IPA is the undisputed king of the craft beer world. The aromatic, often intensely bitter style stands in sharp relief to the bland brews that defined American beer for decades. And the ever-increasing demand for IPA drives the growing craft brewing industry. It’s a style that’s evolved along with beer drinkers’ tastes, and the latest evolution shows off the softer, less bitter side of IPA.
An East Coast import, and alternately dubbed the “North Eastern IPA” or “New England IPA” (NEIPA in either case) this new breed of IPA is all about showing off fruity hop flavors without the bitter hop bite. As brewers have developed new techniques for squeezing more hops into a beer, they’ve also discovered that many common brewing processes strip out some hop character. While not all craft beers are filtered, most are clarified to some degree to remove particles and increase the brew’s clarity. Not NEIPAs — they range from opaque to downright sludgy as a complex soup of proteins, suspended yeast and hop compounds form the haze that defines the style. Which, alongside the vibrant fruit flavors from modern hop varieties and a higher perceived sweetness led to another nickname: the juicy IPA.
The names of some of the best loved NEIPAs are telling: Julius, Pulp, Juice Box. The trend has landed in Los Angeles and more local brewers are experimenting with this new style.
Bob Kunz, brewmaster at Highland Park Brewery, was initially skeptical of the style. But he came to appreciate the challenges inherent in brewing an IPA so different from the West Coast IPAs that have won him acclaim. Learning to brew NEIPAs has been “one of the most rewarding experiences of brewing,” he said, and the fans are drinking them up. He says a batch of hazy IPA sells twice as fast as his West Coast IPAs.