Keeping Up With Trends: The New England IPA

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Whether "New England Style" (NE style) pale ales and IPAs are in fact new styles are a matter of some debate. While there are breweries outside of New England and even the northeast creating them, the style is most prevalent in New England. What isn't debatable is the impact these beers are having on the marketplace as large national and regional craft brewers are losing market share to smaller brewers. Wachusett, a venerable regional craft brewer with roots going back to 1994 is getting into the game releasing their own NE style IPA called Wally.
Even more than any other IPA, freshness is key with NE IPAs. The hop aroma and flavor the style is known for can fade quickly. This gives smaller NE IPA producers have a huge advantage over larger brewers. Tree House and Trillium typically sell their beer the same day, or no more than a few days after it is canned. Customers line up, and more often than not that day's allotment of cans sells out. Producers of the style who distribute like Maine Beer Company are judicious in their allotments to retailers to ensure the beer doesn't sit for too long.
In contrast, Founders tells retailers that All Day IPA is fresh up to 120 days from packaging date. The beer is in cans, and if stored cold the beer probably is perfectly fine. However, if a discerning buyer checks the date of All Day IPA or another national brand, and then checks the date of a smaller local producer, which one will the customer choose?

Brewing A New England Style IPA

As homebrewers we enjoy a similar advantage when it comes to freshness. If you are the type of brewer that will brew a five gallon batch, and keep it on tap for several months as you slowly drink it, NE IPA might not be the best style for you to brew. When I brew NE pale ales and IPAs I usually brew smaller batches, or I'll brew it for a special event where I know the beer will be kicked.
Bottling vs. Kegging: If you are bottle conditioning a NE IPA, add even more dry hops to the beer to compensate for the hop character you will lose while the beer conditions. Kegging is preferable to bottling if you can keg. Some brewers will dry hop in a keg, and use CO2 to push the beer to a separate purged serving keg to avoid exposing the beer to oxygen.
Grain Bill: Compared to West Coast IPAs where all of the character in the beer is from the hops, NE IPAs can be a bit more broad and complex. There are certainly commercial examples of NE IPA that use regular US 2-row malt and Chico yeast, but there are also examples that use more flavorful British base malts and estery yeasts. Any malt and yeast character should still be in the background, but there is room for interpretation. If you do a side-by-side tasting of The Alchemist's Heady Topper and Lawson's Finest Liquids' Sip of Sunshine, that will give you an idea of the breadth of the style.
As a hop forward style, crystal malts should not be used, or used in very small quantities. If you have a house IPA recipe and want to convert it to a NE IPA, replacing the crystal malt with flaked wheat, barley, or oats is a good start. The flaked grains will provide the body and head retention that crystal malt would have, but without a cloying sweetness. A small amount of Munich malt can also be used to add color and a bit of malt flavor.
If brewing a NE IPA with extract, I wouldn't suggest using flaked grains unless you are going to do a partial-mash. A grist of 95% Golden Light extract and 5% corn sugar will approximate the body and mouthfeel of the style. Subbing out some light extract with wheat extract wouldn't be a bad idea either. If employing a partial boil, make sure to utilize a late extract addition to ensure proper hop utilization and guard against kettle Caramelization.
The Hazy Appearance: More than anything else the style is known for it's hazy appearance. When John Kimmich designed Heady Topper, he didn't try to make a hazy beer. He wanted to make the best IPA he could, and it just happened to be hazy. Backlash brewed their Ricochet IPA with and without biofine, and brewer Helder Pimintel found he greatly perfected the hazier batch. When brewing a NE IPA at home hold off on the whirlfloc. Irish moss, biofine, gelatin, or isinglass.
Hop Selection: For hop selection, the newer hops with more of a stone fruit-type flavor and aroma are excellent choices. In particular the new hop varieties coming out of the US and Australia like Mosaic, Equinox, Azacca, Nelson, and Vic Secret. That doesn't mean a homebrewer you should be married to the latest and greatest hard to find hops. Last summer I brewed a wonderful NE IPA using only free hops I brought home from HomebrewCon: Pekko, Idaho 007, and Triple Perle.
