When the golden rays shine down on the Emerald City, I’ve always sought out the beautiful orange tap handle of Fremont’s Summer Ale. In fact, we published a column in April last year extolling the virtues of the stuff. But there’s a new leader of the pack when it comes to Seattle’s summer beers. Who is this new superstar? None other than Lucky Envelope’s Grapefruit IPA—which will soon be available for sale in 22-ounce bottles.
After walking into the Eastlake Zoo Tavern on a hot afternoon, I sat down at the bar and noticed a new tap in the rotation (next to Fremont’s Summer Ale, actually). Wanting to try something new, I ordered the Grapefruit IPA. My palate will never be the same. The beer has a beautiful body—not too big, not too thin—with a bright, bold, effervescent quality and a joyous, real grapefruit flavor. Now, one might not think grapefruit in beer alone would make a brew #1, but holy heck, it works.
“In my experience,” says Lucky Envelope co-owner, Barry Chan, “a lot of the grapefruit beers I tried tasted more like grapefruit candy or juice. I would rather have a beer that tasted like peeling a real grapefruit, where volatile oils twisting from the skin hit your nose with that unmistakably bright grapefruit punch. With that said, as we mucked our way through our first year of a brand-new business, a grapefruit beer wasn’t on my radar.”
But it’s not grapefruit alone that puts Lucky Envelope’s beer at the top. The base of the beer, says Chan, is the brewery’s flagship ENIAC Mosaic IPA. Mosaic, perhaps the premier hop of the age on the local craft beer market, offers a bouquet of pleasant aromatics with just a kiss of a sweetness to the finish. It’s pretty much a perfect ingredient, especially for a summer IPA. Oh, and the ENIAC Mosaic IPA just won the gold medal for American IPAs at the 2016 Washington Beer Awards. “My philosophy to infusing beer,” says Chan, “is that you need to make a solid base beer before infusing other flavors or, I believe, you compromise on the overall quality.”
Where Fremont’s Summer Ale is lighter, with an emphasis on refreshment, the Grapefruit IPA is a one-stop shop for bold, bright taste. But how did Lucky Envelope get started on a citrus beer, and how did that translate to a new great summer option? “Citrus beers jumped to the front of my mind during the planning of our first Chinese New Year celebration in January 2016,” Chan says. “We brewed up a small batch of pale ale, which used the lemony zest of the Buddha’s hand citron fruit. This beer had the intense, just-twisted citrus peel flavor I was seeking.”
But Buddha’s hand is not available year-round. Chan started tinkering with grapefruit. “After dialing in the grapefruit intensity and with the beer continuing to receive extremely positive feedback, we made a decision to make [it] available year-round,” Chan says. And that is how a great beer is born.