Welcome to October Craft Chronicles which just happens to be in the Big Beer Edition! But, instead of chatting about a local brewery I’ll be tackling a controversial and popular topic among beer aficionados – Is the NEIPA haze craze a true beer style or will it be just another fad?
In the homebrewing business, conversing with craft beer drinkers, commercial brewers and novices, I am in a great position to see both sides of this conundrum. It’s no secret to my friends that my opinion lies well within the ‘just a fad’ sentiment. But I’m open to exploring the NEIPA as a style and who knows, maybe my own opinion can be changed by the end of this article.
So what is a NEIPA? NEIPA stands for New England India Pale Ale because the style was born, in a sense, on the East coast by renown breweries such as The Alchemist, Treehouse and Trillium. Its flavor profile is described by one buzz word that encompasses most of the beers brewed with this style in mind, “Juicy.” Other popular style components are hazy, thick, grainy, honey-like and fruity. The NEIPA was born to be all about the hops, although the style has been morphing quickly and sometimes it can be difficult to nail down specifics.
So, now let’s look at the pros and cons of the style. Pro, the NEIPA style lends itself very well to entry level craft beer drinkers. It is generally not very bitter in the realm of IPAs and has a relatively high finishing gravity giving the impression of sweetness. Remember the good ole’ days of Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill? That was a gateway wine for more people than could ever be counted. NEIPAs are also notoriously packed with hops, which, duh, smell and taste great. This style usually sticks with the big citrus bomb hops of Citra, Mosaic, Galaxy and the like which are wildly popular these days with nearly all levels of craft beer drinkers. These are well liked all around flavors so how could a NEIPA not maintain its popularity for the long haul?
Landon Weiershausen at Farmboy Brewshop working on his New English IPA brew (photos by Christina Martinez).
Now for the cons. It is imperative for a NEIPA to be consumed fresh, which can be an issue as far as distribution and shelf life is concerned. And whether homebrew or commercial, the longer the beer sits, the more it settles and the hops begin to degrade in power and flavor which is what the style is all about. Generally, this style commercially can be found through special brewery releases so they can pour through quickly. And back to the Boone’s Farm days… many of those who enjoyed BF have happily moved on to drier, earthier wine styles after their sugar rush died down. In my opinion, it doesn’t bode well for keeping the style up front in customer’s minds.
Further, my experience tells me that the NEIPA style craze is slowing down. Less people are trying to brew the style and as more and more breweries jump on the bandwagon to cash in the less “hot” the style will become. It’s not “cool” to do what everyone else is doing. I don’t think the style will ever disappear because hey, these beers can taste pretty good but will every brewery keep one on tap at all times like a pale ale or IPA? I don’t believe so, also considering the overall cost of production and general perceived customer value of a pint.
Given all of these points, I think a good NEIPA can taste great and be a perfect brew to enjoy, but I just don’t see it as an everlasting beer style. So if NEIPAs are your thing, my advice is to get them while you can at your favorite brewery or learn to brew one so you can enjoy them forever!
Farmboy New English IPA
The haze craze of NEIPA is upon us and I have been coerced into brewing a beer in this style to appease the masses. I developed this recipe for a NEIPA mainly because everyone seemed to be using the same ingredients, i.e., flaked oats, Mosaic, Citra, Simcoe and Galaxy hops with London III ale yeast. While everyone claimed that their version was different, for this reason and that, I decided to handcuff myself and see what would happen. I didn’t allow myself to use any of the usual suspect ingredients and instead went with Idaho 7 and Denali hops and US-05 ale yeast. The result was bitter, refreshing and had a major pineapple kick to it. I call it the New EnglISH IPA.
Make sure to join us in our craft adventures each month. Landon is the owner of Farmboy Brew Shop. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Cheers!