Luponic refers to lupulin, the pungent resin that gives hops bitter and aromatic qualities. Distortion is defined as the act of twisting or altering something out of its true, original state. Sounds to me like some kind of twisted scientific beer experiment.

According to its website, Firestone Walker’s story, which started in 2001, is as follows:

Born in a humble shed on the back-forty of the family vineyard, Firestone Walker is a California beer company like no other—founded by two brothers-in-law who simply wanted to make the perfect beer.
The story begins with Adam Firestone (a.k.a. The Bear) and David Walker (a.k.a. The Lion) debating the subject of beer. Their search for a decent local ale proved futile, and it wasn’t long before they had goaded themselves into brewing their own. Their initial brewing efforts were made in a second-hand brewhouse with converted winemaking equipment—mostly with mixed results. But the hook was set when their first recipe for Double Barrel Ale was attempted.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of that moment. Join us as we look back at the curious, passionate and, at times, precarious path that led us from there to here.

One of its newer and popular series is the IPA series entitled Luponic Distortion. So far, 17 beers have been releasedin this collection, bending the hops to produce interesting flavors without the addition of fruits or flavorings. They are as follows:

  • No. 001 – A blend of six different hop cultivars with an emphasis on zesty, tropical fruit
  • No. 002 – Lime, blueberry and pomelo
  • No. 003 – Mandarin orange and peach flavors using German hops
  • No. 004 – Includes South African hop varietals to produce passionfruit and white grape
  • No. 005 – Notes of ripe tropical fruits with a bold malt backbone
  • No. 006 – 7 different hops including some from Michigan to produce a West coast style
  • No. 007 – South African and Australian hops producing a sauvignon blanc character
  • No. 008 – Melon and Citrus balanced with a bright crispness from New Zealand hops
  • No. 009 – Hops from Germany and the Pacific Northwest produce tropical fruit and pine
  • No. 010 – Exhibits nuances of mango, cream, peach and ruby red grapefruit
  • No. 011 – Tropical fruits, caramel and roasted malts
  • No. 012 – Including hops from Germany and the Northwest with melon and tangy berry
  • No. 013 – A tropical taste with coconut and key lime
  • No. 014 – Using seven new-age hops with hints of grape, mandarin and passionfruit
  • No. 015 – Tropical notes of guava, kiwi and pineapple
  • No. 016 – Peach, pear and dragon fruit producing a tangy, bold flavor profile
  • No. 017 – 100% natural hops with flavors of blueberry and orange

Today’s offering is No. 16, one of the newer versions of the series. The hop bill in this one is quite impressive, including varietals from the Pacific Northwest, Germany and New Zealand. Firestone Walker has released a new IPA in this series approximately every 90 days and usually the hops are not named as many of them that are used are new and/or yet to be named.

Poured from an attractive can with off-white and hot pink colors, the color of the beer is a very clear golden-yellow with a decent amount of fizzy, almost pure white head. Aroma hits the nose before I lift the glass and I am antsy with anticipation to try this beer that is emitting smells of tropical fruits including peaches, pears and starfruit. Light citrus is a nice change as many IPAs are overwhelmed with nothing but citrus.

The first sip, while still very cold, brings out overripe peaches, a decent malt backbone and touches of carambola and honeydew. Mouth feel is light and crispy and balance is done well with light and fruity tropical hops and a pleasant, almost caramel-like malt backbone. After a bit of warming, I revisit the taste and find some more bitterness emerging now and the tropical notes lightening some, which allows for more citrus—like orange and lemon—to come out. The finish is crisp, citrusy and at the end, I get more bitterness that makes it feel a bit like a West Coast IPA.

Firestone Walker Luponic Distortion: IPA Series No. 016
BREWERY: Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
LOCATION: Paso Robles, Calif.
STYLE: American IPA
ABV: 5.9 percent
IBU: 50
PRICE: $2.99
AVAILABLE IN: 12-ounce cans
I have not had the privilege of trying all 17 of the Luponic Distortion releases from Firestone Walker, but the ones I have had have been impressive, especially knowing that these were all brewed with the natural flavors of the hops without any additional flavors or fruit additions. This one is a nice change from a lot of other IPAs as it is not overpowered by citrus but has a lot of crisp, tropical fruits to be the main player and the choice of hops that allowed this is amazing. Now, this is definitely not one of my top 10 or even top 20 beers but nonetheless a very nice beer. The biggest issue I had is how the wonderful tropical taste gives way to the run-of-the-mill citrus-forward IPAs as the temperature starts to rise. Glad I had the chance to try it but felt it was a touch fragile.
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