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:

Mohave County Beer Festival – Year Five

We arrived at Mohave Count Fairgrounds punctually.  The sun shades were placed on the dash and windows rolled down fractionally as our group debouched from the car.  The sun was far from shy on this hot Saturday afternoon.  With temperature was in the mid to low 90s we were anticipating a few hours of good beer.  It didn’t take long to present our admission tickets and get our sampling tickets and then we were inside the Fairgrounds for the fifth Mohave County Beer Festival.

There were six of us.  A variety of perspectives. A variety of tastes. Alas for you, readers, you only get mine.

My imbibing began at the Black Bridge booth. Because local.

Poppin’ Cherries. Black Bridge Brewery
This is Stout Chocula with cherry extract added.  It’s dark and, surprisingly, seemed undercarbonated.   A function of temp?  Ah, well, it did not adversely impact the beer.  The cherry flavor is not domineering making this a sessionable stout, I feel, that doesn’t completely fill you up.   I would be back to the B3 tent throughout the afternoon.

Cucumber Sour. 10 Barrel Brewing
10 Barrel had two beers available, both sours.  I am not sure what drew me to the cucumber rather than the raspberry.  The beer is like a vegan tart.  The cucumber flavor hits right away,  and then the sour chases it off like a jaded spouse.  It’s not picklish, as one might suspect (it’s a thought I harbored, briefly).  It’s a salad with an attitude. Very refreshing for the summer, actually.

Redlands Red. Hangar 24
It’s red. Dry and IPA like. Bready finish.

Mariner Double IPA. College Street
This was offered at the Rickety Cricket brewery’s booth.  It is another Kingman brewery due to open in the downtown area.  Alas, they had none of their own beers to sample.  The owner mentioned that they are heavily involved in construction.  Still, I would have liked to have tried their creations.  Beer first, I told him, everything else will follow.  But I understand they are busy.  Next year they should be there.

So, on to the Mariner … it is very, very, dry with a strong malt presence and no hops aroma evident.  Interesting for an IPA.  I was told there was apricot, but I believe a server was confused.  No apricot.  Tough beer.

Trip in the Woods. Sierra Nevada
Holy fantastic, Beerman.  So, this was not the usual Sierra Nevada conglomeration of hops.  The light brown body had caramel and vanilla from oak barrel aging.  Really good!  It’s nominated for Favorite Beer of Fest.

Breakside IPA. Breakside Brewery

Well done.  No fruit.  Straight, dankish IPA.

Peanut Butter Milk Stout. Belching Beaver
Not as weird as you might think upon first hearing the name. Peanut butter is evident but not dominant. Medium body. Worth a second round.  Nominee for Favorite Beer of Fest.

Sunbru.  Four Peaks
Kolsch.  Still good, but … AmBev.  Or AB Inbev.  Whatever that giant conglomerate is called.

Hollywood Blondie. Golden Road
Whoa.  Okay, I love Belgians (fine, their beer; I don’t personally know any Belgians).  But this version, this was hard.  Hard to drink.  It was like expired vinegar.  Old, wooden, musty, wrong.  I honestly could not drink the whole thing.

Selene Saison. Victory Brewing
Victory Brewing has been around the craft world for a while; I’ve heard the name and always associated it with good things.  They are now part of Artisanal Brewing Ventures.  So that’s private equity.  Kinda like what Dogfish Head is doing.  I do not know a great deal about the business structure but Selene Saison was utterly beautiful.  A dark, roasty saison with a little funk and a little smoke. That heavily roasted characters wraps around the rye it seems and gives it a bacon characteristic.  I don’t even like rye.  But I do for this beer.  Another nomination for Favorite Beer of Fest.

Tart Ten was another offering from Victory and it was good and all, but no Selene.

What else can be said about this year’s beer festival?  It had better music.  The Swillers were the featured band.  They have good energy and play the crowd really well. Good range of music. Their interpretations are fast and eclectic and approachable. Gotta love it.  The food was meh.  There is a lot of opportunity to improve in the food vendor arena.

It didn’t seem as populated this year, either, and last year I noted that the crowd was down from the previous year. I have no statistics to bear this out, just my impressions. I now want said stats since that seems to be a bad trend. It wasa fairly quiet crowd that did not ebb and flow in noise and population as last year.

Also, aside from the Black Bridge group it didn’t seem that there were any other brewers on site.  It was all just volunteers from the area serving bottled or canned offerings.  No kegs, no cool side-of-the-booth chinwags with other brewers.  Seems like a bad trend.

Well, anyway … here’s what everyone’s been waiting for … Bottled Roger’s Favorite Beer of Fest …

Let’s recap the nominees:

  • Trip In the Woods
  • Peanut Butter Milk Stout
  • Selene Saison

The clear and unequivocal winner was … Selene Saison.