IPA continues to be the style of beer consumed in massive quantities by craft obsessives and that consumption doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon. The beer’s rapid rise has naturally resulted in differing riffs on the style, with West Coast IPA being the most widely known, but another regional version has recently been making its own case for recognition, the New England IPA.
New England IPAs are beers that are purposely hazy or cloudy, which can give these brews a smooth, creamy mouthfeel – a departure from the light/dry mouthfeel you often get with West Coast IPAs – with little to no hop bitterness at the end utilizing hops that impart a tropical, juicy sweetness rather than the classic bitter, dank or citrus-y flavors West Coast IPA lovers have come to expect.
This new style all started with Heady Topper, the cult beer made by The Alchemist that has resulted in hop heads lining up days in advance for a chance to consume this golden liquid goodness. And the result of the beer’s popularity has been other brewers across the region copying and riffing on the style.
The first brewers to embrace this new version of IPA were fellow Vermonters, a fact that has caused many to lobby for the style to actually be named Vermont IPA instead of New England IPA, though as John Kimmich, brewmaster at Vermont’s The Alchemist told Eater in an interview last year, “There are people in the Vermont scene that really push the idea of Vermont-style IPA, but I am not one of them. Personally, I find it a little arrogant to try and claim that we do something so different that it deserves its own category.”
And yet this style of beer is spreading across the country, with many clamoring for The Brewer’s Association to officially add New England IPA as a new style. But The Brewer’s Association has been resistant so far, and much of that may have to do with their overall resistance to hazy beers in general. With so many new breweries opening across the country, there is a lot of bad beer out there and much of that has to do with bad brewing. Last year the association published a treatise titled “Beer Haze: Clarity in a Topsy-Turbid World” that broke down the various reasons for and dangers of hazy beer.
But New England Brewers are insistent that they enjoy the haze, and to use it as a signifier that the beer is faulty is inaccurate. Other IPA hubs such as California, Oregon and Colorado seem to agree, and they’re giving the style a try. While the beer’s hazy appearance may be a departure from the crystal-clear brews these prominent IPA regions are used to,, the fact that they’re experimenting with the style at all proves New England IPA has become a style of beer that’s worth paying attention to.