I included in an earlier post today some capsule comments on Fracture, the Imperial IPA from Amsterdam Brewery in Toronto. I want to enlarge on those here, as the beer deserves a fuller consideration considering its high quality and the anticipation with which the annual release is greeted.
Fracture was first released in 2013, as attested by a news item from Canadian Beer News. It is a limited annual edition, and appears in recent years in the colder season, as a kind of winter warmer.
It was first issued at 9% abv, which the latest release is as well, but sometimes has borne the statement 9.1% abv – the same for practical purposes. Each year the beer seems slightly different, which makes sense with such a specialty.
It retains the same general lines each year, but to connoisseurs differences may be noted which make the successive releases all the more of interest.
Speaking generally, I would say in earlier years a grapefruit flavour, from one or more “C hops” (Cascade, Citra, Centennial, etc.) tended to dominate the beer. There were other hop flavours as well, pineapple and lemon come to mind, but I recall the beer as dominated by a fresh grapefruit note.
The hops in totality were (and remain) intense but were always balanced by a good malt character. In the period when the yellow fruit-white pith taste dominated, it did in much regular IPA as well.
IPA from its beginnings, and I am generalizing to a degree, featured this taste, inherited from earlier American pale ales and avatars such as Anchor Brewing’s Liberty Ale (iconic Anchor in San Francisco). The Cascade hop was instrumental here, released in the early 1970s.
Recently though, in part powered by the New England IPA phenomenon and continual arrival of new hop types, other flavours in IPA now manifest. These are often described compendiously as “tropical” in taste, so papaya, mango, pineapple and more.
Peach and apricot can feature as well, also gooseberry – often noticeable in the Antipodes’ Nelson Sauvin, say, and the orange of Amarillo. And on it goes.
This year’s Fracture seems more driven, to my taste anyway, by a peach or apricot note especially in the finish. There is some grapefruit still as well, but not as dominant as I recall in earlier years. (Check in the online rating sites Beer Advocate or Ratebeer and the term grapefruit regularly appears in earlier reviews).
Fracture is not a special form of New England IPA, I am not sure it is of West Coast IPA either as much of this style relied on caramel malt and often a dank note in the hops, dank and/or pine.
I don’t get dank or pine in Fracture, as it is now certainly, or a caramel sweetness. Fracture at this stage strikes me as a 19th century English pale ale type except built on 21st century hops and made extra-strong.
As to yeast, I can taste yeast in the background, but it seems not to obtrude in the palate. I sense no metallic notes as some British yeasts can demonstrate. I suspect a clean-tasting California yeast was used, which would fit the fresh burst of fruit flavours and rich but uncomplicated pale malt character.
In sum, the current version cements the beer’s status as a strong ale classic of the craft beer movement.
There is a lot of hopping in this beer, and some fine malt. But it is the way they are chosen and combined that makes all the difference between a good, middling, and superlative product. In my view Fracture is the last, superlative, as both its history but especially the current version make clear.