Google+ Followers

Thursday, August 10, 2017

New England Style IPAs


All great super heroes have an origin story: Superman came from Krypton, Bruce Wayne's parents are brutally murdered in front of him, Spider-Man is bitten by a radioactive spider (well, technically, Peter Parker is, but you get the idea). In much the same way, the India Pale Ale (IPA) style of beer (the superman of beers in my humble opinion) also has an origin story which, by now, any self-respecting beer geek is familiar with: basically the style was developed in England (not India) as a beer that would survive the long boat trip to India from Britain without getting skunked, so that the British officers stationed there could enjoy good beer. The regular soldiers could have the skunky beer - after all, rank has its privileges, and the privileged don't have to have the rank (beer, that is). The beer was a bit higher in alcohol and considerably hoppier, both of which helped to preserve the beer. 

Fast-forward to modern times and the Great Craft Beer Revolution which began in the US. As brewers experimented with various beer styles, IPAs came back into vogue to become one of the more popular styles of craft beer. Craft brewers are nothing if not experimenters and they have continued to tweak and play with IPAs. As a result, we have not only the venerable West Coast IPA, but such variations as Black IPAs, Red IPAs, White IPAs, Belgian IPAs, Pineapple IPAs, Blood Orange IPAs, Double IPAs, Imperial IPAs as well as IPLs (India Pale Lagers). A growing style of IPA is the one we look at this month: New England IPAs (or Northeast IPA). 

So what is the difference between a West Coast IPA (sort of the American classic IPA, if you will) and a New England IPA? Both are hop-forward beers, after all. The truth is there is not really a clear distinction, but in general the New England IPA is usually unfiltered, utilizes hops that are more floral and citrusy and has a mild malt profile while the West Coast version has a bit more malt and relies on hops with piney and resinous notes. Often New England IPAs are a somewhat less bitter than their West Coast cousin. in fact many iterations have very low IBUs.

Having said that, the distinctions are becoming more and more blurred. Sometimes it's merely a geographical thing. The classic New England style was popularized by Heady Topper, a legendary Vermont beer so prized that stores often have to limit the number of 4-packs a customer can purchase. We have reviewed Heady Topper  in the past (you can read it here)so we did not review it this month. But we did find a number of great beers claiming to be New England Style. Our humble opinions follow. 


THE BEER FACTS: STYLE: New England Style IPA; BREWER: Eastwood Brewing Company, Syracuse, NY; ABV: 5.0%

COLOR: Very unfiltered apricot, almost orange

POUR: Somewhat decent head, not overpowering

AROMA: Big citrus aroma

BODY: Medium bodied

TASTE: Kind of sweet citrus up front with hoppy bitterness to follow. Big tropical fruit taste with hints of mango and papaya.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: Near "Can't Get Enough!"

COMMENTS: "Tropical fruit - tastes like a dollop of honey in there; Sweet on the front; Real nice summer lawn mower beer; Like the best pale ale you've ever had; Nice hops presence; Doesn't give up the bitterness, although sweet up front; Tastes better than it looks; I'm guessing this is a high fiber beer, high pulp; Really has a wonderful taste, real summery vibe to it; With that orange color, this should be the official beer of the Syracuse Orange."


THE BEER FACTS: STYLE: Northeast Style IPA; BREWER: Night Shift Brewing, Everett, MA; ABV: 6.0%; HOPS: Aztecca only

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "One Hop This Time is a series of IPAs using a single hop each time."

COLOR: Wheat, lemongrass

POUR: Decent, long-lasting head

AROMA: Not a strong aroma but some pine and tropical fruit

BODY: Medium

TASTE: Smooth, piney, dank


COMMENTS: "Light tasting; Would go well with pizza; Would go well with another one; Good summer beer; Boat beer; Kind of reminds me of a shandy"


THE BEER FACTS: STYLE: New England Style IPA; BREWER: Naked Dove Brewing, Canandagua, NY; ABV: 6.2%; MALT: Oats; HOPS: Pekko and Azacca.

