We love IPAs. Both as a zeitgeist community and as individuals. The insanity of the IBU wars, with brewers battling it out to create more and stronger pints of bitterness are largely behind us, and now IPA as a category has blossomed to cover more or less anything thats around 5-7% ABV and nice and hoppy.
For some time now, the West Coast has had the IPA thing more or less nailed, with breweries like Russian River and Stone cranking out beautiful pale beers. The West Coast style takes its lessons from traditional brewing methods, with the recipes designed to let the malt take a back seat, and loading up with late hop additions to really let the flavors sing.
Crisp and refreshing, West Coast IPA makes for a fantastic beer. But that's not what this post is about.
Recently, the East Coast has been on a stylistic kick of its own, and a new wave of breweries have taken center stage with a whole new way of brewing hoppy beers. Think Treehouse. Think Hill Farmstead. Do a little historical thinking and look to the almost crazily famous Heady Topper from The Alchemist.
This new style of IPA is rocketing up the beer charts and for good reason.
The best New England IPA combines high oil content, pungent and fruity hops with a British yeast strain. But that's not all. The New England folks took a page out of the classic brewing textbooks, ripped it out and did what they want.
Massive doses of dry hops added during fermentation means that the oils and flavors from the hops interact with the living yeast, and the right yeast strains will take those basic hop compounds and rearrange some of them, and stick others together with sugars creating a whole new wealth of flavor.
Picking a yeast strain which adds some character of its own only helps matters. The Alchemist gets a signature flavor from their house yeast, lovingly dubbed "Conan" which with some care and some feeding gives off a bright, peachy flavor.
Generous doses of unmalted grains such as wheat or oats added into the mash give these beers a fuller mouthfeel, which lets the hop flavor hang around long after you've swallowed your first sip and leaves you wanting to rapidly take another.
More than anything else, New England IPAs have stirred up plenty of controversy because of the way they look. High protein content in the beer, along with ridiculous levels of hop oils in suspension give rise to a beer which is unashamedly hazy. To those used to drinking brilliantly clear beer, this eye drinking can turn people off these beers faster than fast. Heady Topper is famously labelled "Drink From The Can". For those adventurous souls, a new world awaits.
So of course, we will have a New England IPA in our lineup, and it will also be a rotating style for us, as we are able to lay out hands on new hop varieties this will be a beer to really let them shine.
We're currently working on a little hop show-down to finalize the hop bill for our standard version, but we expect to be able to have a lot of fun with this beer, especially as new hops continue to be developed. It's going to be a lot of fun...