Less bitter than your standard IPA, New England-style IPAs are hazy, honey-and-amber colored easy-drinking beers. While the brewing process varies, it always involves dry-hopping during and after fermentation and less in the boil, which gives it a juicier, tropical-fruit-forward flavor and softer mouthfeel.
Main & Mill Brewing Co.
Main & Mill Brewing Co. co-owner and brewer Denny Foster thinks New England IPAs are more popular because people are moving away from the tongue-scraping bitterness of traditional IPAs – these are easier to drink. “It’s nice being able to grab more than one of these beers and know my palate isn’t going to get absolutely wrecked from bitterness,” he says. His own attempt at a New England-style IPA, Thursday Morning Incident, came from just that. Foster explains that the team wanted to brew a high-ABV beer with a pure hop flavor and little bitterness, which required more hops than ever before: six pounds per barrel. During the first dry-hopping, hops clogged the CO2 blow-off tube, causing a literal hop-bomb explosion of 9 percent ABV beer that went everywhere. Lucky for us, Foster and his team eventually got it right. “The beer is a great mix of hop flavor and aroma,” he says.
Main & Mill Brewing Co., 240 Main St., Festus, Missouri, 636.543.3031, mainandmill.com
Border Brewing Co.
For Eric Martens, owner-brewer at Border Brewing Co. in Kansas City’s Crossroads Arts District, the increasing popularity of New England-style IPAs is a result of the overall trend in IPAs over the last five to 10 years. “We’re moving toward more balanced, less-bitter IPAs that focus on hop quality and character,” he says. “And I believe that's a good thing.” Martens likes pulling back on bitterness to highlight the hops’ flavor and aroma, plus the opportunity to use new techniques, processes and ingredients. “New England IPA is a style that's on the cutting edge, but what really excites me about it is that it seems to represent American craft beer at the moment – always pushing boundaries and trying new processes to make the best product possible,” he says. This was his approach when he first brewed Session, a special-release New England IPA at Border Brewing Co. He researched many other breweries in order to create a unique version of the style. It’s what he calls “lush, juicy with hop character but still light and sessionable,” – drinkable with an alcohol content lower than 5 percent. In fact, the popularity of Session spawned the brewery’s Experimental IPA series, which includes additional New England IPAs, among other styles.
Border Brewing Co., 406 18th St., Crossroads Arts District, Kansas City, Missouri, 816.315.6807, borderbrewco.com
Narrow Gauge Brewing Co.
At Narrow Gauge Brewing Co. in Florissant, Missouri, head brewer and co-owner Jeff Hardesty has his own take on why New England-style IPAs are so in demand: They’re unique, and because some customers are initially put off by the haziness, there’s a certain degree of mystery surrounding them. Plus, it’s a good match for those who don’t like the traditional bitterness of IPAs. When Hardesty first attempted his own version of a New England IPA, he had a gold-standard in mind: The Alchemist’s Focal Banger. It took him a long time to get the color, mouthfeel, aroma and flavor just right. Today, Narrow Gauge produces several New England-style IPAs, including Fallen Flag, made with Citra and Mosaic hops. It’s Hardesty's personal favorite beer, and one of the brand’s core products; Fallen Flag variants make up 20 percent of its brews.
Narrow Gauge Brewing Co., 1595 N. U.S. Highway 67, Florissant, Missouri, 314.831.3222, narrowgaugestl.com