Blame the haze craze.
During the height of the West Coast IPA mania a few years ago, Adelbert’s didn’t budge from its mission of making Belgian-style brews to offer a hoppy American-style ale.
But the North Austin brewery started out the new year a couple of weeks ago by releasing something far out of its wheelhouse — a hazy and juicy IPA similar to the East Coast style that has been flourishing of late. It’s technically a re-release: Adelbert’s Travelin’ Man Belgian IPA is now being called a "new school intercontinental IPA," with its former Belgian qualities nowhere to be found.
The new Travelin’ Man Intercontinental IPA, available primarily at the brewery, aims to please both coasts (not to mention this one) with its hop profile. It’s "classic enough to satisfy the hop heads on the West Coast and juicy enough to appease any member of the haze craze in the Northeast. All the while still retaining our own Texas sovereignty," or so goes the cheeky description of this fruity brew.
Travelin’ Man marks the first time Adelbert’s has used a non-Belgian yeast. The beer relies on a more subtle English yeast that doesn’t fight the hops for flavor prominence, and it also features hops from the three main hop-growing regions: Citra from the U.S., Mandarina Bavaria from Germany and Kohatu from New Zealand. The widespread origin of these ingredients makes it "intercontinetal."
Responsible for this big shift is new Adelbert’s brewer Cory Hebert, who hails from San Antonio’s Ranger Creek Brewing & Distilling and was able to bring a fresh perspective to Adelbert’s brewing program, led by owner Scott Hovey.
Hovey hadn’t blinked when nearly every brewery began offering its own version of a West Coast IPA a few years ago. So what was so different this time around, when Hebert approached him about retooling the Travelin’ Man recipe?
His decision was a combination of factors, he said: the approachability of the East Coast-style IPA and the need to be innovative in an industry constantly under pressure to evolve and always offer new beer styles.
"I wasn’t super excited about IPAs when they were bitter bombs, but all the new-school juicy IPAs, I tried them and I really liked them," Hovey said. "Especially (Pinthouse Pizza’s) Electric Jellyfish. Cory pitched (the new IPA) as a cross between Jellyfish and Real Ale’s Axis IPA, and I got on board."
He wanted to make the dive into beer styles that aren’t Belgian out of a recognition that the beer industry "is a hotbed of innovation, and to not embrace that is kind of silly," he said.
"Everyone is branching out from what was their comfort zone, so we're doing the same," he said. "This is our subtle coming-out party, our way of saying, ‘Don't just pigeonhole us in the Belgian category.’ With any of the recipes, I’m not necessarily going to stick to how we did them for years ago. If there’s a better way to do them, we’ll try it."
That doesn’t just include Travelin’ Man — Adelbert’s Scratchin’ Hippo, previously a little-known European style called a biere de garde, is now an amber ale using the same English yeast that Hebert loves. While Travelin’ Man bursts with tropical fruit flavors, Hippo is far more malty, with notes of caramel and dark fruit, though the addition of Cascade hops gives it a bright grapefruit aroma, Hebert said.
"We're known for hitting fruit from the yeast, not the hops. So that was refreshing for a lot of people" when the Travelin’ Man debuted at the Adelbert’s taproom on Jan. 5, he said.
Adelbert's recently redid the recipe for its Scratchin' Hippo, and it's now an easy-drinking amber suitable no matter the time of year.Arianna Auber / American-Statesman
The new Scratchin’ Hippo isn’t set to release in cans until the end of the month, though you can get an early taste of it on draft at the taproom.
Adelbert’s pivot away from Belgian-style brews is surprising but not completely unexpected, as many Austin breweries recognize that having hazy IPAs on the menu will draw instant customers.
The program at both Pinthouse Pizza locations is based around hazy IPAs. Hops & Grain is regularly making new examples, especially now that it has a brewpub license allowing people to take beer to go. And Celis Brewery, which reopened last year to bring back classics like the Celis White, also launched with its newly created Citrus Grandis IPA.
Not that all of these places — and many other hazy IPA makers in town and around the country — say these beers are in the East Coast style. Nowadays, these beers are simply called hazy IPAs.
"People rip it to shreds if you call it a New England IPA and it doesn't look like you threw a bunch of flour in it," Hebert said, referencing some Northeast brewers’ tendency to add flour, to make the beer look pulpy in addition to murky. "So we said, ‘let's call it what we think it is.’ We used malts from Europe and America, English yeast, and hops from Germany, America and New Zealand. It’s intercontinental."
Travelin’ Man — christened after Hovey’s adenturous late brother, Del — is aptly named in more ways than one.
Adelbert’s is located at 2314 Rutland Dr., Ste. 100. For more information, visit adelbertsbeer.com.
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