Clear, bitter and piney, West Coast-style India pale ales have been the darlings of the American craft beer movement for decades. But recently, a new challenger has appeared from the East – New England IPAs – and they’re growing in popularity in both Colorado, and Durango, specifically.
New England IPAs, also known as hazy IPAs because of their characteristic opacity, are murky, fruity, a little bit sweeter and have a soft, pillowy mouthfeel in comparison to their East Coast counterparts.
Ska Brewing Co.’s new “The Hazy IPA” is set to be released in can form on Tuesday.
Ska brewed its first New England IPA (NEIPA) about three years ago and has been making more in small batches since then, said Steve Breezely, the company’s chief operating officer. Ska was waiting to perfect the shelf-life and quality of their product before it widely released the beer, he said.
The advent of the beer coincided with the emergence of new hop varietals from the southern hemisphere, he said. These hops were fruitier and less piney and bitter.
The first brewery to release a hazy IPA was Alchemist Beer in Stowe, Vermont, with its Heady Topper beer. The style quickly caught on in Vermont and spread across New England before the rest of the country caught on to the style.
“I don’t think they were even supposed to be hazy; there were just so many small breweries that were not filtering their beers, and they were hazy, but then they were using these fruity hops and it kind of became synonymous in the New England area,” Breezely said.
Ska’s version of the beer has the same hop profile as its brut IPA, Moral Panic, with the same tropical fruit flavors, but has a fuller body and features oat, wheat and a little bit of lactose, which “kind of give it that full-bodied flavor that’s a nice counter to something ultra-dry like a brut,” he said.
Ska isn’t the only Durango brewery making hazy IPAs either.
Steamworks Brewing Co.’s New England IPA is called the Sultan of Stoke. It exhibits the flavor and aroma profile of a NEIPA, but isn’t necessarily as hazy as other examples of the style, Head Brewer Ken Martin said. The beer is on tap now and might become one of the beers the brewery features year-round, he said in an email.
Meanwhile, at Carver Brewing Co., the Yankee Boy NEIPA has taken off as one of the brewery’s most popular brews.
“We just brewed it this year for the first time and it has been our best-selling IPA all year long,” Head Brewer Patrick Jose said.
He said that Yankee Boy is hazy, juicy and smooth with low bitterness. Some of the Carver staff and a few locals have taken to making the beer fruitier by adding a splash of orange juice to it, he said.
Beyond DurangoWhen it comes to New England IPAs, the types available become more varied as you travel in the general direction of the Front Range.
Elevation Beer Co. in Poncha Springs has attempted several NEIPAs as a response to consumer demand, said Andy Astor, the brewery’s tasting room manager.
The most recent is Milkshake, Duck!, which is an example of a Milkshake IPA, a sub-style of New England IPA to which brewers add vanilla and milk sugar or lactose. This makes the beer creamier and fuller-bodied, with a mouthfeel similar to that of a real milkshake.
Both Breezely at Ska and Astor at Elevation cited WeldWerks Brewing Co. in Greeley as one of the Colorado breweries that has perfected hazy IPAs.
WeldWerks formed in March 2015, around the same time New England IPAs began to get popular, said Marketing Director Jake Goodman. The company quickly got to experimenting with the style and debuted its first NEIPA, Juicy Bits, on the first anniversary of its opening.
Over the last few years, WeldWerks has used Juicy Bits as a base to experiment with many sub-styles, including a popular Piña Colada milkshake IPA featuring pineapple and toasted coconut flavors.
Unfortunately, WeldWerks only distributes its beers to a small area of the northern Front Range, so anyone wanting to try their beers is going to have to travel.
Of course, a few Colorado breweries, such as New Belgium Brewing Co., distribute everywhere. The Fort Collins-based brewery’s Voodoo Ranger line of IPAs is available across the nation and includes one permanent NEIPA offering – Juicy Haze, a slightly drier variation of the style – and a rotating selection of beers that often features a hazy IPA.
New Belgium Research & Development Brewer Ross Koenigs said that brewing at the scale the company does brings on its own challenges.
“It’s a challenge being a big brewer,” he said. “A lot of the hazy IPA phenomenon has been formed by a lot of passion creativity and variety from small brewers.”
The demand for hazy IPAs is there though, Brand Manager Dave Knospe said, so the brewery has followed suit and tried to create consistent beers that can be enjoyed across the country.