CitrAzona

Barrio Brewing Company’s new CitrAzona, makes its debut Dec. 29.

Local brewer Dennis Arnold’s first job as a teenage kid was hawking sodas to spectators at Arizona Stadium in the 1970s.

On Dec. 30 Arnold will return to the scene to slake the thirst of today’s football fans, but don’t expect to see sodas among his selections.

Yes, beer will be sold at Arizona Stadium for what could be the first time in history on the last Friday of this month, at the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl, and Arnold has crafted a special brew to commemorate this historic moment that is more than six years in the making.

It’s called CitrAzona IPA, and its journey began in 2010 when Arnold began to play around with Citra, a hop varietal with bold citrus notes. While generally satisfied with the beer that resulted from this experiment, he found its tangerine profile to be too powerful and quietly set it aside.

“It really was too tangeriney, at least for my palate,” said Arnold, proprietor of Barrio Brewing Company, 800 E. 16th Street. “The IBUs, or International Bitterness Units, were also a little low for what I had hoped for.” 

Arnold went about his business for the next three years until the Mosaic hit the scene in 2013, a floral and earthy hop varietal that inspired him to explore its potential as a companion to that Citra.

“Standing alone, I don’t think these hops make particularly good beer, but they really complement each other well when used together,” Arnold said. 

While he knew he was going in the right direction, this hybrid-hop version somehow fell short of the milestone moment he was expecting to reach with an IPA that memories are made of.

It wasn’t until this year when all of the pieces finally came together for Arnold. He discovered that the missing link was Simcoe, a more bitter and piney hop varietal that he thought was the right finishing expression with the Citra and Mosaic for a beer that he first envisioned six years ago.

“This hop can be a little catty, but if you use it in the right thresholds it adds a character to hops that make them bigger than themselves,” he said. “It acts in much the same way that umami acts in food, and you end up with a full-throated drinking experience.”

Arnold is also doing a test batch of this three-hop brew with the addition of a fourth hop known as Mandarina Baveria, which he expects to bring just a whiff of fruit to the nose. Whether it makes it into the final product depends on the tasting at the conclusion of the brewing process which is still a few days away.

Arnold told me that this new IPA is beautifully fruity and tropical, with notes of tangerine, grapefruit, lime, and passion fruit, and it’s reportedly unique in the way that you can follow a pint of it with a glass of anything at all.

“You know this, there are some IPAs out there that you either have to stick with or move on to Scotch,” he said.

The first public release of Barrio’s new CitrAzona will be at the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl’s downtown block party on Dec. 29, followed by consecutive appearances on Dec. 30 at the pre-game tailgate party on the University of Arizona Mall and inside Arizona Stadium for the big game. It will be launched statewide early next year in restaurants and bars, as well as in 12-ounce cans on retail store shelves.

I can’t imagine a beer that more suitably symbolizes the traditions of the Grand Canyon State, and launching it at a college bowl game that shares that ‘Zona spirit is a story that future generations of Arnolds will surely tell. 

Contact Matt Russell, whose day job is CEO of Russell Public Communications, at mrussell@russellpublic.com. Russell is also the host of “On the Menu Live” that airs 5 to 6 p.m. Saturdays on KQTH 104.1 FM, as well as the host of the Friday Weekend Watch segment on the “Buckmaster Show” on KVOI 1030 AM. Disclosure: The NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl is a client of Russell Public Communications.