Style Guide: What is a New England IPA?

Unless you’ve been living in a cave with your head in the sand that just so happens to also be under a rock, you might have heard of this thing called a New England IPA. They’re kind of a big deal. Also knows as a Vermont IPA, hazy IPA, East Coast IPA, or simply a NEIPA, they’ve taken over the craft beer industry across the world with just about every brewer under the sun trying their hand at the style. But what on earth is it? Well, here goes…

Vermont brewery The Alchemist and their signature Heady Topper – a brew that has become legend to beer geeks around the world – is often credited with kicking off the haze craze. The beer became so popular that other New England breweries like Hill Farmstead Brewery, Tree House Brewing Co. and Trillium Brewing Co. all followed suit with their own interpretations of the style. Like any great American beer trend, it slowly began to seep into scenes across the globe. Now, in 2018, you can’t move for murky pales.

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Perhaps the most striking, and undoubtedly the most controversial, aspect of the style is its appearance. NEIPAs by nature are not clear. They can be anything from slightly hazy to downright murky. Picture a pint you’d have handed back to a bartender a few years ago while politely recommending they gives their lines a more thorough clean, and you have the right idea.

The hazy appearance is a result of a low-attenuating, ester-forward yeast strain (like Vermont ale yeast) working in tandem with often extreme levels of dry-hopping. The yeast clings to the hop particles in a process called flocculation (that’s a big word), leaving polyphenols (a-thank you) suspended in the liquid. Or something like
that. High protein grains and water chemistry can also be a factor. Point is, you can’t see through them. Some say it’s all gimmick, others advocate for the enhanced mouthfeel that the hazy body provides. Regardless, you can’t argue with the flavour.

 

On the palate and in the aroma, these beers are all about as much sticky, juicy, fruity flavour as possible being extracted from heaping helpings of hops. What make this any different to your classic American IPA? Low-to-no bitterness. This is achieved by adding the bulk of the hop additions at the end of the boiling process, or

in the dry hop. The signature Vermont ale yeast also adds peachy esters that work wonders with the fruity hops. Bearded gentlemen have been caught asking for “JOOS” at craft beer bars up and down the country.

The pitfall of the style is that the big hop flavours fade fast so they can be a bit of a ticking time bomb. If you get your hands on a New England IPA, you’re best drinking it fresh.

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