so when I heard they released a Grapefruit Sculpin I had to find it. After months of searching, I finally came across a single bottle at a store and bought it without even checking the price. As soon as it was cold enough to drink, I opened it right up.

Grapefruit Sculpin pours clear copper color and is topped with a minute amount of head. As the name would suggest, a strong grapefruit aroma is emitted with hints of hops and other tropical fruits lingering in the background. It was a very inviting smell.

The first sip didn't disappoint. You get a strong, quite hoppy, grapefruit presence that bubbles on your tongue. The malts really take a backseat to the hops, making this a rather crisp beer. There is a slight bitterness that lingers in the aftertaste, but even that is quite tasty. It clocks in at 70 IBU, so fair warning on the bitterness. I kept going back for more and more and, before I knew it, my glass was empty. The balance between the citrus and the IPA is near perfect. It's not overpowered by the grapefruit, as they've added just enough to improve on their old classic.

I thought Ballast Point's Sculpin was good...but this raised the game. At $2.99 for a 12 ounce bottle it's quite affordable and at 7% ABV it could end up being quite dangerous. My only regret is that there was only one bottle left...otherwise every last one would have been in my fridge.

This could be one of my new top beers, not to the point of Revolution's Local-Hero or Mercenary's The Charlatan, but a top five contender for sure. If you find it, buy it, try it, and love it. 9/10

9 beers