Hops, Haze and Homogeneity
There's no denying it - New England IPAs are more than a fad. With brewers across the world dabbling in the murky arts of aggressive dry hopping, it's safe to say that this turbid brew has truly come into its own. Their appearances range from slightly hazy to downright milkshakey, but there's one thing that truly sets the NEIPA apart from the rest of the field: hop treatment.
Setting the Stage
Historically, hops were used as much as a preservative as a flavorant. The alpha acids present in all strains of hops are useful for helping to stave off bacterial infection in beer, but over time, people came to crave that hoppy taste. Over on the West Coast of the United States, brewers have been amping up their hops for a while now, but for most connoisseurs of the West Coast style, IBUs are king. These beers feature high doses of alpha acids, greatly accentuating the bitter qualities of the hops. What has come to be known as the New England IPA is just as hoppy as a West Coast IPA, but because of differences in the brewing process, the final product is significantly less bitter. Through whirlpooling and dry hopping, brewers are able to extract the essence of the hops without adding all that bitterness.
Juicy and Fruity
From homebrewers to large scale commercial breweries, most NEIPAs are juicy, fruity and hazy. The haze comes from a combination of hop particulate and protein haze left over from the grain bills. The juicy and fruity qualities come partly from the yeast, but mostly from the hops. However, here's where we run into a bit of a problem. If everyone's versions of this new style need to hit these metrics, then homogeneity may be an issue. Hops like Galaxy, Mosaic and Citra are great for getting those big, juicy notes, but with so many people brewing with the same ingredients, it all starts to meld together.
Breaking From the Pack
So if a brewery wanted to make a NEIPA while standing out from the crowd with some fresh ingredients, getting away from the three most trendy hops in the industry would probably be a good start. All over the world, there are agricultural geniuses who are constantly working on new strains of hops, and with aromatic qualities like "juicy" and "citrusy" in such high demand, it should come as no surprise that there are alternatives out there. For instance, Idaho #7, a hop Down The Road uses in its Seventh Star IPA, is a beautiful example of a new, experimental strain. It manifests crazy flavors and aromas ranging from melon to strawberry and even pineapple! Other strains worth checking out are Motueka, a New Zealand hop that carries a zesty lime aroma, and Pacifica, which brings a unique marmalade and floral aspect to the table, both of which we decided to use in our latest release - Queequeg's Revenge New England IPA.
So what's the harm in a little experimentation?