As four-packs of Sam Adams’ New England IPA begin landing on shelves nationwide, it’s clear that this newish beer style has come into its own.
If you’ve been in a craft beer bar in recent years you have certainly at least seen one of these unique brews, which look and smell something like a hoppy American ale spiked with orange juice. Also listed as Vermont, East Coast, or Northeast IPAs, the typical NEIPA has a hazy appearance, ranging from bright yellow to deep bronze in color and across the board in alcohol content. This unfiltered style also contains a huge amount of yeast, grain and hop sediment, producing a thick and relatively perishable nectar that requires refrigeration. This helps to preserve the volatile and delicate citrus, berry, mango, bubblegum, and even herbal flavors imparted by new hop strains like Citra, Mosaic and Galaxy.
The soaring popularity of the NEIPA has been met with some controversy, mostly undeserved. It has been called the “anti-IPA” by Andy Sparhawk of the Brewer’s Association – a “Deadpool” of the beer world which cheekily thumbs its nose at convention. In the sense that it departs from the conventional American IPA, which seemingly grows bigger and more bitter by the year, the NEIPA stands guilty as charged. But plenty of beer fans, myself included, enjoy both bitter and juicy hop flavors and see no need to flag the NEIPA as an outlier in the category.
The industry has undergone amazing technical innovations in recent years, allowing the use of ever more hops in even lower-alcohol beers, introducing drinkers to new delicate flavors and aromas that were previously impossible. Even if the Brewer’s Association insists upon clarity and filtration and never elevates it to the level of an official style, millions of fans have already voted for the NEIPA with their wallets.
Here in the Northeast, the portfolio of NEIPA-style beers is deep and growing. For the initiated, world-class examples can be found from brewers in New York (Other Half, Barrier, Grimm, Prison City), Massachusetts (Trillium, Tree House), and the early adopters in Vermont (Hill Farmstead, The Alchemist). Even our local F.X. Matt Brewing Co. released two excellent versions in its Pilot Series – Late Wizard and its boozier brother, Permafrost – both scheduled for re-release in 2018. For those seeking to try an accessible NEIPA for the first time, Sam Adams has been earning respectable reviews at almost half the price of more coveted brews.
This week’s recommendation: Samuel Adams New England IPA, Boston Beer Company, the first mass-market NEIPA. 6.8 percent ABV. Boston, Massachusetts.
— Jon Hill is a writer, historian, and craft beer enthusiast from the village of Poland, New York.