LOVE IT OR HATE IT, THE WIDELY POPULAR IPA IS HERE TO STAY.
CONGRATULATIONS! IF YOU’RE READING THIS, THEN YOU have officially lived long enough to see a craft beer renaissance in the United States. Or, conversely, you are young enough to have lived your entire life during a period of sustained growth in the craft beer market. If you’re under 21, this article is of limited use to you at this time. You have my sympathies.
According to the Brewers Association, the number of craft brewers nationwide has gone from eight (!) in 1980 to 537 in 1994 to more than 6,000 in 2018. The number of new breweries in the planning stages is skyrocketing. This is an unprecedented boom. It’s hard to think of another industry that has undergone such phenomenal growth so fast in a similar 40-year time frame. (That shining star of production, the Model T, comes to mind.) Heady stuff, right?
Simply put, there has never been a better time to drink beer in the U.S. than right now. Today, you can go to the nearest liquor store — or bar, restaurant, ramshackle saloon or refined taphouse — and choose among a hundred distinct kinds. But this craft explosion wouldn’t be possible without the venerable IPA, or India Pale Ale. As legend has it, the beer was invented by the British during their efforts to colonize India.
Characterized by an abundance of hops — the green, cone-shaped flowers of the female hop plant, also known by its Seussian name Humulus lupulus — today’s IPAs can be strong and bitter, with an aroma of citrus, pine or flowers. And they are as popular as all get out.
Here are some of the best IPAs coming out of the East Coast.
EXHIBIT ‘A’ BREWING CO.
Brewed: Framingham, MA
To try Exhibit ‘A’ Brewing Co.’s take on the New England-style IP — generally known for a juicy, luscious mouthfeel and opaque, hazy appearance — you may have to travel some distance. Boston is a good bet, as this Framingham, MA-based brewery sells primarily to restaurants and distributors in Massachusetts. Even so, the brewery recommends calling for availability first, as many sell out quickly, including the Cat’s Meow.
New England-style IPA’s usual aromas of fruitiness — in this case, tangerines and ripe stone fruits — greet the nose followed by flavors of grapefruit peel, fresh navel oranges and light malt sweetness. This has a smooth finish with a touch of grapefruit bitterness at the end. Available year round, it’s definitely worth the trip.
ALLAGASH BREWING CO.
Brewed: Portland, ME
You would have to be a huge beer nerd to know what the Brett stands for. No, it’s not a man; it’s a yeast. During transport overseas, the first India Pale Ales were stored in wooden barrels where, beer experts suppose, some ales naturally acquired brettanomyces, a form of wild yeast. Brett IPA plays off this piece of brewing lore by pairing brettanomyces — a yeast that exhibits itself as ripe fruit rather than strong funk or sourness — with multiple varieties of fruit-forward hops.
Allagash Brewing Co.’s take on the Brett style of IPA results in tropical flavors that pair nicely with the beer’s lightly hopped body: a heady bouquet redolent of citrus, pineapple and passion fruit, with a finish that is mostly dry and has a little acidity with moderate, easygoing bitterness. The taste is on the stronger side of IPAs. As of last year, it is available in 12 oz. bottles. According to Allagash, a portion of the proceeds from this beer go to benefit the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland, ME, so you can feel good while you sip.
Brewed: Brooklyn, NY
Each year, a new Brooklyn Defender emerges to carry the banner of great beer. Past projects have highlighted renowned artists and experimental hops. Now, the sixth Defender is ready to be unveiled in six-packs and kegs everywhere.
Brooklyn Brewery urges us to #DefendBeer with this year’s Defender, a West Coast-style IPA (read: hoppy as hell!). As the official beer of New York Comic Con, Defender IPA is “heroically” hopped featuring strong notes of tropical fruit, well-muscled hop bitterness and an incredibly dry finish. According to Brooklyn Brewery, the graphic “springs from the Jack Kirby era of comics, with a striking profile, the astonishing ability to leap tall buildings with an armload of kegs, and a trusty beer can utility belt.”
The reddish coloration owes to a dash of roasted malt. Tasting notes are characterized by bold, fruity sharpness and an intensely resinous nose smash. Brooklyn Brewery recommends pairing this beer with grilled vegetables, barbecue, spicy dishes and Gouda. No cape required.
LIL’ HEAVEN SESSION IPA
TWO ROADS BREWING CO.
Brewed: Stratford, CT
Quick history lesson: the most common explanation for Session IPA harkens back to the days of WWI England. Workers were allotted two drinking periods, or sessions, of four hours each workday. (Jealous much?) This called for a lighter beer than your everyday stout or porter. So, the less alcoholic Session IPA was invented to keep Brits from being too sloppy on the job.
Session purists demand that the style (or sub-style) be defined as any beer no higher than three or four percent ABV. However, today most categorize 5% ABV or less a true session. Clocking in at 4.8% ABV, Two Roads Brewing Co.’s take on the Session IPA is the Lil’ Heaven with tastes of tropical fruits — specifically passion fruit, grapefruit and apricots. It finishes with just enough toasted malt character to balance. This is soft and delicate with a malty sweetness mid-palate.
EVIL TWIN BREWING
Brewed: Two Roads Brewing Co., CT
Founded by Danish-born Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø in 2010, Evil Twin Brewing has been called “nomadic” because the beers are brewed not in one location, but in 10 breweries around the world. (Evil Twin says it’s working on opening its first physical brewery in Ridgewood, NY later this year.) At this time, these beers are still fairly rare, because of the relatively small batches in which they are brewed. If you can, you should get your hands on the Modern IPA. My sources tell me you can find it on tap at top restaurants in New York such as Eleven Madison and the Nomad. It’s that good.
This amalgamation of the West Coast- and New England-style IPAs features piney dankness combined with layers of citrus and tropical fruits, a testament to the state of the IPA in America as we know it. It’s a tasty tribute to a beloved and iconic beer style. A palette of understated hop flavors, fruity and crisp, cuts through the dankness. This is in stark contrast to Evil Twin’s Retro IPA, a 1985-style IPA, that you should also give a try — if you can find it, that is.