Many of the prominent NE IPA producers started as exceedingly small operations. As such, they didn't have the ability to contract for every hop they wanted. Noah Bissell designed Bissell Brothers' flagship IPA, The Substance, specifically to use less sought-after hop varieties that he knew they could get. Noah emailed me the recipe in 2014, and I posted the recipe on the HBT recipe database. Hop availability is why commercial brewers use complex blends of hops. If one of seven hops used in a recipe isn't available and needs to be substituted, the change in flavor should be far less noticeable. It is also why brewers have rotating IPA series like Night Shift's Morph.
More critical than hop selection is the timing of the hop additions. A very small bittering charge at 60 minutes or a first wort hop addition is all you need before flameout. The idea is to have just enough hop bitterness to supply balance without producing a bitter beer.. Commercial brewers will then add hops after flameout during the whirlpool stage. A homebrewer can use pumps to recirculate the wort to create a whirlpool. A stir with a spoon can also work. You will extract some bitterness from the whirlpool hops. BeerSmith gives you as good of an estimate as you can get of exactly how much bitterness you are getting from the whirlpool additions.
Dry hopping is everything in this style. In particular what Michael Tonsmeire describes as biotransformation. Contrary to previous orthodoxy, dry hopping during active fermentation is critical. The way the dry hops interact with the fermenting yeast gives the beer its "juicy" hop flavor. I advise everyone I talk to who is brewing the style to add 1/3 to 1/2 of their dry hops during active fermentation to obtain the haze and juicy hop flavor the beer is supposed to have. The rest of the dry hops can be added 5-10 days before packaging to punch up the hop aroma.
Yeast Selection: One of the mythical aspects of the style was the Alchemist's "Conan" yeast strain. Before several small yeast labs propagated Conan, home brewers who made the trek up to northern Vermont would culture Conan from cans of Heady. Conan with it's high attenuation leaves plenty of yeast in suspension. It also has a wonderful peach ester profile which compliments the hop flavor perfectly.
The other popular yeast used in NE IPAs is Wyeast 1318 London Ale III. My first experiences with 1318 I brewed bitters, milds, and old ale and a milk stout. Used in traditional English styles 1318 leaves a beautifully clear beer. There is something about how the yeast interacts with dry hops that it stays in suspension and leaves a hazy NE IPA. Always known for it's fruity esters, 1318 with it's moderate attenuation leaves a nice soft mouthfeel that is another hallmark of the style. I work one day a week at a LHBS in Cambridge, Mass, and every week it is a struggle to keep 1318 in stock.
As with the hops, there isn't a need to be married to these sought-after yeasts. Plenty of commercial brewers still use Chico to make NE IPAs. I have personally used Wyeast 1084 Irish Ale and 1187 Ringwood Ale and found that both worked really well.
In my experience the beer should finish with an FG of 1.010 to 1.015 to have the soft mouthfeel it needs. When selecting your yeast, you may need to adjust your mash temperature and percentage of flaked adjuncts to finish in that range. The last time I used Conan in a regular-strength IPA, 25% of my grist was flaked adjuncts and I mashed at 152F. The recipe below is using Chico, so my grist is only 16.4% flaked wheat, and I am mashing a little bit lower.
Water Profile: The other contributor to the soft mouthfeel is water. Conventional wisdom is that sulfates in water accentuate hop character, while chlorides accentuate malt. When brewing a traditional IPA a 3:1 ratio of sulfates to chlorides was the rule of thumb. With a NE IPA, that orthodoxy is flipped on its head. I've played around with ratios of 2:1 and even 1:1. A friend in my homebrew club brewed the closest NE IPA to Tree House that I have ever tasted. He knows far more about water chemistry than I do, and in that beer he used a ratio of 1:3 sulfates to chlorides. Also when using this many pale malts monitoring the pH of your mash is also critical.
Luckily my municipal water is high in chlorides. I am going to try that 1:3 ratio here. This is a bit of a kitchen sink brew. Based on a previous recipe, I tweaked it to use up leftover ingredients from previous batches. I also grabbed a couple of hops from my LHBS' "experimental" section. As a last minute brew day, Safale S05 from Fermentis should do the trick:

