What happens when someone takes a beer that I like a lot—Ska Brewing Modus Hoperandi IPA—and put a twist on it? Modus Mandarina IPA happens:
In the interest of full disclosure, I play it pretty close to the vest when it comes to IPAs and I tend to have a very particular idea of what I want a Colorado IPA to taste like. When you are bringing home a back seat full of six-packs you tend to get a little picky lest you end up with beer for bratwursts or worse yet your brother-in-law.
Modus Mandarina comes in at 6.8% ABV and 88 IBU, which are the exact numbers that grace Modus Hoperandi. Where the brewers got creative was in dry hopping the beer with Mandarina Bavaria hops—a variety with which I was heretofore unfamiliar—and a measure of sweet orange peel thrown in for good measure.
This took a beer that I like a lot and turned it into one that I am ambivalent about. Where Modus Hoperandi has the right bitterness, the dry hopping in Modus Mandarina takes it over the edge into gimmicky territory. Dry hopping is tricky because the effect is not registered in the IBU number due to the difference in the way that the aromatic compounds play across your palate. That’s a beer geek way of saying that it crossed the line in bringing the bitterness.
Sweet orange peel is another tricky ingredient. In most beers I would favor bitter orange over sweet orange. A nice way to keep the bitterness in balance is to reduce the hopping and rely on the aromatics to bring bitterness to the beer. It’s a different kind of bitterness, so it can be hard to find the right balance without letting the flavor of the orange get lost or dominate. Few do it well and most err on the side of orange dominating. Modus Mandarina, thankfully, does not fall into the trap of becoming an orange juice beer. It just really does not add to what was a great recipe before the addition.
Take all of this with a grain of salt considering my relative conservative preference in IPAs and my aforementioned love of Modus Hoperandi. Sometimes change is not necessarily for the better of mankind:
See what others are saying about Ska Brewing Modus Mandarina IPA @ Beeradvocate.