Ballast Point’s Grapefruit Sculpin is currently the fastest growing India Pale Ale in the United States and has fuelled the massive fruit IPA trend currently sweeping the country, according to Eli Raffeld, co-founder of the San Diego brewer’s export agent, Global Craft Trading.
Raffeld told Australian Brews News that while there were plenty of fruit IPAs that predated it, none had quite caught the imagination of drinkers like Grapefruit Sculpin, launched early in 2015.
“The success of that beer I think really gave a lot of brewers the confidence to also branch out and to try to produce one of these beers that scale,” he said.
“I think everyone was doing beers like that in their brewpubs or in their taprooms but they weren’t so sure that it would be popular.
“Ballast really did a great job of exposing to the broader market a beer that is fruit-forward but also hoppy and sessionable and not too sweet, and that really does have the flavour of [real] grapefruit.”
The Sculpin and Grapefruit Sculpin IPAs underpinned last year’s US $1 billion buyout of Ballast Point by Constellation Brands.
Raffeld said the original Sculpin is still Ballast Point’s biggest seller but the Grapefruit version is outstripping it in growth and in fact is currently the country’s fastest growing IPA.
“I think this is definitely the year of the fruit IPA. All the data trending is definitely heavy on fruit IPA sales,” he said.
“And last year I think it was peppers, we saw a lot of spicy IPAs – Habanero Sculpin and beers like that that people were interested in trying.
“Pineapple Sculpin was just released a couple of months ago and its numbers are skyrocketing as well. Pineapple beer opens up a new demographic – someone who may not like such a bitter beer but actually with the juice or fruit it tones down the bitterness a bit and makes it a more approachable style,” Raffeld said.
Raffeld agreed with recent commentary that there is a faddish aspect to the flavoured IPA category and he said that only the best examples will prove to be anything more than one-offs.
“I think the flavoured IPA category will slow down, frankly – it’s getting a little over-saturated. But there will definitely be some that I think will become core staples in a lot of breweries’ lineups,” he said.
Raffeld said it is possible for brewers to really push the boundaries with flavoured beers, provided they maintain drinkability.
As an example he pointed to Ballast Point’s Indra Kunindra, a ‘Curry Export Stout’ brewed with Madras curry, cumin, cayenne, coconut, and kaffir lime leaf.
“It’s beers like that that I think are really true to craft but also true to the type of consumer looking for beers like that. They are not necessarily looking for the next fad beer but looking for something that’s really interesting and well balanced and well made,” he said.
“I think the ones that will not stand the test of time are those that are out of balance and technically aren’t well made beers – they’re one-offs. Someone will try it just to try it. They’re not going to go back to that beer.”
Sculpin and Grapefruit Sculpin will soon be available nationally through Dan Murphy’s and BWS.
They will also be on tap in Good Beer Week at Melbourne’s Young & Jackson as part of the San Diego IPA Invasion.