Sprecher is a Milwaukee landmark. Founded in 1985 by Randy Sprecher, a former brewing supervisor at the Past Brewing Company, Sprecher was one of the first microbreweries in the state and Randy Sprecher took a huge step, especially in 1985, to show that the average Wisconsin beer drinker was ready to progress beyond Miller, Pabst, Blatz, Schlitz and Old Milwaukee. Like many of the early craft brewers, Randy Sprecher, was on a mission to bring full flavored European styles to America.
For Randy the turning point was a time he spent in Germany, enjoying excellent German beers. Unfortunately, American breweries were not yet brewing traditional German styles, much less keeping to the German Purity Law, The Reinheitsgebot, which dictated that the only ingredients that could be used in the production of beer were water, barley and hops (notably yeast is absent from that list because yeast was not discovered until the 1800s). Therefore, taking an interest in German beer, it was only natural for Sprecher to brew beers that fell in line with German brewing laws.
Out of dedication to German brewing traditions, Sprecher Brewing developed a line of excellent German-style beers and over time produced equally good British and Belgian styles. However, no discussion of Sprecher is complete without at least mentioning their line of sodas. Sprecher Root Beer is quite possible the best root beer in commercial production and it pairs perfectly with frozen custard. However, since this is a beer review on a beer blog I will refrain from proselytizing on the greatness of Sprecher Root Beer, for now at least.
With Sprecher’s dedication to traditional European beer styles I was surprised to find out that their latest beer release is an Imperial IPA, called Citra Bomb. Imperial IPA’s, a decidedly American style are more a take on American excess than one of the traditional styles. They are a product of the pursuit of increasingly hoppy and more extreme beers as the American craft beer drinker’s palate began to develop and craft beer drinkers began to demand beers that were more “extreme”. As opposed to traditional German styles, with their subtly complex malty flavors and aromas with an intermingling of hops, the Imperial IPA is defined by its hops. Citra hops are known for their intense grapefruit, peach, apricot, mango, papaya, lime, melon, pineapple and passion fruit flavors and aromas. In some cases, I find the extreme fruitiness to be overwhelming, so I was not sure how to approach Citra Bomb when I found it on the shelf at my local Liquor Store. That said, on to the review.
On Beeradvocate, Citra Bomb has a score of 78. Over at ratebeer, it has a score of 45 overall with a 4 for style.
(Glendale, WI) – Just in time for the holidays, Sprecher Brewing Company is releasing its first Imperial IPA, CitraBomb. The Imperial IPA style was developed and made popular by West Coast (U.S.) brewers. This style is most often characterized by a gold or copper color, citrus hop character, big malt body and lingering bitterness. What makes Sprecher’s CitraBomb a rare treat is the addition of coveted Simcoe and Citra hop cones.
The small 40 barrel batch was created using the recipe for Sprecher IPA2– a beer known for its balanced malt body and lingering hop finish—which was aged and dry hopped with a blend of hops. Brewmaster Craig Burge then transferred this brew onto 100 pounds each of Simcoe and Citra hop cones to age for an additional six weeks. According to Burge, “Dry hopping with fresh cones adds flavor and aroma. In addition to the big green, grapefruit, fresh resin nose and flavor, there is some nectarine in the nose.” Sprecher’s CitraBomb Imperial IPA is a hop head’s delight.
CitraBomb is being packaged exclusively in 22 ounce bottles and draught. Due to the small batch size, most of this Imperial IPA will be distributed in Wisconsin. Until supplies run out it will be available at the Sprecher Gift Shop, 701 W. Glendale Ave, Glendale, WI.
The Imperial IPA style was developed and made popular by west coast American brewers. This style is most often characterized by a gold or copper color, citrus hop character, big malt body and lingering bitterness.
From the Brewery (malts and hops)
Malts: Pale,Caramel,Victory, and Carapils (Dextrin).
Hops: Simcoe, Citra, Northern Brewer, Cascade, and Chinook.
Citra Bomb pours a slightly hazy reddish amber with a creamy, light tan head that holds excellent retention. Caramel, bready malts dominate the aroma, which is surprising in an Imperial IPA. There were certainly earthy, herbal, tropical, piney and citrus hop notes, but they remained more subdued. Grapefruit, mango and passion fruit were all distinguishable but remained in the background compared to the malt and other hop flavors.
The flavor is very similar to the aroma. There is definitely a hop presence, but it takes a back seat to the caramel, bready malts. There is a moderate level of hop bitterness and a noticeable amount of bitter, grassy notes from the hops. The grapefruit, mango and passion fruit flavors were apparent, but as in the aroma they remained secondary to the earthy, herbal and piney notes of Simcoe and Chinook. Citra Bomb is medium to full-bodied with a moderately high level of carbonation and it has a slight astringency in the mouth feel.
I went into this beer expecting the Citra hops to dominate, in large part due to the name of the beer, “Citra Bomb”. However, in that respect I was disappointed. It is still a very drinkable, moderately hoppy beer, but judging by the bottle I bought, it falls short of being an Imperial IPA. Hop flavor fades considerably over time and admittedly, I did pick up this bottle in March, long after the December release so that could have a lot to do with my perception of the beer. However, I was disappointed to find that the malts and other hops had a decidedly stronger presence than the Citra.
While “Citra Bomb” was a bit of a disappointment that in no way means that you should avoid other Sprecher beers. Their German lagers, English ales and barrel-aged beers are excellent and are worth a try. If you live in or around Milwaukee then you should definitely stop by the brewery for the tour, just be sure to book it well in advance because the tours have a tendency of selling out.
That’s all for today, check back soon for another post!