International Citrus Units (ICUs) are something new and Shaun Hill is the guy who came up with it. No matter what people think of Shaun, his beer is fantastic and some IPAs of late have included ICUs. It sounds like a fancy acronym but it’s quite simple. The basic end of it is that you’re adding fresh squeezed to your beer.
For my last two IPAs, I decided to try this ICU business.
- Surly Furious Clone (5.5%): Orange Navel Juice added 1 minute before flame out so that the juice is sanitized.
- Galaxy & Citra Imperial IPA (9.5%): Grapefruit juice added 5 minutes before flame out
What are the results?
Well, it was impressive. The Imperial IPA with Grapefruit had two things working against it. The first is that the ABV is quite high and thus contains a mild booziness which, paired with the acidity of the grapefruit leads to some off flavors at the finish. The 5.5% Furious clone w/ navels added really shines. It has this fresh squeezed juice taste that pairs very well with the hop additions.I think these IPAs are already using very citrus forward hops and then there’s the fruit juice added. Even with a small ratio, it’s noticeable. So don’t go overboard on the juice
The ICU route isn’t something I’d do in every IPA. While it adds a juiciness, it does seem to mask that pricey and delicious hops instead of complimenting them but your mileage may vary.
In the home-brew community, I get laughed at for adding juice to beers. The consensus is that I can accomplish the same profile using fruity hops. I disagree and plan on brewing a very simple pale ale this summer that uses the same hops but one batch receives a fruit addition and the other doesn’t so I can compare them side by side.
The beer itself (sorry I don’t have a photo) looks brighter with an orange like tint and a cloudiness that goes beyond just unfiltered home-brew. It looks like cloudy juice. I’m impressed with the results and look forward to drinking this keg down bit by bit. Tired Hands in Philly has started doing a few beers with ICUs as well. I hope this trend catches on but, like barrel aging, a mediocre beer doesn’t get better with juice. It makes good beer great but, if your IPA sucks, throwing in lemon juice won’t save it.