The Imbibing Scribe: Boarding Call for the Citrus Flight

If you spend enough time perusing the Craft Brew aisle of your local liquor store, you start to notice trends. All of a sudden, everybody’s making gose, despite the fact that it tastes like salty, watered-down light beer. A few years ago, everybody made a chocolate stout, which was awesome. This winter, a lot of breweries started making citrus beers. I have no idea why this happened this year. While I was idly speculating about whether these were likely to be any good, Mrs. Wilde (as she often does) took the bull by the horns and bought a few. And then we drank them all.

Abita Sweet Orange Lager: This was the most citrus-forward of the beers we tried. It was a great way to start off, not only because it’s totally delicious, but also because it was super mild and sweet. According to Abita’s website, they make it with “Louisiana sweet oranges,” which, honestly, I didn’t know were even a thing. Whatever they are, they really complement a mild lager in a delicious way. My only knock is that, to my palate, it tasted like a summer beer. But fuck it, why not bring a little summer sun into your February, am I right?

Saranac Citra Pils: This one is hard to find info on, and now that I’m writing about it, it doesn’t appear to be a winter beer at all. Oh, well. It was the weakest of the bunch, and was really just a hoppy pils with some citrus notes. It was ok, but certainly not worthy of high praise.

Heavy Seas TropiCannon: A proper citrus IPA from a very fine brewery. This one adds grapefruit, orange, and lemon zest to the kettle, then finishes it off post-fermentation with blood orange, mango, and more grapefruit. The result is both an excellent IPA and a decidedly citrus-y drink. This was my favorite of the much we sampled, and was just delicious. The hops are floral, and the bitterness is blended into the citric acid so that you don’t notice it as much. The varied citrus flavors create a rich experience that just hits all the right notes. I want more!

Sierra Nevada Tropical Torpedo: Sierra Nevada is a venerable staple of the craft beer community, and for good reason. So, a few years ago they invented something called a “Hop Torpedo” to bring more hop aroma and flavor into the brew without the bitterness - Troegs has invented a couple devices for this purpose as well, but this is Sierra Nevada’s version. Their Torpedo Extra IPA, which uses this device, is a delicious, but intensely hoppy beer. To this, they’ve added mango, papaya, and passion fruit and called it Tropical Torpedo. This one’s new, but available year round. It’s the kind of beer that really grows on you. The first sip, all that hop flavor is jarring. But, as you adjust, you become aware of the sweet fruit flavors underneath and it really becomes quite enjoyable.

So, my final word on all these citrus beers is this: they’re a pretty good idea, which may be why so many craft breweries decided to start making them all of a sudden. As with any idea, it all depends on the execution. These four beers were generally worth drinking, but it could just as easily go wrong. Still, and maybe this is just my own love of citrus fruit talking, it’s a pretty good bet that oranges, mangoes, passion fruit, grapefruit, etc., are going to make any beverage better.

Enjoy!