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New England IPA finds its niche

Updated: May 8

Image of three New England IPAs in BlackStack glasses

The New England IPA, a take on the traditional IPA, is influencing the beer world. The beer world — like most other popular markets — is prone to fads. New styles come along that break some long-held norm. They garner attention and gather a small but ardent following who go to great lengths to seek them out. Word spreads until every beer fan clamors for them, every brewer makes them and every writer sings their praises. Sometimes they gain traction and stick around. Other times they slowly fade away.

What Gives the New England IPA its Distinct Haze?

The latest craze is the New England IPA — a murky, juicy-fruit version of the old hophead favorite. The style’s origin can be traced back to a single beer — Heady Topper, first brewed by Vermont’s the Alchemist in 2003. The most obvious thing that differentiates a New England IPA from any other version of the style is its appearance. While most IPAs are filtered to bright clarity, New England IPAs are anywhere from hazy to extremely cloudy. The murkiest examples can look like orange juice in a glass. The haze primarily comes from a combination of suspended yeast and the residue of massive loads of hops added very late in the brewing process — typically after fermentation is complete.

The heavy use of late-addition hops is also the source of the main flavor and aroma profile of the style — the near total dominance of the juicy, fruity character of certain hop varieties. When hops are added later in the brewing process they bring less bitterness and more character.

One of the better local examples of the style is Local 755 from BlackStack Brewing in St. Paul. The emphasis is on drippingly juicy tangerine and orange citrus. Tropical fruit and minty herbal notes provide some background. Bitterness is sturdy, but not at all harsh.

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