The India Pale Ale style has not yet achieved mass appeal in Australia, but Stone & Wood is convinced the movement is just around the corner.
The Northern Rivers brewer today launched an IPA-focused subsidiary, Fixation Brewing Co – a bold move in a market that has shown few early signs it will follow in the footsteps of the US, where IPAs now account for a massive 27 per cent of all craft beer sales.
In fact, Carlton & United Breweries – with all its access to market insights – this year declared there was “no future in extreme craft beers with high BUs and super-high hoppiness levels”. And Mountain Goat axed the IPA from its permanent range, citing insufficient sales.
But the US trend is compelling enough for Stone & Wood, co-founder Ross Jurisich told Australian Brews News.
“That style continues to grow over there – it’s the largest style. And like it or not, we do follow the trends in the US,” he said.
“The sophistication of the Australian drinker is only growing. They’re becoming more adventurous in their drinking repertoire. They are looking for big bold flavours.”
Jurisich said other brewers’ IPAs had suffered due to playing “second fiddle” in their ranges, so Fixation will show what is possible with the category made simple for consumers.
“We’ve just got to be patient – it’s not going not be a world beater from day one,” he said.
Fixation will be headed up by Mountain Goat alumni and IPA enthusiast Tom Delmont, who pointed to the recent growth of “hoppy summer and golden ales” in Australia.
“Over the last five years they’ve become more and more popular and entrenched,” he told Australian Brews News.
“People take a little bit of time to trade up to an IPA, to step up to those bigger, bolder flavours.
“The drinkability of a big west coast IPA is incredible I think. I just love the style and I think you can get so much balance into a beer that has so much flavour.”
Fixation’s distribution will be limited to select venues in the eastern states, to ensure the beers retain the hop punch that is an IPA’s hallmark.
“I think we can afford to be more precious with it and have limited distribution and really brew to demand, effectively,” Jurisich said.
“We’re not under pressure to be making millions of litres of this stuff. We’re happy just to have a small select group of customers that appreciate the beer that are willing to work with us.”