Grapevine Craft Brewery’s Tropical Double IPA, released earlier this month, is one of the latest signals of an interesting dichotomy that has popped up in the DFW beer scene.
It certainly has some things going for it: a combination of interesting flavors, a healthy ABV and can branding that makes the Tropical-Dub stand out on a beer shelf that's more crowded than ever.
But was this and other beers like it actually created for beer lovers? It's certainly not cheap at $12.69 for a four-pack (at Central Market Southlake).
Beer lovers’ attention throughout the Metroplex piqued over social media chatter about the summertime amalgamation, and it was soon released on select taps and at discerning beer gettin’ places. There was so much potential, with the brew based on something already successfully yummy: Grapevine’s Brewers Reserve Double.
The regular double, without the blood orange and mango puree added to the equation to make it "tropical," is already in gold medal form after winning at the 2016 Best Little Brewfest in Texas.
But alas, the Citrus Explosion the Metroplex was promised right there on the can didn’t materialize, despite its suggestively orange design, leaving Grapevine’s latest offering on the wrong side of the “Should we fruit the beer?” conundrum. Sips of this canned enigma have been sapped of their trademark bitter IPA bite, but the citrus flavor doesn’t take over either, giving the Tropical a vague incompleteness.
You can’t flunk it outright. The Tropical Double IPA gets an "I" for "incomplete," and in consumers’ unending forgiveness, beer lovers across North Texas (it’s also available in the Austin area) will gladly give Grapevine another shot at this one.
The bigger phenomenon in play here, though, is that in a craft beer market as thick as DFW’s has become, popular schools of thought are beginning to coalesce around the aforementioned fruity conundrum, but it’s not as cut-and-dry as "To fruit or not to fruit." It's more market-dictated than that.
It’s also not quite as simple as the idea that bigger, more established craft breweries in more urban areas are less likely to fruit, while more fledgling operations in further reaches of the Metroplex add fruit more often, but that’s a good place to start the conversation.
Follow this trail of hoppy logic for just a second: Who among you would shout blaspheme if Peticolas fruited its vaunted Velvet Hammer in what appeared to be a seasonal money-grab because heavier beers are not necessarily flying off shelves in summer months? But for a brewery in suburban Grapevine, or out in a farther reach of our Brewniverse that's still trying to scratch its way into one of those top spots in DFW's craft beer club, no attempt at gaining a little notoriety is out of bounds.
One of the newest breweries in the area, Pilot Point's Whistle Post Brewing, opened for business in late June even before the year-round beer lineup was finalized. Brewmaster Blake Morrison told the Observer at the grand opening that he and the owners would use the brewery's first few months in operation as a kind of sounding board to find out which beers his audience preferred. Basically, the business plan there is to throw as many beers, including fruity variations, up against the corrugated metal wall and see what sticks.
In Dallas proper and near downtown Fort Worth, the population immediately surrounding the brewery is dense enough — and the reach of those breweries is generally long enough — to support a lineup featuring the hoppiest IPAs, the thickest stouts and the mad scientist concoctions that'll put hair on your chest. For those on the other side of this DFW craft brew dichotomy, distribution deals don't throw their beer quite as far around the state or region, so suburban brewmasters, or brewmasters in charge of smaller operations, may be more beholden to what sells in their specific neck of the woods.
Clearly, breweries like Whistle Post and Grapevine, which also began canning its Prickly Pear Wheat this year as a summertime offering in a hot pink can, subscribe to a certain amount of the "try it and see if they like it" school of thought in regard to fruit variations, whereas the Rahrs and Communitys and Deep Ellums — and even your Wild Acres, which came into the Fort Worth beer scene guns blazing in June — to some extent don't have to.
It's a local market condition that makes a swing and a miss like Grapevine's Tropical Double IPA something that smaller breweries are going to roll with while they solidify themselves in the craft beer game.