WHAT IS A NEW ENGLAND IPA? FASCINATING STORY FOR AN INTRIGUING BEER

Various colorful cans of NEIPA including the Alchemist Heady Topper

 

The India Pale Ale (IPA) category is currently the most popular beer style in the USA, but what is a New England IPA, the newest kid on the block in the India Pale Ale world?

The style was born in the 18th century in England when Immigrants in India, one of the Empire’s most remote colonies needed a beer able to be shipped across the oceans while remaining quaffable. George Hodgson, a Londonian brewer is credited with the creation of the necessary hop and alcohol rich profile, shortly afterwards combined with the harder water of Burton-on-Trent, Midlands resulting in an exceptional quality ale.

We had to wait until the emergence of the craft brewing movement in America to see IPA become fashionable again. Anchor Brewery in San Francisco came up in the 1970s with their classic Liberty Ale, the first example of New World IPA. Justified by the diversity and scale of hops production on the Pacific North West Coast in the United States, and encouraged by the bold creativity of American Craft Brewers, IPAs have become ever bigger and more intensely hoppy.

Today double IPAs, Imperial IPAs (IIPA) and even triple (TIPA) are popping up everywhere.

New England IPA (NEIPA) characteristics – what makes this truly a style in its own right.

It’s probably safe to say a new category is recognized when:

  1. 1. It can be characterized by defined guidelines of production, and taste profile
  2. 2. The first example of the style has spawn multiple versions across different regions, brands
  3. 3. It style has ramifications in subcategories

About a little over a year ago, in May 2018, the Brewers Association released its 2018 beer style guidelines including the three new styles of “Juicy or Hazy IPA”, now commonly referred to as New England IPA.

The Boston Worts, home brewing club gives a good definition of the style.

Haziness and orange color

Although appearance is not the primary characteristic of the beer, all NEIPAs share that unique cloudy, virtually opaque look with a straw/ golden to orange hue.

Juicy fruit aromas and flavors, with low malt character

NEIPA Juicy Fruit
Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Unlike West Coast IPAs, NEIPAs emphasize the fruity quality of the hops and not the bitterness. It is a totally different yet extremely intense expression of hoppy character. Flavors can range from ripe citrus, stone fruit to tropical fruit. The use of mildly toasted malt brings freshly baked bread, cracker-like notes that just provide a frame for the hops.

Creamy body and dry finish

Despite its impression of soft body the beer may hide a deceiving ABV level, up to 7.5% for the standard version, and above for the double style, such as the original Alchemist Heady Topper. As the NEIPA wants to show freshness, and drinkability, it is made to finish dry and clean.

Soft carbonation

A persistent fluffy head is preferred for the style, as well as a gentle carbonation, both contributing to the perception of crispness, enhancing the intense fruity character of the brew, only leaving a fine lace on the glass.

Hazy NEIPA on tap
A hazy New England IPA on tap

Only in America – the amazing story of NEIPA

With my European background, I never cease to be amazed by such success stories in America.

20 years ago or so, John and his wife Jen Kimmich were waiting on tables at the humble, local Waterbury, Vermont Brewpub, The Alchemist. A few years after, John decided to start brewing and his then limited release, the Heady Topper became an enormous instant hit, becoming the iconic newest beer style that everybody knows. John Kimmich’s daring creativity reflects the curiosity and daring technical inventiveness that characterizes the American craft brewing community.

The style itself screams new and unique standards. Haziness is no longer a flaw, but rather desirable. The intensely bold flavors and aromas may appeal to all kinds of demographics, new beer drinkers or sophisticated brew lovers.

If you would like to read the whole story, you will find it here.

A style requiring skills and art to brew – extreme intensity, yet balance

As I researched for this article, I learned how remarkable this beer style is, on the technical point of view. This really shows how the end result can truly be greater than the sum of its parts. So what is a New England IPA? What makes it special?

Because this beer aims to express INTENSE, COMPLEX flavors and aromas coming from the hops, BALANCE is key is order to make the style enjoyable.

The potentially sharp and aggressive bite of the hops have to be balanced out with water higher in chloride, making the beer taste fuller and sweeter. New England water naturally possesses this quality. Brewers working with a different water will need to adjust the chemistry. The CREAMINESS should come primarily from the high protein contents in the malts such as wheat and oat – and softer water.

The extreme hoppy character itself can only be interesting if complex. This is why the selection of different hops is important. Recent American varieties are favored – such as Citra, Mosaic, El Dorado, Amarillo, Galaxy, Simcoe … with high essential oils, chosen for their fruity, citrusy, exotic aromatic profile. Hopping occurs mainly if not exclusively at flameout/ late in the boil, or as dry hopping during fermentation, aiming at extracting intense aromas and comparatively moderate bitterness.

Selected yeast strains for NEIPA should also contribute to FRUITINESS (ester-like aromas, see the wheel of beer aromas) with a moderate to low attenuation fermentation.

