Daniel Tapper on why the hip reputation and murky, viscous nature of New England IPAs shouldn’t put you off
If you’ve been to a craft beer bar lately, you may have noticed that something rather peculiar has happened to your typical pint of pale ale. Where once it was golden, clear and bracingly bitter, these days it is cloudy and lemon curd-yellow, with a pillowy-soft texture and juicy flavours of lychee and mango.
This hazy style of beer known as New England IPA, or NEIPA, was at one time a rarity in the UK, with just the odd can imported from a handful of feted north-east American breweries, such as Trillium Brewing Company, Hill Farmstead Brewery and Tree House Brewing Co. These days, however, almost every brewery in the UK has adopted the style, with cult craft brewing heavyweights like Cloudwater Brew Co, Deya Brewing Company, Verdant Brewing Co and Brew by Numbers now producing little else.
But don’t be put off by this beer’s hipness, nor its ubiquity. Though haters will tell you that NEIPAs are overly fruity and unsophisticated, when well produced few other styles come close to capturing the magnificent flavours of New World hop varieties. Those made with Amarillo, for example, taste unmistakably of fresh pineapple, while Nelson Sauvin lends flavours of melon, gooseberries and white peach. As for the iconic hop variety citra, this does what it says on the tin and imbues these beers with zesty aromas of lemon and bergamot.
Beyond the hops
But to truly understand the uniqueness of this beer style, it helps to look beyond the hops. True New England IPAs are created with generous amounts of oats and wheat—along with more typical additions of malted barley—giving the beer its trademark opaqueness as well as its silky-smooth milkshake-like mouthfeel. Microorganisms also play a starring role, with brewers taking advantage of so-called ‘Vermont yeast strains’, which produce noticeably peachy aromas.
Finally, brewers are increasingly employing a degree of chemical wizardry in order to fine-tune this style. Historically, the water used to brew British IPAs was artificially hardened with sulphates in order to mimic the water found in Burton-upon-Trent, the theory being that this helps to heighten hoppy bitterness. Going against the grain, brewers of New England IPAs actively soften their water with calcium chloride, resulting in rounder, fuller, softer-tasting beers that are better suited to hops with unctuous tropical fruit flavours.
The very best examples of these beers are not only intensely moreish and refreshing, they’re also extremely versatile when it comes to pairing with food. Like the beer world’s answer to a mango lassi, New England IPAs are natural palate cleansers, making them a hit with hot, fat-rich dishes, ranging from spicy salsas and south Indian curries through to banh mi baguettes and nduja-laden pizzas. Their upfront juiciness, meanwhile, means they can be successfully married with fruity desserts and hard cheeses, particularly aged cheddar.
The Rendezvous, Pressure Drop
Made in collaboration with cult Danish brewery Gamma Brewing, this strong (6.8%) but ultra-sessionable NEIPA is brewed with two of this year’s most in-demand hop varieties: Idaho 7 and Bru-1. Expect ultra-soft mouthfeel and massive up-front flavours of mango, orange and sherbet dip.