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "This is our first attempt at a New England Style IPA. Brewed with oats and Pekko and Azacca hops."

COLOR: Clover honey -  not really unfiltered though

POUR: Near Guinness class head with lots of lacing

AROMA: Bread, grassy, piney, bit of grapefruit

BODY: Medium

TASTE: Grapefruit, grassy, herbal, with a backend bitterness


COMMENTS: "Really nice taste; Long lasting taste - really lingers; Perfectly carbonated; Delicious; Finishes clean and dry; Kind of a West Coast taste without the bitterness; Bright; It's not as cloudy or unfiltered as the classic New England IPAs; I'm a fan, it's got a really different taste here kind of hard to put my finger on, but I like it."


THE BEER FACTS: STYLE: New England IPA; BREWER: Madison Brewing Company, Bennington, VT; ABV: 6.5%; IBUs: 70.0; MALT: Pale, Flaked Wheat, Flaked Barley, Oats; HOPS: Mosaic, Citra, dry hopped with Mosaic and Citra Lupulin Pellets."

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "DownTown IPA is a true Vermont IPA with a juicy hop saturation and little to no bitterness."

COLOR: Clover honey, butterscotch, hazy

POUR:  Decent Head

AROMA: Hoppy citrus aroma

BODY: Bit more than Medium

TASTE: Citrus, Grapefruit, juicy with just a little bitterness


COMMENTS: "Juicy IPA; Absolutely delicious; Perfect date beer; Could drink and drink; If we could get this locally I would have this in my fridge all the time; Nice juicy IPA."


THE BEER FACTS: STYLE: New England Style IPA; BREWER: Middle Ages Brewing Company, Syracuse, NY; ABV; 7.0%; MALT: Oats and Malted Wheat.

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "This version of our New England IPA features a grain bill of over 20% oats and 15% malted wheat. The hops are primarily a blend of new age fruity hops with a relatively small amount of dank and piney hops (over 3 LBS per bbl of dry hops alone). Fermented with a proprietary mixed culture of brewers yeast sourced from a brewery famous for their hazy IPA's. Nothing has been done to stabilize or clarify this beer in any way, it is very volitile. Please drink as soon as possible."

COLOR: Grapefruit juice, very hazy

POUR: Decent head

AROMA: Piney

BODY: Medium

TASTE: Citrus, lemon bit of alcohol taste


COMMENTS: "Complex; Damn - that Middle Ages makes some good beers; Very drinkable - not over-the-top, but soooo good; Definitely has that juicy taste you expect from a New England with a bit of the alcohol taste underneath; Nice beer; Middle Ages is able to stay true to their brand while expanding into varying styles, their British roots pair well with this American IPA."


THE BEER FACTS: STYLE: New England IPA; BREWER: Middle Ages Brewing, Syracuse, NY; ABV: 7%; HOPS: Azacca, El Dorado, Mosaic, Colombus.

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "This iteration of New England IPA is dry hopped with Azacca, El Dorado, Mosaic and a touch of Colombus. Fermented with an English Ale yeast that has become one of the most popular for this style."

COLOR: Grapefruit juice

POUR: Decent Head

AROMA: Minty/sweet/piney

BODY: Medium

TASTE: Pine, tropical fruit, hint of clove


COMMENTS: "Even better than Single Batch 10 - a little better mouthfeel or something; New England IPAs are more complex than others, more difficult to brew; Tropics on the tongue; Nice full-flavored beer; Wonder if this will make it into bottles in some form or another the way Late Knight did eventually."


THE BEER FACTS: STYLE: New England Style IPA; BREWER: Full Boar Brewing, North Syracuse, NY, ABV: 7.2%

COLOR: Golden and filtered

POUR: Decent Head

AROMA: A little bready, yeast

BODY: Medium

TASTE: Sweet up front, toffee/caramel, not as fruity as the others

OVERALL IMPRESSION: Very near "Can't Get Enough!"

