The IPA — short for India Pale Ale, the style of beer that calls for lots of hops for bitter, floral or citrusy flavors — remains the most popular and asked-for beer at bars and stores around the country. Noticing that the trend for IPAs hasn’t gone away, the Austin area’s oldest brewery, Real Ale, recently released an IPA, called Axis, that will satisfy fans of brash beers.
With notes of tropical fruit, citrus and peach on the nose and palate, the Axis IPA isn’t intended to mimic the intense hop bitterness characteristic in the West Coast IPAs that have dominated the market. It’s also not meant to be just like the East Coast IPAs that have arrived as a legitimate style: the similarly hoppy but incredibly hazy beers that brewers on the opposite end of the country have been making.
Instead, Real Ale’s new IPA is more of a “third-coast” response to both of these styles.
Real Ale’s head brewer, Schmitty, said he and the rest of the Blanco-based brewing team spent a lot of time refining an IPA recipe after noticing how prevalent the IPA had become.
“We were looking at the market and seeing how things were trending, and we saw a lot of growth in the IPA category,” Schmitty said. “We have hoppy beers, like our Lost Gold, but not a big, in-your-face IPA. The Lost Gold is more of an introductory IPA. Once we noticed palates were shifting to bigger and bolder IPAs, we wanted to make something different, put our toe in the water, and see how it goes.”
Finding just the right recipe was a team effort — and the Real Ale brewers didn’t come up with it the way they normally do.
“We started from square one with the recipe,” Schmitty said. “Our beers are designed in a similar manner, especially with the hops that we use, but this one, we blew that all up and started from scratch. Just so we could see how that would change the final product.”
Real Ale’s Axis recipe calls for dry-hopping the draft-only IPA with a combination of Eureka, Simcoe and Mosaic hops, and the brewery calls the fruity result “an offering so exotic” that it’s intended for “tap walls overrun with the white noise of West Coast IPAs.”
That’s not to say that Axis is quite unlike those beers, however. With Axis, Schmitty said, “We were shooting more for the West Coast style, but we weren’t trying to mimic anything. We wanted to maintain balance like we do with all our beers in the portfolio. We wanted hop intensity without going overboard, as some IPAs do.”
Hence the name. Axis is a species of deer, originally from India, that arrived in Texas in the 1930s and has now become a common animal to hunt in the state. The deer’s long, elegant antlers adorn the top of the IPA’s tap handle, but the deer also serves as a larger metaphor for Real Ale’s new brew. Just like the animal that invaded Texas in the last century, the Axis IPA is supposed to disrupt the category of IPAs on today’s tap walls.
“We were trying to play off the idea of West Coast versus East Coast IPAs,” Schmitty said. “If you split the country down the middle, the axis goes right through Texas.”
So far, the Axis IPA is available only on draft — with a tap handle that Real Ale designed to stand out on a wall of other alluring choices — but that might change if the beer catches on with Texas drinkers. It’s already appearing to be a hit, too.
“Reception has been really great,” Schmitty said. “We’ve already hit our initial goals for the launch. We actually were almost ahead of pace on that from the get-go. People were excited to see a new beer from Real Ale and a new big, bold IPA coming out. I’ve had people say this is their new go-to now.”