Two New England Style IPA’s – Hops & Dreams and Anaconda Squeeze

Two Beers. The Northeast meets the Southwest.

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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.

Conclusions
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.

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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.

Conclusions
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.

Cheers!

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Further Reading for the Style that Isn’t a Style:

The ill feelings caused by Hodgon’s business practices drove Indian merchants to the Burton breweries for their more ethical business practices and more consistent beer supply. 

IPA: Brewing Techniques, Recipes and the Evolution of India Pale Ale by Mitch Steele
A bittersweet sentence, I say. Both a warning about bad business ethics, which the beer world continues to have, and a harbinger of the need for consistency 

Inversion IPA by Deschutes Brewery

It is a national favorite. It is the elite of the craft beer styles, people are all agog over it. This India Pale Ale style has yet to convince me that it deserves such adulation but, since I pretend to be liberal and tolerant, I allow it opportunity. Herein lies my impressions of Deschutes’ Inversion IPA.

That Smell …
The aroma is sultry and hypnotic like the redolence of a first date. Recall how intoxicating was the perfume and girly lotions and all that. You just couldn’t think clearly and you were captivated. Such is the sugary citrus nose of Inversion.

In Appearance …
Be awed by the perfectly tanned body of this IPA, gold and orange graced by the Rays of Sol. A beautifully coiffed head that looks crafted and smooth and will last the night.

But the Taste …
Alas, it tastes like the date ended badly and bitter. That hop bitterness simply inhabits the whole beer. For me, that flattens the beer depriving it of voluptuous nuances of malt and spice and yeast and alcohol. But I will not say it is badly proportioned. This is an IPA I could drink, though I don’t drink IPAs.

Join Me For A Plate Of …
ANYTHING BUT SPICY NACHO DORITOS! I’VE MADE A HUGE MISTAKE!! ACK!!

The Conclusion Of The Matter Is …
Peace, wretch and drink thy beer without offense – or so I paraphrasedly read in the Odyssey. If one must have India Pale Ales this one at least does not defile the palate like poor vocabulary and bad grammar; it is well spoken but not yet erudite. Good show.

Dark Penance by Founders Brewing

That word, penance, it intrigued me.  So I did what an intrigued person would do.  I visited OneLook.com and perused the definitions of the word.  Here was the first one displayed: “punishment or suffering that you accept, especially because of your religious beliefs, to show that you are sorry for something bad that you have done.”  The rest were all variations on that.  So, is Founders saying they are sorry for making this black IPA?  Are they saying they are sorry that there are black IPA’s?

I shrug and move on.

IMG_0803

That Smell …
It smells of lemon and lime and Chanel Number 5 and all that implies.  Yes, those fruity hops were dancing a dance in the nose.

In Appearance …IMG_0805
For a moment I thought I was pouring a cola.  Or perhaps a really dark tea.  That really created some dissonance in my cranial area.  It smelled like Sprite and looked like Coke.  But it’s a beer, man, a beer … .  Head retention was superb and the collar itself was a stoutish cream color.  Hmmm, this beer is all about deceit.

But the Taste …
If hops madness is your bag, baby, this is your beer.  If I’d not had the bottle with the label containing the name of the brewery right there in front of me I’d swear this was a Sierra Nevada or Stone libation.  I think I’ll lean more towards Stone for the hops artistry did not seem as refined as Sierra Nevada’s.  Yes, the hops are prominent, but what did I expect?  This is an IPA.  It’s dry and bitter, like the desert.  The bitterness lays like a blanket upon the tongue right away.  It lingers then stands and dances.  There is some slight malt character that bursts out as the beer gets warm, but it’s not very strong and lasts about as long as a rainstorm here in Kingman.

Join Me For A Plate Of …
Scalloped potatoes.

The Conclusion Of The Matter Is …
It reminded me of late summer, just as the weather is getting ready to change.  It made me think of late 80’s girl pop bands that are fine to look at and are occasionally in vogue, but, really, just hard to listen to.  This beer is similarly hard to finish.  It’s a harsh glass of achromatic despair, which is exactly what it’s supposed to be.  Yes, this is an IPA worthy of the moniker.  It’s hits all the right hops notes and malt chords.  As I drank I read the BJCP Guidelines for American IPA’s and this was a Goldilocks of the style.  I did find myself wishing that the roasted malts had leant some body and not just color to this black IPA.  However, I seek no penance for having this beer.