You have to be living under a rock to not be aware of the insane demand for the New England IPA. I have no doubt that somewhere, right now there is a line forming for the latest and greatest NE IPA to be released. You might even be waiting in line as you read this. If that is the case, get me some!
But why has this style blown up? Is it really that different from a standard IPA or Double IPA?
While they are still an IPA, they are very different and I will go on record saying the hazy IPA hype is real.
What is a New England IPA?
Aroma and Flavor
This style of craft beer is typically referred to as juicy, citrusy, and tropical. It has strong aromas of orange, grapefruit, mango, pineapple, or other fruits. The intense citrus flavors are created through the use of specific hops. Some of these include Citra and Galaxy which are two of the most popular right now.
Many breweries are also using dry-hopping methods to impart even more of these flavors. Dry-hopping is the method of adding additional hops towards the end of the brewing process. This adds hop aromas without the bitterness – more on that next. These brews typically will not have a floral or piney aroma and flavor like some other IPAs.
These juicy IPAs have a lower bitterness (IBU) level than more traditional IPAs. For many, this is very appealing as the harsh bitterness may have been what prevented them from enjoying IPAs in the past.
In fact, it is quite contradictory to what most expect out of an IPA which has many arguing that these NE IPAs should be in a category of their own.
The look of the beer is quite different as well. These beers are praised for having a hazy, cloudy, or murky look to them. They are opaque and lack any clarity. Many think of an unfiltered wheat beer when they see it for the first time.
Social media has craft beer fans going crazy over pictures of beers that look more like orange juice than beer. While the appearance does not guarantee a good taste, it is something that everyone is looking for in their NE IPA.
Why is everyone so crazy about hazy IPAs?
Craft beer is a crazy industry and hobby. The fact that people wait in line to buy beer is something I would have never fathomed years ago but it is a reality today. So why are people lining up for this style beer? What is driving such demand?
I am not an expert on hops but what I understand is new hop varieties are continually being created. These new hops often bring new or more intense flavors to the beers they are used to brew. Availability is an issue with any new hop variety. Hop growers are unable to produce high volume of the new hops as it takes years to increase the harvest. During this time, the new hops are expensive and hard to get which drives demand for beers that use them.
Quantities and Shelf Life
Breweries are not able to secure a limitless supply of the hops that they want to use in these NE IPAs. Less hops means smaller quantities of beer. Basic supply and demand principles start working; driving demand and costs. Most breweries are easily able to sell out of their latest canned NE IPA the same day it goes on sale.
In addition, IPAs are not typically brewed to last a long time. Many recommend drinking IPAs as quickly as possible or at least within a month from being canned. This is not a lot of time. This helps drive the demand as consumers want to enjoy these NE IPAs as fresh as possible.
Continual New Releases
Since hops can be limited, brewers must be able to use what is available to them. This creates many different variations for each brewery. They may release a simcoe and galaxy hopped beer this week and a simcoe and citra hopped beer next week. While the beers will be similar, they are very different too. They will be packaged, named and marketed separately. This creates a continual stream of new releases for the brewery. And craft beer fans want to try every new beer so they will go back and line up once again. Many of these beers are only made once or released just a few times a year. Once again, this drives demand.
It doesn’t take long for the word to spread that a brewery is making excellent beer. And when that happens, trade value starts increasing. Beer trading is very popular and if you can get your hands on a great local beer, you are able to trade for just about anything you want.
When these hard to get beers are shipped around the country, the demand starts to grow fast. In Ohio, Hoof Hearted and Jackie O’s are two highly desired breweries that trade very well. In other areas, it may be Trillium, Treehouse, Monkish, or Russian River. Every state has their local breweries that are driving demand nationwide.
But maybe the most important reason is they are really good.
The citrus flavor, low bitterness and drinkability makes this style popular.
Where does this style go from here?
Most credit Alchemist Heady Topper with starting the NE IPA trend. Others argue that this isn’t really a unique style but just a variation of the American IPA and cite that brewers have been making them for decades.
I have had Heady Topper and a handful of other beers that fall into this category. What I have noticed is they continue to increase in citrus and tropical fruit flavors. And I think that will continue for the foreseeable future.
These juicy, hazy NE IPAs are dominating the craft beer world right now. I have a feeling that we may be nearing the peak of it’s popularity but that doesn’t mean the demand will drop. Instead, I think the demand will level off. The best of the best will always be traded and sell out fast but more and more breweries are getting into this style.
In Cincinnati, a few brewers have begun to learn this style and one just recently released two canned NE IPAs. This marked the first canned release of this style in our city. I have a feeling other cities are also catching up to this trend and will begin supplying their locals with citrus forward, cloudy IPAs. So the demand will remain high but there will be more local supply.
The IPA is a continually changing style that is driven by innovation and new hop varieties. This will not change so I fully expect to see brewers push the NE IPA style even further.
Do you like NE IPAs? Which is your favorite?
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