Visiting Seattle last month reminded me how spoiled the Pacific Northwest is for great beer, and not just of the hoppy variety. In Seattle alone, I found tap lists packed with Holy Mountain, Cloudburst, Reuben’s Brews, Chuckanut—I’d be thrilled to see just one of those back in Montana.
Luckily, there is a Seattle brewery that distributes here: Fremont. This venerable brewery is perhaps best known for its barrel-aged beers, most of which are exemplary and have their own subdivision within my beer cellar. But when I first tried the brewery’s Lush IPA a few years ago, I was convinced Fremont has a way with hops, too.
Currently, Fremont’s new “hazy pale ale” Sky Kraken is the brewery’s big hit—you’d buy it for the can art alone—but I still find myself more drawn to Lush. This IPA name-checks two hops drinkers can’t get enough of: Citra and Mosaic, plus a sprinkling of Citra lupulin powder. If you’ve ever pulled apart a fresh hop cone, you’re familiar with lupulin, the yellowish-green powder that coats your fingers like Cheetos dust. Lupulin packs much of the oil and resin responsible for giving hops their distinctive aromas and flavors, but in a concentrated form, sort of the kief of brewing (er, so I hear). That allows brewers to mega-hop beers without adding a lot of bulky hop pellets or whole-cone flowers.
I can imagine the Citra lupulin powder plays a major role in what I’ll call the laser-focus of this beer’s hop character. Where some heavily hopped IPAs, especially some of those hazy New England ones, tend to create an echo chamber of tropical fruit that goes on as long as a jam band solo, Lush delivers its hop tones with the precision of a screaming horn intro. The aroma is of smooth guava, lemongrass, and cantaloupe, while the flavor swerves to deliver greener notes of lime juice, Bartlett pear, and not-quite-ripe mango. Thankfully, there’s a portion of honey malt along with the basic two-row pale barley to support that hop canopy; the beer finishes with a refreshingly bitter bite that isn’t too aggressive.
It’s harder than ever for breweries to stand out on the crowded IPA shelves at the grocery store, but I find myself returning to Lush with regularity. It’s not an old-school IPA by any means—Citra lupulin powder being a relatively new color with which brewers can paint—but it shows a mature brewery’s level of discipline and focus. Fremont’s taken the best of what modern American hops offer, then used them within the framework of a clean, impeccably constructed, firmly bitter IPA. Remember those?
Where to get it
Fremont Lush is available year-round in cans, bottles, and on draft throughout Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Alaska, Colorado, California, and in Japan.
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