Strange Brew: Strawberry Mint IPA

 Photo: Neill Pieper

Photo: Neill Pieper

Strawberry Mint IPA
Brewery: Upslope Brewing Company
Location: Boulder
IBU:  65
ABV:  7.5

Anyone can add strawberry puree to a minty mojito. It takes a creative mind, and perhaps a chef’s taste, to add strawberry puree and mint oil to a hop-forward India Pale Ale.

“The Strawberry Mint IPA is my brain child,” said Charlie Condon, specialty beer production manager at Upslope Brewing Company. “I used to work in the culinary world, and this beer was definitely inspired by my culinary experiences. I think that there are a lot of lessons that we, as brewers, can learn from chefs.”

Condon manages barrel aging and special projects for Boulder’s canned beer leader, and he is not afraid to experiment. Last year, Upslope collaborated with New Belgium on a tropical stout made with plantains, and one of the brewery’s favorite seasonal offerings is a Thai white IPA flavored with ginger, Thai basil, lemongrass and coriander.

His latest IPA may push the envelope even further. Condon said he has never heard of another beer combining strawberry and mint flavors. 

“The concept is very good at catching the attention of our patrons,” Condon said. “The reviews are mixed, but mostly positive. I think the further you push flavor boundaries, the more often you see a lack of agreement on beers.”

The beer earned an average 3.65 out of 5 on the crowd-sourced Untappd beer rating app, and one reviewer simply said it’s “not my thing.” However, another drinker wrote, “This was really good. Hoppy with a sweetness. Perfect for summer.”

Such positive reviews and enough taproom sales encouraged the Upslope crew to package the Strawberry Mint IPA in its 19-ounce tallboy cans. Condon has brewed the unusual beer three times in three different ways.

“This beer has been an evolution,” he said. 

For the canned version, he added whole-fruit strawberry puree to the fermenter at the start of fermentation, then added a distilled essential oil of mint in the bright tank just a couple days before packaging the beer.

The resulting flavors are surprisingly subtle, but hints of mint and strawberry certainly present themselves in both the smell and flavor of the beer, making for a beer unlike anything you might have tasted before.

“For me, this beer highlights the experimental side of Upslope Brewing and the creative atmosphere that has been cultivated at our Lee Hill brewery in North Boulder,” Condon said.

Steve Graham is a Fort Collins writer who enjoys the outdoors and great beers.