In the world of beer, as with anything else in life, styles come and go. What might be all the rage today isn’t necessarily going to be what people want tomorrow. The same is true of IPAs, a broad category that’s been in the spotlight for a few decades now. Black IPAs were cool until they weren’t. The same was true of Belgian IPA. And a few years ago Brut IPA got its 15 minutes of fame, too.
Then there’s the West Coast IPA, a style that is seeing a resurgence after falling out of fashion. In Ballard we pride ourselves on our draft selection, but there are some beers you’ll always find on tap. One of them is Crikey, our West Coast-style IPA.
The first non-Imperial IPA we ever brewed, Crikey has gone on to become our most award-winning beer. It’s also a favorite across the Pacific Northwest. We bottled the first batch in 2014, and didn’t need to package it again for six weeks. Amazingly, that same amount of beer will only last about a day with today’s Crikey fans!
“Crikey was originally the younger brother of Blimey, our Triple IPA,” explains co-founder and brewmaster Adam Robbings. “I took the Blimey recipe down a couple of notches to make it more approachable. And I used my three favorite hops at the time—really ramping them up in the dry hop. It was, and is today, our purest expression of a timeless West Coast IPA.”
WEST COAST IPAS, PAST AND PRESENT
Just as Crikey was finding its footing in Seattle, another style of IPA was beginning to build momentum on the East Coast: the New England IPA. Today these “hazies” dominate tap lists from coast to coast. But in 2014, dry, bitter, and decidedly clear India Pale Ales were still the hottest beers on the block. So when Adam decided to develop a hoppy beer to pour in Ballard, he was drawing on a tradition that stretched back to Anchor’s trailblazing Liberty Ale, Sierra Nevada’s iconic Celebration Ale, and Bert Grant’s quintessentially Northwestern IPA.
By the late ‘90s and early aughts, brewing West Coast IPA had evolved into something of a hoppy arms race. Companies like Stone, Green Flash, Pizza Port, and Russian River competed to make beers defined by their IBUs, or International Bitterness Units. Adam wasn’t interested in pushing the bitter envelope however. Less bitter and more fruit forward than some of its predecessors, our West Coast IPA took a modern approach to the style.
“When I designed the recipe, I wanted Crikey to be intriguing, to be different from what you’d get anywhere else,” he says. “I didn’t want to make an English-style IPA, and hazy IPAs hadn’t yet arrived in the Pacific Northwest, so I created a hoppy West Coast IPA with a moderately bitter profile.”
The IPA world keeps turning though. While hazy beers remain very popular, beer drinkers are returning to IPAs with lighter bodies, drier finishes and measured bitterness. Seven years after we started canning Crikey, West Coast IPAs, now brewed with an even more dazzling array of hop varieties, are the style to watch again.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE TROPICAL NOTE
Building body and balance with a combination of four different malts, Crikey layers in judicious amounts of Citra, Amarillo, Simcoe, Centennial, Mosaic, and Azacca hops. To our taste buds these varieties lend notes of grapefruit, guava, orange, and Douglas fir. “Key for Crikey, and what makes it different, is that it takes the traditional West Coast profile of citrus and pine hop character and goes above that,” says Adam. “There’s a strong tropical note, with orange, that broadens the citrus character to a much richer place. It finishes the sip in balance with supporting but soft bitterness, and just asks you to take another sip.”
Available year round on draft and in bottles and cans, we like to think of Crikey as an everyday favorite. It’s great to enjoy at a Mariner’s game, or after finishing an invigorating hike. Find our West Coast IPA near you with our Beer Finder and try our new Imperial IPA, Double Crikey!