One aim of SydneyBeer is to document the progression of beer in Sydney. That’s why it’s time to check in on a topic that was explored twelve months ago.
A year ago I asked the question “where are all Sydney’s IPAs?”
The beer that led the craft beer evolution wasn’t necessarily lacking but there weren’t many shining examples. There certainly wasn’t one that you could point to as being the quintessential Sydney IPA.
Sydney’s IPAs: 2016 To 2017
Twelve months ago if someone visiting Sydney had asked me which local IPA they had to try I couldn’t have given them a straightforward answer.
There are a few options but not one that immediately springs to mind.
So in 2017, is that still the case? For the most part, yes. But this time for slightly different reasons.
Perhaps there’s still not a beer that stands out as the go-to IPA in Sydney. But the overall standard has risen, particularly across the whole IPA spectrum. From session IPAs to imperial IPAs the quality available in the local market has improved remarkably.
As for the best, it’s still a challenge to name one.
Sydney’s Outstanding IPAs
Last year I referenced Modus Operandi’s Zoo Feeder which wasn’t packaged and it continued that way. It was actually retired and replaced by Sonic Prayer, popular in its own right, before coming back briefly as a seasonal release in cans.
4 Pines brought their renamed In Season IPA into their core range. Well, sort of. It’s a seasonal core range beer, released twice a year timed with the hop harvests in the northern and southern hemispheres. The marketing and packaging emphasises the importance of enjoying it fresh.
It was a well executed release with 4 Pines riding the wave of popularity around their Fresh In Season beers and nailing the messaging as the beer hit the market.
Even those beer drinkers at the pointy end who make snide remarks at 4 Pines were impressed by the beer. And so they should be, it’s fantastic. Perhaps this is what will become Sydney’s quintessential IPA. Only time will tell.
Sydney’s Thirst For Hops
What does it say about the market’s appetite that the outstanding and most sought after IPAs are seasonal releases? From the Hottest 100 to market surveys, everything tells us we’re hopheads. So are we thirsty for them all year round?
Perhaps, as is also indicated in such benchmarking exercises, we’re more partial to sessionable beers. Lower alcohol, lighter bodied beers seem to resonate more with Sydney’s beer drinking population.
Maybe that’s why a local IPA hasn’t taken a stranglehold on the market.
Quality Interstate IPAs
Otherwise, there’s an argument to say that other Australian breweries beat Sydney to it. You only need to name check Pirate Life and it seems pretty convincing.
Maybe Sydney’s beer drinkers are just too spoilt for choice by other hoppy beers coming into the city that local brewers have struggled to make their IPAs stick in the hearts and minds of Sydneysiders.
Diversion: The New England IPA Trend
This was never going to be the year in which a stand out IPA took hold in Sydney.
The past twelve months or so have seen the craze around New England IPAs take over. Highly aromatic, hazy and low in bitterness, they’re very different to what we’d previously thought of as being a typical, modern IPA.
It’s in no way a bad thing. In fact the variety is good for consumers. But it does seem to have been somewhat of a diversion, a distraction from the crisp, clean, aromatic and assertively bitter West Coast style that feels like it should be more prevalent.
Maybe the West Coast IPA style is so established around the beer world that, as people look to innovate, it’s a bit late to try and perfect what is now a tried and tested style.
It could be the case that Australian beer, or even a brewery in Sydney, needs to show how they can innovate and come up with the next big thing in beer.
A Quintessential Sydney IPA: Time Will Tell
Either way, there still doesn’t seem to be a beer that can be labelled “Sydney’s IPA”. Maybe w don’t need one but given the size of the city, the prevalence and significance of the style, and our thirst for hops, you’d think there would be.
We’re closer to certain local beers establishing themselves in such a position but the Sydney market is still open for a well executed and smartly marketed IPA.The Sydney market is still open for a well executed and smartly marketed IPA. Click To Tweet
That said, seasonal releases make sense for the style. IPAs are volatile and have a short shelf life. This might be the way IPAs are released in future. If we need to forsake having a signature “Sydney IPA” for a regular schedule of fresh hoppy beer then perhaps that’s not such a bad trade.
I intend to check in again this time next year.