My New England Style IPA Recipe

Batch Size: 3 gal
Efficiency: 70.00 %
6 lbs - Brewers Malt 2-Row
1 lbs 6.0 oz - Flaked Wheat
1 lbs - Borlander Munich Malt
Mash Temp: 150.0 F
Mash Out : 168F - 10 min
Yeast: Safale 05 / Chico

0.25oz - Bravo - First Wort Hop
0.25oz - Topaz - First Wort Hop
0.25oz - Bravo - 15 minute Whirlpool
0.25oz - Equinox -15 minute Whirlpool
0.25oz - Mosaic -15 minute Whirlpool
0.25oz - Bravo - 15 minute Whirlpool
0.75oz - Equinox - 15 Days
0.75oz - Mosaic - 15 Days
0.5oz - Bravo - 15 Days
0.5oz - Topaz - 15 Days
0.25oz - HBC 438 - 15 Days
1oz - Equinox - 15 Days
2oz - Mosaic - 5 Days
1oz - Bravo - 5 Days1oz - Topaz - 5 Days
0.75oz - HBC 438 - 5 Days

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Heady Topper in glasses

Jason Chalifour
Can you give starting and finishing gravity and IBUs of your recipe? It makes it easier to match if I'm doing a different batch size.
Also an NE IPA sounds really good, I'm going to have to see if I can find one in the northwest of the country (Washington state).
There is a post on this website has plenty of good information
otherwise great article, but the line "a venerable regional craft brewer with roots going back to 1994" is taking the piss.
you can't be venerable or have roots if you are only a single generation of brewers.
In the context of the American craft beer scene, I think it's a fair statement. The vast, vast majority of breweries in the United States are under 10 years old. More than half are actually under 5 years old (5,300 in 2016 compared with 2,050 in 2011). While it's a robust scene, it's still a very new scene.
In 1994, there were just 600 breweries in the U.S. There are close to 10 times as many now.
So in that context, I think it's fair to call them venerable and refer to their roots. They were an early pioneer formed during a time when this kind of resurgence in local brewing was only a pipe dream. There are very few breweries in the U.S. that can claim genuinely deep roots, due to a number of factors, so when talking craft beer, 1994 makes them grandfather's of today's scene.
I'm going to post some tasting notes this week. 10 oz was definitely pushing it, but the style does use a ton of hops. If you're used to doing a 2-4 oz for a five gallon batch, that won't give you the intensity of flavor and aroma the style is known for. I was also compensating for the fact I was bottle conditioning the beer and expected to lose some hop character while the beer carbed up.
That is certainly how a lot of drinkers look at brewers from the 80s-90s. I was talking to a rep from a local brewery that opened in 2009; he told me that a lot of drinkers assume they have been around for longer because the brewery was around when they first got into craft beer.
I bottled the back on 3/12. When it was young the beer was borderline dank and grassy. To jjeffreys's point, I was pushing the envelope with my hop additions. I shared the beer with a few friends and the manager of my LHBS.
I still have a couple of bottles left. Revisiting the beer today, the hop character has already fallen off. The beer is smoother and I'm not getting any grassyness, but SWMBO still thinks it is harsh. Perhaps as the hop flavor has fallen off, she is getting more bitterness.
My next batch I do plan to dial the hops back a bit. I ordered some experimental hops from Yakima Valley I am excited to try.
I don't think these brewers are passing on the use of finings because the beer is going to be hazy anyway. The water in Vermont / NE is routinely good. Add a little calcium to our soft water and you're dangerous. I think that's an important distinction. The haze comes from the dryhopping. Clean and clear otherwise, IMO.
John Kimmich once said in the local paper that the idea of "Vermont IPA" was "Bull----". Quaint in a "I'm-Larry-and-this-is-my-brother-Darryl-and-my-other-brother-Darryl" kind of way. NE IPA feels like an extension of the same idea. Quaint for sure though.
One topic that I've had discussions with people about is where the haze should be coming from, and the difference between the haziness that is so desired v. murkiness that may be somewhat less appealing. I was able to achieve a pretty decent haze using flaked barley and oats in mine, but the question remains whether the haze is actually a product of that, the tremendous amount of dry hops or the yeast selection. I've also heard pectin can add some haze as well. Can anyone shed more light on this subject?
In my experience it's the dry hoping during active fermentation. The unmalted grains are to add body and mouthfeel more than anything.
I agree, dry hopping during active fermentation (3 or 4 days after pitching) and the amount of hops used are probably the two biggest parts of the hazy. Higher chloride does help because it makes the yeast less flocculant. Oats will help a little too but not much.
I was actually expecting more. There is definitely a law of diminishing returns above a certain point. My last batch was a DIPA. I yielded about 3.5 gallons of finished product. There was north of 21oz of hops in this batch. It had the saturation level that one would associate with a tree house / trillium but the nose left a little to be desired. Brewing this style is not for the faint of heart when it comes to hop additions.
Sure, you can still make a great, serviceable beer with less hops used more efficiently. However, the market is becoming saturated with poor representations of a NEIPA all around the country. Its the intricate details that will set your beer apart from the other imitators on the market. Happy brewing.
Nice write up, Jason.
So how long before the west coasters claim that they did it first and it should be called a Cascadian Juicy Ale?
I published some tasting notes on my recipe. Next batch I will dial back the hops a bit to see if I can get similar hop flavor and aroma, while smoothing out the beer and scaling back some of the grassy notes
Outstanding read!~ Thanks Jason for taking the time! I am totally enamored with this style right now and I cant seem to brew enough of it! On that note I cant seem to screw one up..LOL I change a lot of stuff and if keeping to the basic recipe "IDEA" basic water profile and keeping the hops out of the boil they always seem to be a major hit! Right now I am stuck on using El Dorado, Mandarina-Bavaria and Galaxy hops but like you said I think this style goes way beyond just the hops used. What a great style! A total BLAST to design, Fun as hell to make and ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL to drink!
not saying they weren't a pioneer in the craft scene(much better word choice)
just saying that venerable and roots are things that imply multiple generations of brewers.
Thanks Jason for the timely article. I am brewing my first NE IPA on the 20th and gonna try something totally different. A local brewery makes a killer Coconut Cream I am trying to incorporate Coconut into the NE IPA. In my mind it sounds delicious..hoping the results match.
I did a NEIPA with US-05 that I called "East-West" IPA. For the first three weeks it was hazy with all of the juicy flavor of a typical NEIPA. After that, it began to clear, and it changed character to a west coast style.
I'll be posting the recipe (Yooper asked me to) after I try another iteration, but the point is I believe the yeast IS important to keep the hops in suspension. Vermont or 1318 is crucial, IMHO