The Northeast Style IPA – An attempt at formulating a new style guideline


The Northeast/New England Style IPA (NEIPA) is a more recent “pseudo-style” in the craft beer scene that revolutionizes the modern day IPA as we know it.  Combining massive hop flavor and aroma, full body and mouthfeel, and a turbid, “hazy” appearance, the NEIPA goes against the grain of the traditional 2015 BJCP guidelines.  Gaining popularity across the country, folks are flocking to breweries for can releases on a weekly basis to join in on the “haze craze.”

There is a plethora of interpretations out there regarding the style, from those that consider it a brand new iteration of the IPA/Double IPA (DIPA), to those that don’t consider it a style at all, explaining that said batches of beer were simply thrown together using poor brewing practices.  Most have a mud-like appearance with a thick mouthfeel that finishes dry, an in-your-face hop presence that would pull the enamel off your teeth, followed in part by a intense hop nose produced using methods such as dry-hopping under pressure, double, even triple and quadruple dry hop additions.

To get an idea of the gold-standards of the style, here is a list of some of the most popular establishments who produce some of the highest rated IPAs/DIPAs in the states:

The Alchemist – Stowe, VT

Hill Farmstead Brewery – Greensboro, VT

Treehouse Brewing Co – Monson, MA

Trillium Brewing Co – Boston/Canton, MA

Tired Hands Brewing Co – Ardmore, PA

Other Half Brewing Co – Brooklyn, NY

The Veil Brewing Co. – Richmond, VA

Monkish Brewing Co – Torrance, CA

Unofficial Style Guidelines:

Some aspects of the current American IPA interpretations from the compilation of the 2015 BCJP Style Guidelines still apply heavily with most of the differences arising in the appearance, flavor and mouthfeel departments:

Aroma: A prominent to intense hop aroma featuring one or more characteristics of American or New World hops such as citrus, floral, pine, resinous, and spicy with an emphasis on tropical fruit, stone fruit, berry and melon.  Most, if not all versions are intensively dry hopped, often with several separate installments (i.e. double dry hopped) which have additional fresh hop aroma which is desirable but not necessarily required.  Fresh herbaceous/grassy qualities can be quite prominent in the freshest of examples, but are usually kept to a minimum with proper conditioning. A low to medium-low clean, grainy-malty aroma may be present in the background.  Fruitiness from the yeast is usually present in most versions due to the use of cleaner english-derived yeast strains which add to the complexity of the aroma.  A restrained alcohol note may be present, but the character should be minimal.  Any American or New World hop character is acceptable; new hop varieties continue to be released and should not constrain the style.

Appearance: Color ranges from straw to medium gold to light copper in color.  If crystal/caramel malts are a grist component, low lovibond malts are used.  Most examples are very hazy although not required, stemming from huge hop-bursting/whirlpool and dry-hop additions.  Medium-sized white fluffy head with good persistance due to addition of a large percentage of malted or unmalted wheat or other cereal grains.

Flavor: Hop flavor is high to very high, with some examples being borderline overwhelming and should reflect American or New World hop character such as citrus, floral, pine, resinous, spicy with a major emphasis on tropical fruit, stone fruit, berry and melon. Low to medium-high smooth hop bitterness that should not be harsh or biting.  Malt flavor should be low to medium-low, although in many examples the hop flavors dominate.  Malt flavors when present should be clean and grainy, although some light caramel or toasty flavors are acceptable.  Low to medium yeast-derived fruitiness is acceptable and often present due to the use of modified english ale strains (i.e. Vermont ale/Conan strains).  Smooth bitterness and hop flavor may linger into the finish and a very light, clean alcohol flavor may be noted in stronger versions.  Use of fruit and adjuncts are sometimes used but are not required. Sulfury yeast-derived character is a flaw.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light to medium-high body with smooth, pillowy, velvety texture, often contributed by water high in chloride and the use of unmalted grains.  Medium-low to medium carbonation.  No harsh hop derived astringency.  Very light, smooth alcohol warming is not a fault if it does not intrude on the overall balance.

Overall Impression: An incredibly hoppy, full, and smooth bittering moderate to strong American pale ale, showcasing modern American or New World hop varieties with an emphasis on varieties concentrating on tropical and stone fruit flavors and aromas. The balance is extremely hop forward, without the accompanying bitterness.  A cleaner English, ester producing fermentation profile, dryish finish, and clean supporting malt allow typically more subtle hop characters to brightly shine through.

Comments: A modern American craft beer interpretation of the common east coast versions, brewed with multitude of ingredients and American attitude.  The basis for many variations, including the stronger Double and now Triple IPAs.  Oak is inappropriate in this style.

History: The first rendition of the style was proposed to stem from Heady Topper, the cult beer brewed by The Alchemist, where owner John Kimmich and Greg Noonan brewed these hazy style IPAs clear back to the mid-1990s at their brewpub and eatery in Vermont.  Limited supply and high demand for the beer encouraged other breweries to take hold and further develop the style.

Ingredients: Pale ale or 2-row brewers malt for the base with American or New World hops, American but often English yeast strains with a slight fruity profile.  Generally higher percentage of unmalted grains (i.e. wheat, oats, rye, spelt) and mashed at lower to medium temperatures for good attenuation and fuller mouthfeel.  Sugar additions to aid attenuation are acceptable and are often used.  Restrained use of crystal/caramel malts, if any, as high amounts can lead to sweet finish and clash with hop character.

Vital Statistics: 

OG: 1.056 – 1.085

FG: 1.008 – 1.018

IBU: 50-100 (variable)

SRM: 4-12

ABV: 6.0-10.0

Commercial Examples: The Alchemist Heady Topper, Treehouse Julius, Trillium Street Series IPAs, Tired Hands Hop Hands, The Alchemist Crusher, Moonraker Yojo, The Veil Master Shredder, Maine Beer Company Dinner

Cheers!

 

 

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