It’s not officially a style. Yet it has become a thing in the brewing world. It’s yellow, hazy and fruity; a pale ale crossed with a Hefeweizen. A double IPA, unfiltered. It’s called New England IPA. Saturday, December 9 is the tapping party for Black Bridge Brewery’s take on this beer.
I have not had an actual New England IPA. At least, not that I can recall. I’ve only ever lived in the Southwest: Texas, New Mexico, Arizona. My experience is limited to what I’ve read in brewing literature. Let that inform all that is to follow.
The beer style has also been called a Vermont IPA, since Heady Topper from the Alchemist is evidently the prototype for this beer, though there are brewers in Oregon that argue they’ve been brewing a cloudy, subdued IPA much longer. I’ll leave them, and the reader, to debate the history and nomenclature of this kind of beer.
It appears to me, from my reading, that these beers should be moderate in hops bitterness, heavy in hops aroma, especially of the melon-ish variety. And they should have a juicy quality; i.e., it should be like drinking a moderately hopped orange juice.
Here’s a few current descriptors of this nascent beer style, highlights I looked for in my pint:
- Hazy, turbid appearance
- Tropical fruit aroma with restrained hops bitterness; grapefruit, peach, apricot
- A soft, pillowy mouthfeel with a creamy aftertaste
- Juicy, fruity flavor. Esters from yeast are good.
For now, I’ll focus on what I think the beer is supposed to be and Black Bridge’s version, which is named Hops & Dreams. (Fear not, Hops the Cat is still alive and well at the brewery. Perhaps some of you were also concerned that the familiar feline may have made its way into the beer itself, not just its name).
That Smell …
The resinous aroma of Cascade-ish hops erupts from this beer. There are other hops there, to be sure, but mostly of the piney nature; Idaho 7 for example. Another customer in Black Bridge indicated this beer was redolent of naught but grapefruit to her. Scents of tropical fruit and black tea faintly appeared to me about halfway through the pint. They were very subdued.
In Appearance …
Perfect. Just like a wit beer, hazy and milky and a solid white head. Burnished yellow, like a faded highway traffic sign. The haze was made appropriately, with some additions of wheat.
But the Taste …
Restrained hops bitterness is one of the characteristics … but we are talking about Black Bridge. I expected little restraint in the use of hops and was not disappointed. The initial hit of this beer is a mosh pit of sharp, resinous, piney hops. The aftertaste, too, is harsh and astringent. Not unpleasant, mind you, just aggressive and dry. In between the first taste and the aftertaste is a medium strength body. The malt character, of which there should not be copious amounts, is enough to make this very drinkable. Far more drinkable than I anticipated after the first few swallows.
It’s appropriately hazy, but I could not discern the fruity hops notes, or the juice-like mouthfeel, that I expected. If I recall correctly, the B3 house yeast can produce pleasant esters, which would work in this beer. And their recent barley wine, Katastrophic Humiliation, certainly had some soft, tropical fruit notes that would also fit this beer perfectly. I thought some of that might make an appearance here. But I could not find them.
That does not mean this beer is without merit. Hops & Dreams is a hops forward and alcoholically powerful IPA and has Black Bridge’s fingerprints all over it. Tim Schritter loves beer and brewing, and the IPA style in particular, and it shows in this beer, which I think of as a session double IPA. (Ironically, I that’s what Heady Topper is classified as, too, which I did not know before writing all this).
Actually, it seems to me that it should be called a Hualapai Style IPA instead of New England style. It is barbaric and beautiful as is the desert in which it was born. While I did not find what I expected (and that’s all on me), there is no flaw in Hops & Dreams. I hope it finds a permanent home on the Tap List.
Now on to the next New England Style IPA that can be found in Kingman. This one is at Rickety Cricket, just down the street from Black Bridge.
I had a sample of their kolsch at a recent beer festival and that is the only exposure I’ve had to the brews Terry is producing at the Cricket. His NEIPA, called Anaconda Squeeze, was the first actual pint I’ve had from them.
That Smell …
Not much aroma came from the beer, certainly no fruit or floral hops. Standard grassy bouquet.
In Appearance …
The Anaconda’s clarity was fantastic, even though it should not have had any whatsoever. It completely lacked the turbidity that should be present. It was also a bronze-ish red. That is slightly off the spectrum I anticipated. Needs to be a pale yellow.
But the Taste …
Hops flavor was missing from the body of the beer, too. There was a hint of some American hops, perhaps, but not very heavy. Some malt character came through.
Anaconda Squeeze has a cool name (if, indeed, it is derived from Nacho Libre). It is, admittedly, not a New England style IPA although it is billed as such by the brewery. Terry knows it needs adjustment. The beer is a good, standard pale ale. Nice clarity, good mouthfeel, easy to drink and no substandard flavors at all. I need to try some more of Rickety Cricket’s beers, to be sure, but right now I’d say they need to find a way to make their beers scream “we are Rickety Cricket and we love beer.” They need a signature of some kind.
You can have both of these beers this weekend. My pick will be Hops & Dreams.
Further Reading for the Style that Isn’t a Style:
- The New England Style IPA is The Anti-IPA – CraftBeer.com
- New England IPA – The Haze Craze – American Homebrewer’s Association
- Unlock the Secrets of New England Style IPAs – Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine