The craft beer scene can be trendy. It’s an industry driven by innovation and boundary-smashing. The newest beer craze—the New England IPA—uses plenty of both hype and hops to offer beer lovers a fun new bandwagon to ride.
New England IPAs (NEIPAs) are often described using two words—juicy and hazy. Neither of these are really “beer” words, but they certainly fit this emerging style. The way these beers pull off the “juicy” label is from the fruity flavors—mostly orange and grapefruit, but also some hints of tropical fruits like pineapple and mango—imparted by the hops. And they are unusually hazy because most of the hops are added late in the brewing process, meaning some of that hop residue remains in the finished beer.
Perhaps the biggest difference in this new style is its level of bitterness. While traditional IPAs are very bitter (usually scoring 40–70 International Bitterness Units, or IBUs), NEIPAs stay around 35–40 IBUs. With less bitterness, more hop flavor can shine through. For someone like me who loves hop flavor and aroma but whose taste buds get overwhelmed quickly by intense bitterness, the NEIPA is a tasty new treat.
As with most beer trends, small breweries have led the NEIPA craze. Two small brewery offerings available in Bloomington are BrewDog’s Hazy Jane and Heretic Brewing’s Make America Juicy Again, both available at Big Red Liquors. Of these two, I prefer Heretic’s offering. It has a slightly heavier citrus flavor, but its body is a bit thinner than some NEIPA fans might like.
Two local breweries have created tasty NEIPAs as well. Quaff ON! Brewing Co.’s Hu Dang Hazy IPA has good fruity hop flavor and a rich mouthfeel, but it also packs more bitterness—65 IBUs—than expected in an NEIPA. Upland Brewing Co. has created Juiced In Time, a fantastic NEIPA that combines a smooth body, complex fruitiness, and low bitterness. Alas, both of these beers are specialty offerings, so they aren’t regularly available. Keep an eye out and try a glass straight from the tap, which accentuates the NEIPA’s unique characteristics.
For easy availability, you might look to large-scale breweries. I heartily recommend Boston Beer Company’s Samuel Adams New England IPA. Its rich body highlights citrusy hop flavors and a mild bitterness that lingers a bit more than some other NEIPAs I’ve tried. In a recent NEIPA tasting with my family, this was by far the favorite. Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. also offers a strong contender with its Hazy Little Thing IPA, a beer that offers a more complex fruit profile than other big-brewery offerings. Both are available at many groceries and liquor stores around town.
Whether you stay local or try one of the big brewery offerings, I recommend giving New England IPAs a try, especially if you think you don’t like IPAs because they are too bitter. NEIPAs let you get caught up in the “haze craze” and have some hop-fueled fun.