New England IPA An Official Style
Back on March 30th, I published an article about the New England IPA where I questioned whether it should be its own style. I took the stance that it was its own style; read all about it here. Just a few weeks later, Beer Advocate went on record to say that they consider the New England IPA an official style as well.
The New England IPA (NE IPA or NEIPA) is the trendiest beer style right now. Any brewery that offers it can almost guarantee to sell out of it instantly; especially if it’s packaged in a 16oz silver can with a label slapped on the front of it.
But this style is polarizing. Some brewers dislike the concept of making a beer intentionally hazy. Others dislike how it lacks the traditional bitterness that the IPA is known. However, for everyone one person you find that doesn’t like the NEIPA, there are thousands lining up to buy the latest, greatest, hazy IPA.
Related Post: New England IPA: Just Another IPA Or A Style Of Its Own?
Commentary From A Brewer
An interesting take on the topic was provided by Augie Carton of Carton Brewing. He and a few other beer industry experts conduct a podcast called “Steal This Beer”. I highly recommend checking out this podcast as it is one of the best around. They talk about anything craft beer related and often have commented on the NEIPA. On episode 108, Augie speaks his mind on this style of beer and his reaction to Beer Advocate naming the New England IPA an official style.
Instead of debating whether it is a style, he criticizes the name itself. He says that the American craft beer community had an opportunity to help make this type of beer stand out from the crowd but instead we just shoved it under the IPA category. There are so many IPAs and subcategories of IPAs that most craft beer drinkers don’t even know what it means anymore.
IPAs can range from low ABV to high. They can be clear or opague. Bitterness can be extremely high to almost non-existant. There is a huge range of color as well. So there is no defining characteristic of this type of beer anymore; outside of the focus on hops. But all beer has hops. So calling the NEIPA an IPA just makes it that much more confusing.
I like his angle and can appreciate it. I know many people that say they love or hate IPAs. But that doesn’t mean much anymore. There is such a wide range of IPAs available that it’s almost impossible to say you categorically love or hate them. So calling so many different beers the same style is not good for consumers; especially those that are new to craft beer. But that gives us the opportunity to help educate those new to the craft beer community.
Related Post: The Haze Craze: Why The New England IPA Is So Popular
Will Others Join Beer Advocate
Beer Advocate is a reputable voice in craft beer so when they call the New England IPA an official style, I listen. Their reviews, forums, articles and other resources are among the best around. But just because they are saying it is a style doesn’t mean that other industry organizations will do the same.
The BJCP and Brewers Association both hold their own style guidelines and to my knowledge, the NEIPA is not on either of their lists. Instead the NEIPA is included in the American IPA style category. While this is not ideal, I do not see these organizations being quick to alter their style guidelines. It will take years of sustained popularity and some refining of the style to see it added to their lists.
So what’s next for this style? I think there will be a continual evolution of this style. More and more breweries are diving into making this style. Some are great while others miss the mark. So I see the need for more consistency and quality in this style before it has widespread availability. When that does happen, you won’t have to wait in line to get these NEIPAs. I look forward to the day when I can get these any day of the week at my local bottle shop but I also think by the time that happens there will be another new trend for me to chase.