It must be an interesting thought process for an exceedingly hop-forward brewery to design a new IPA. When your name is say, Stone, Green Flash or Avery, there are certain expectations that come along with releasing new hop bombs, and you also have to answer a key question: Where does this fit in our hoppy portfolio, and why does it need to exist?
Presumably, to justify its existence, a new IPA from one of these breweries has to fill some kind of niche that isn’t currently being served, especially if it’s going to be a new year-rounder. Avery’s Raja is one of these new IPAs trying to wedge itself into an area the brewery hasn’t fully explored, via both its hop bill and ABV. A DIPA in name, it straddles the 8% ABV border while focusing on a similar bill of Australian/New Zealand hops recently seen in Oskar Blues’ new year-round IPA. In short, they’re chasing the same juicy, tropical fruity flavors, and in doing so they pull off a pretty great beer—although the delivery turns out intriguingly different.
The beer’s strength puts it near the halfway point between the 6.5% ABV, classic Avery IPA and their equally renowned 10.2% ABV imperial IPA Maharaja. The name “Raja” and the beer’s tagline as the “prince of IPAs” likewise makes its intention clear—where Maharaja is “the king,” Raja is that beer’s little brother. It isn’t, however, just a shrunken version of Maharaja, with its huge caramel malt balance and boozy fruitcake flavors. Rather, the Raja is a very dry, lighter-bodied DIPA completely unbalanced in favor of the hops. Of the beers in the Avery portfolio, that means it has most in common with DuganA, the annually released 8.5% ABV double IPA.
Raja pours a hazy orange color that primes you immediately for both its aromatics and flavors. Aromatically, it’s very strongly floral and bursting with orangey citrus—fresh-squeezed orange juice and orange blossoms. Avery seems to have been going for a really tropical profile with the use of Vic’s Secret and Galaxy hops, but this honestly doesn’t come off as that exotic to me—and that’s not a bad thing at all, because the flavors are great. The juicy citrus is chased by some green, grassiness, with an aromatic profile that reminds me somewhat of the Mongo DIPA from Port Brewing, until it starts to warm. At a bit higher temperature, intriguing aromas of peachy stone fruit come forward, which are very nice.
On the palate, it’s candied orange, an intense citrus that reminds me of a craft cocktail glass rimmed with oil squeezed from a sweet orange peel. There’s also lemon, and a more exotic, melon fruitiness like canteloupe. Bitterness is medium high and body is thinner than you’d expect for an 8% ABV DIPA, with that booze completely and totally hidden. It’s a great example of a term that Paste editor Josh Jackson coined during our DIPA tastings, which is “IPA +” ... a DIPA that blurs the boundaries between single and double. Malt is purposely neutral, as Avery notes the beer has been made exclusively with 2-row base malt. This is a hop show, all the way.
I get the sense that Raja may be meant to come off as “cutting edge” in IPA, but what it seems more like to me is a modernized throwback. This is not too far off from classic San Diego DIPA, with a minimal malt base and tons of citrusy hops, and it’s an excellent example of that. This is uncomplicated beer for lovers of those tiny little hop cones, an injection of lupulin that still drinks easy. It’s a winning new year-rounder that will no doubt be appreciated by Avery’s IPA faithful.
Brewery: Avery Brewing Co.
City: Boulder, CO
Style: American DIPA
Availability: Year-round, 4-pack, 12 oz cans
Jim Vorel is Paste’s news editor. You can follow him on Twitter.