The saying goes that a rising tide lifts all boats, and the rise in craft/artisan beer has certainly had a similar impact on the various beer styles. Styles like Gose and Grätzer, which were bordering on extinction until recent years, are enjoying exponentially more of a market share than they ever have. However, no style has been lifted to the height of India Pale Ale and its various sub-styles. IPA has been the hottest craft beer style on the market since the most recent surge in craft beer began approximately 15 years ago. One of the first beer fads, Double/Imperial styles, saw the rise of the Double IPA, and was pretty quickly followed by the concomitant backlash preference for Session or lower ABV styles. Hence the rise of the Session IPA. Then there was the Black IPA or Cascadian Dark Ale, a style likened to the offspring of an IPA and Porter. For some time now though, the king of IPA (and craft beer) has been the American style West Coast IPA, defined by its light body, dry finish, clean and clear presentation, a bright citrus-heavy hop profile, and pronounced bitterness. No style had been more successful than IPA, save for historically popular mass–produced light lagers: so what could possibly come next for this giant of the craft brew world? Where could the aromatic/flavor profile go from here and would those be the only variables brewers would toy with?
The current course of the IPA has taken a very unexpected turn, and to the surprise of many, has embraced a number of things that have long been considered anathema for the style; a murky and even opaque appearance or a full/round body with a soft carbonation and velvety mouthfeel. Enter New England IPA, the most recent fad in India Pale Ale and one that’s hit craft beer like a tsunami. The style arguably originated with Alchemist’s Heady Topper out of Vermont and expanded from there. Heady Topper has long enjoyed a cult-level following for its mold-breaking juicy hop character coupled with an expressive yeast strain and unexpectedly cloudy appearance. A beer with this level of popularity and unclassifiable combination of qualities was bound to give birth to a style of its own. New England IPA, also referred to as Hazy IPA or Juicy IPA, has come about as the result of brewers throwing tradition to the wind and embracing practices that were previously frowned upon in an effort to produce this particular set of organoleptic and tactile qualities.
What is New England IPA?
Lucky for us, the Brewer’s Association recently added stylistic guidelines for these hazy/juicy brews. This has helped smooth out previous inconsistencies in how people understood the style. The BA style guidelines (and a marked amount of consumption on my part) tell us to expect a brew that is straw blonde to golden in color with a noticeable haze that can approach opacity. Aromatics should be off the hop character chart and focus on tropical fruit with citrus playing a background role. A mild and restrained malt character is acceptable, and some supporting character from yeast esters and bio-transformed hop compounds is often found. The mouthfeel should be more along the lines of medium-full, soft, and round than typical IPAs and feature a much more mellow bitterness. Your starting gravity should be somewhere in the 1.060 to 1.070 range and your final gravity between 1.008 and 1.016. In my opinion, a higher original gravity is acceptable when coupled with a higher final gravity here. This style can handle more body than you’d expect.
In layman’s terms, a Hazy IPA is one in which the brewer’s goal is to produce a beer with an aroma, flavor, appearance, and palate not unlike tropical fruit juice. The nose should maximize the potential to cram hop aromatics into a beverage and reek of tropical fruit and citrus (juice, not zest). The appearance should be pretty light in color and real cloudy/murky. Juicy IPAs should be very quaffable, and you shouldn’t be getting nearly as much bitterness as you would in a standard IPA. Fruity hop flavors should predominate, and the body should be a little bit more full than typical IPAs. Sounds delicious, right? It is.
So, we’ve answered the question: What is a New England IPA? The only thing left to do is track some down and give ‘em a try. There are a number of breweries that are producing excellent examples of this style. However, I’m in North Carolina, and I’m gonna give a shout out to one of our locals. I decided that I wanted to get in touch with Wilmington Brewing Company for this article. I had not tasted any of Wilmington Brewing’s offerings prior to getting my hands on their Some New IPA. Let’s just say that now I’ve made a point of seeking out any beer they release. The folks at Wilmington Brewing were kind enough to provide us with a 5-gallon recipe for their Kitten Biscuit New England IPA made with lactose, and we’ve shared it below! I won’t delve into it here but know that Milkshake IPA’s and IPA’s utilizing lactose for more mouthfeel are also current (unexpected) trends! If you can get your hands on Kitten Biscuit then you’ll have about the best exposure to that style as you could hope for. This is a brewery to keep an eye out for and one that I fully expect will be regarded as one of the state’s best.
Also, keep an eye out for Part 2 of this blog series that will focus on how to brew New England IPA!
Kitten Biscuit NEIPA
Recipe courtesy of Wilmington Brewing Company
Batch Size: 5 gallons
Recipe Type: All-Grain
Original Gravity: 1.080-1.085
Final Gravity: 1.020-1.024
ABV: ~ 8%
9.5 lbs 2-Row Pale Malt
4 lbs Wheat Malt
1.5 lbs Flaked Oats
1 lb CaraPils
.5 lb Rice Hulls
.5 lb Lactose – add during boil w/10 min remaining
2.5 oz Citra hops – whirlpool @ 210˚F for 20 min
2.5 oz Mosaic hops – whirlpool @ 210˚F for 20 min
5 oz Citra hops – dry hop for 4 days
5 oz Mosaic hops – dry hop for 4 days
Dry English Ale Yeast – WLP007
Mill all of your grains (not the rice hulls) and mash at 152˚-153˚ F for 60 minutes. Collect wort and boil for 60 minutes. Add lactose with 10 minutes remaining in boil. Once the boil has concluded you’ll chill to 210˚F, add your whirlpool hops, and hold for 20 minutes. Finish chilling your wort to 68˚-70˚F, transfer to a fermentor, aerate, and pitch your yeast. Dry hop for four days after fermentation is complete.
Wilmington recommends a chloride to sulfate ratio of about 6:1 for this brew. They also toss in about 1 gram of Cl pre 5 gallons at the end of the boil. Your pH should be coming out about 5.2 at the end of your boil and 4.5 in the finished product. Start dry-hopping while the yeast is still in suspension and fermentation is still somewhat active. This will encourage hop polyphenols to stay in suspension and bump up the flavor. If you can, utilize CO2 during the bottling or kegging process to reduce/eliminate oxygen exposure.