Not just for patriots
India Pale Ales (IPA) have been the sexy beer style for a few years now. Consumers have been warming to its sharp, hoppy bitterness and light body. Still, it remained a style for the more committed craft beer aficionado, the bitterness turning off many amateur beer fans.
But a new IPA craze is sweeping the land, one that has the potential to turn those IPA frowns upside down. It is called New England IPA, and it’s like no IPA before.
New England IPA, sometimes called Vermont IPA, was born in Vermont about a decade ago. A couple of breweries tried to turn the idea of an IPA on its head. The most famous (and sought-after) is Heady Topper from Alchemist Brewing. In the last couple years, the style has expanded rapidly across the continent, breaching Alberta’s borders in the last few months.
New England IPA is all about creating an intense fruity, citrusy beer without the sticky bitterness that turns some people off. It is designed to be light-bodied, aromatic and intensely fruity pushing the bitter hit to the background, although there are clearly International Bitterness Units in there to instead accent hop flavours and aromas of citrus, fruit and fresh grass. It is also as hazy as your best hefeweizens.
If I were to try to describe the experience in a short phrase I would say this: Five Alive. I am regularly reminded of that fruity citrus juice when sampling a New England IPA. When I offer the beer to non-hopheads, they usually are quite big fans of it—especially if I don’t reveal it’s a so-called IPA. They like the fresh citrus notes, the light refreshing body and the subdued bitterness.
As I say, a year ago, no New England IPAs were available in Alberta. Versions made elsewhere usually have local distribution (including Heady Topper), and no Alberta brewery had ventured into that unexplored territory. However, when it changed, it changed fast.
Officially, the first New England IPA (actually a double IPA) brewed in Alberta was a three-way collaboration beer by Bench Creek, Blindman and Troubled Monk to celebrate their mutual first anniversary. The beer, called Troubled Waters (get it?), was an instant hit that sold out in days.
Since then, we have seen four different takes from Alberta breweries. The most readily available is from Bench Creek, who tweaked the Troubled Waters recipe to create Apex Predator, which, if anything, is even fruitier than the original. Grande Prairie’s Grain Bin Brewing has put out a version and recently Blindman put out a New England-style Pale Ale, which is a slightly toned down version. Upstart Calgary brewery Outcast Brewing has produced a couple New England-inspired IPAs as well.
Clearly New England IPA is a thing. And while I can’t say whether this is something that will last or is just a craze for the next couple years, I can say you should make sure to try some while you can. Just because.