The combination of all these techniques and characteristics is unique and create a soft, creamy, yet intense, exotic, complex with a balanced, clean, fresh palate and a dry finish.

A New England IPA should also express great FRESHNESS. For this reason and despite its powerful hoppy character, it is not meant to age very much.

It’s all about American hops

NEIPA American Hop
Photo by ELEVATE from Pexels

It seems like this beer was created as a tribute to American hops. I couldn’t help but to include this quick guide to the main domestic varieties. What is a New England IPA? we may ask … “a beautiful tribute to dank American hops” as John Kimmish states it.

Here is a short list of a few of the most trendy American hops today. I will publish a complete post on American hops later, but for now, I thought these varieties are particularly relevant to this topic and need to be mentioned here.

Amarillo – a quintessential American hop variety. Grown in Washington. May be used both as a bittering and as an aromatic hop. A classic in American Pale Ales, IPAs and Imperial IPAs.

Sensory highlights: Grapefruit, Tropical Fruit, Melon. Depending on picking time, aromas & flavors range from citrusy/ candy to onion/ dank.

Cascade – the primary hop in American craft brewing. Cultivated since the mid 1950s, with roots from English Fuggle and Russian Serebrianka. The perfect finishing hop for any American Ale, and as single hop too.

Sensory highlights: Grapefruit, Spice, Floral. Medium intensity.

Chinook – Originally from Washington where it was developed by the USDA in the 1980s as a high alpha variety. Craft brewers found it interesting for its intensity and its unique aroma and flavor. Petham Golding is one of its ancestors.

Sensory highlights: Grapefruit, Pine, Resin. Sometimes citrus and dried herb notes when used as a dry hop.

Citra – From the Yakima, Washington Hop Farm. Relative of Hallertau, Mittelfrüh, East Kent Golding. Uniquely intense aromas. It is favored used as a dry hop, as a single variety or in a blend, it is known to complement nicely Brettanomyces and in many American Ales, where big fruity characteristics are welcome.

Sensory highlights: powerful, rich tropical notes, with flavors of peach, passion fruit, lime, guava, lychee, gooseberry.

Comet – A cross between English hops and a wild American variety, grown since the 1970s. Dual usage hop, but more interesting as aromatic addition, more than bittering. A good pairing for IPAs, Farm Ales, and other special styles of craft beers.

Sensory highlights: Citrus zest and pungent grassy profile, with wild forest fruit and earthy bitterness.

El Dorado – From a cooler area of the Yakima Valley in Washington. It is known for its exceptional aromatic qualities. This hop is used both as a flavoring and bittering addition.

Sensory highlights: Recognized for its fruity character, with dominant tropical notes, and to some degree pear, stone fruit, melon.

Mosaic – Powerful and intense both in acids and oils, it is often compared to Citra, just more pungent. It is a new variety of hop, related to Simcoe and Nugget. It’s highly exotic, fruity character makes it a great addition to Saisons, Brettanomyces, IPAs.

Sensory Highlights: Complex and pronounced tones of citrus, pine, blueberry, peach, lime, mango, mandarin.

Summit – Extremely high in acids, this hop has unparalleled bittering properties. It is powerful and heavy in flavor too. Perfect for late additions for hoppy styles of American ales.

Sensory highlights: Explosive grapefruit and tangerine fruit, it can also yield earthy onion/ garlic character, depending on harvest time and conditions.

Zappa – Native American wild variety, originally from New Mexico. Named after the musician for his counter cultural sense. Will work in dry hopping or whirlpool with sour, fruit fermented Ales, Double IPAs, Hazy IPAs.

Sensory highlights: Intensely spicy and fruity, exotic (mango, passion fruit), citrusy and piney.

What is your take on NEIPA?

I hope you enjoyed reading this post about a fascinating style of craft beer. New England IPA is personally not necessarily my favorite, go to kind of brew. My European palate perhaps has a somewhat lower tolerance for powerful hoppy character, nonetheless I recognize this style as remarkable, and when all the components are in balance, it definitely creates an interesting drinking experience, with much “color”, brightness and energy.

Is NEIPA a style you like, or would like to try if you haven’t had it yet? and why? What are favorite brands of NEIPA?

Please add your comments below.

Thanks and cheers,

To our health!

Vincent

2 thoughts on “WHAT IS A NEW ENGLAND IPA? FASCINATING STORY FOR AN INTRIGUING BEER”

  1. I must say I like beer, but never heard of this name before.  This is the first time I am coming across this.

    I like that it has juicy fruits and flavors.   I would like to brew my own make of this,  as I don’t think the have it here where I live. I’m just really interested in tasting this beer that actually have flavors and not the normal bitter taste you get from beer. The history of it is really a fascinating story. 

    This was a great story about this type of beer.  Thank you for sharing 

    All the best to you. 

    • New England IPA is really a very different style of beer.  

      If you cannot find it retail in your area and you brew at home, most online brewing supplies companies carry a version of this beer.  I personally like Brewer’s Best, all my beers from their extract kits have turned out really nice. 

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