COMMENTS: "Certainly not the juice bomb you expect from a New England; Dangerously tasty though;  Frickin' good; No bitterness throughout; Nice bit of hoppiness at the end; Kind of a Pilsner taste; Lingering after-taste; Very pleasant."


THE BEER FACTS: STYLE: New England Style IPA; BREWER: Lord Hobo Brewing Company;
ABV: 8%

WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Beer for the discerning drinker that appreciates quality and recognizes value."

COLOR: Cloudy orange-ish

POUR: Decent Head

AROMA: Pine, citrus

BODY: Medium

TASTE: Follows the nose: pine, citrus, grapefruit, hint of lemon and a subtle maltiness


COMMENTS: "I really like this beer; Big hop taste, nice pine and citrus flavors in there; Pretty easy-drinking for an 8%er; Little bit of malt gives it a bit more complexity than some of the others; Yeah, it's fairly balanced; Terrific beer, I've been keeping it as one of my regulars."


When we travel, my wife and I make a point of researching breweries and brew pubs near to our destination. At the very least we'll narrow down restaurants we wish to frequent based on their selection of craft beers. This despite the fact that my wife has no interest in craft beer. What a trooper! On a recent trip to Michigan, in the beautiful village of Brighton, I stumbled upon a place called Brewery Becker.

I wandered in one afternoon to check out their brews. As you can see by the beer menu at the right, this might not appear to be a hop-head's dream brewery. With styles such as Kolsch, Dusseldorier Altbier, Pilsner, Dunkelweizen, and Hefeweizen, it was easy to see that the brewery specialized in German-style lagers - not that there's anything wrong with that. Those just aren't the kinds of beers I'm most drawn to. Trust me, I am aware that there is a world of difference between an American mega-brew lager and a true German lager, it's just that my tastes run to hoppy ales. However there were a few names on that menu that intrigued me. Top of the list was a beer called Vargdricka. The brewery description of the beer says it is "A Scandinavian Farmhouse Ale. Based on the daily drink of the Vikings. A gruit ale, it is bittered with Juniper and Bog Myrtle. A Brewery Becker favorite." If you are wondering what a "gruit" ale is, it is basically any ale that does not use hops, but relies on other herbs for flavor and bittering.

Curious, I stopped in at Brewery Becker and ordered a Vargdricka. Right off I was impressed with the place by the generous pour.The beer was a kind of cloudy copper color. It is lightly carbonated with a pleasant aroma, though not one I could quickly identify so I assume it is the Juniper. The taste is initially sweet but rounds off into an interesting spiciness. It is absolutely a unique tasting beer, without being so far out there that it doesn't taste like beer. It really is quite a pleasant and very drinkable beer.
I asked if they had any IPAs and learned that normally they have one on tap but they were out. The interesting thing I learned about Brewery Becker is that they are dedicated to brewing beers based on traditional recipes - like the Vargdricka. Because the Vikings did not have hops they substituted various herbs to flavor their beers. I was then given a few (generous) samples of some of their other unique brews. Entire Butt, for example, is a beer from the Colonial era that is the precursor of Porters and Stouts. It was not uncommon in England for drinkers to combine beers. A typical combination might consist of  ale, which at the time was somewhat sweet, heavy and brewed with little or no hops, beer, which was much hoppier and therefore much more bitter, and Twopenny, a stronger ale. Thus the somewhat intriguing name Entire Butt, meaning the whole barrel. Brewed before the development of black malt, the beer is a dark brown and contains the nice coffee/malty characteristics you expect from a Porter or Stout. It is brewed strictly according to recipes of the time, using only ingredients available then. And it is delicious.
So, if you happen to be in the Brighton neighborhood, stop in at Brewery Becker. If you're a beer nerd like me, you'll find a fun and tasty experience.

Next month: Seasonal Ales

The BOTB Guys

No comments:

Post a Comment