Sure, the IPA section of your local beer store looks like a fruit salad these days. It doesn’t matter if it is a summer fruit like watermelon or strawberry or a winter-loving citrus fruit. IPAs are still the king of the craft world and every brewer worth their wort has made the calculation that hops + fruit = goodness.
Ever the iconoclast, Oskar Blues Brewery has put out a fruit IPA, but with their own spin on it. Fugli, made with yuzu and ugli fruit, is Oskar Blues’ summer seasonal release. Their gleaming cans are available on a shelf near you throughout the U.S. of A until August. And what could be more American than a beer showcasing fruits from Japan and Jamaica? Think of Fugli as a melting pot of a beer; even the can is red, white and blue.
For the uninitiated, yuzu is a citrus fruit that looks like a small grapefruit but has a slightly sweeter, tangier flavor, akin to a mandarin orange. This versatile Japanese import can be used as a sauce for cooking or bitters for a cocktail or just drank straight-up as juice. Oskar Blues gained experience handling yuzu when they infused it into a Belgian pale ale they brewed in collaboration with Japan’s Yo-Ho Brewing.
Closer to home, the flavor of Jamaican ugli fruit has been compared to a sour orange or the cross between a grapefruit and a tangerine. Oskar Blues mentions that Fugli also incorporates rangpur, a fruit from Bangladesh. Rangpur is known as an orange that has a bit of lemon or lime in it. For some reason, rangpur doesn’t share top billing with yuzu and ugli fruit. Which is rather fitting, considering how little the country of Bangladesh gets any mentions. Sorry, Bangladesh.
Oskar Blues handles the ingredients so well that it makes you wonder why no one had brewed with those fruits before.”
As for the beer itself, Fugli fills the pint glass with more of a head than a typical IPA but it quickly dissipates. There is healthy amount of carbonation and the beer is clear, a welcome departure from the current Needs More Haze trend in IPAs. The appearance is on the lighter end of the style, with yellow being the dominant color, and leaning more towards a light brown than orange. The aroma hits you with orange zest and tangerine, with some underlying Meyer lemon.
Fugli does have a juicy taste where you initially get the citrus notes your nose told you was coming, but then the flavors round out and blueberry and watermelon join in. This is where pairing the citrus with Mosaic hops pay off. The Mosaic really enhances the flavors, reminding me of an alcoholic version of the McDonald’s Hi-C Orange drink I had at every friend’s birthday party back in the day.
There is only a faint presence of a malt backbone. Instead, Oskar Blues seems to want to let the Mosaic-meets-exotic-fruit marriage play out without interruption. The minimal malt presence makes sense, it is as if you really wanted to try this new, tangy marmalade so you put a heavy dollop of it on a small, plain cracker.
On the finish, the bitterness of the citrus zest comes back, along with an aromatic bitter cameo, as if juniper was a late addition to the brew. I am not going to pretend that I can parse out the yuzu or the ugli fruit, but they are both close cousins to familiar citrus favorites. Given the substantial hop bite (and Oskar Blues’ penchant for hop-forward beers), it is surprising that this only clocks in at 60 IBUs. At 5.8% alcohol by volume, you could easily knock back a couple of Fugli’s at a BBQ without getting too fugli yourself.
Fugli is perfect for the summer heat, and all the outdoor shenanigans that accompany this time of year. It would pair really well with Jamaican jerk chicken or a spicy Asian dish like pad Thai. While the use of yuzu and ugli fruit may seem like a gimmick, Oskar Blues handles the ingredients so well that it makes you wonder why no one had brewed with those fruits before. Fugli is a good lesson in the benefits of seeking out the foreign and unusual, no matter if your tastebuds take you to Japan or Jamaica. Or even Bangladesh.