Musings on NE Style IPAs

Tree House - Alter Ego IPA

Tree House – Alter Ego IPA

There’s been a lot of buzz in the brewing and homebrewing scene over the new kid on the block, the NE (North East / New England) style IPA.  In this post I’ll get into what the characteristics are of a NE IPA, the controversy over calling it a style (along with my thoughts), and how exactly you’d go about brewing one.

What’s a NE IPA?

So what is it that makes these beers “NE Style”?  In my opinion it’s the hazy appearance, low bitterness, soft pillowy body, and super juicy hop flavors oozing in the aroma and flavor.  Some also have a little more sweetness.  They are the opposite of the classical west coast IPA which is typically bitter, brilliantly clear, and quite dry.

There are more than you would think on the market and not just from the north east of the US.  I’ve recently tried examples from Tree House Brewing (Alter Ego), Trillium (Double Dry Hopped Melcher Street), Bissell Brothers (Swish), Block 15 (Intergalactic Hop Shop), and a Fat Heads / Breakside Collaboration (Pulp Free IPA).  All of these example shared characteristics described in the previous paragraph.

Wait, What’s the Controversy About?

Trilium - Double Dry Hopped Melcher Street

Trilium – Double Dry Hopped Melcher Street

It seems pro brewers, homebrewers, and craft beer enthusiasts all have varying opinions.  Jamil Zainasheff recently tweeted about his dislike for the ‘style’.  It seems some don’t like this style of IPA because it doesn’t conform to the BJCP guidelines for an IPA (not clear enough, not enough bitterness).  I read a lot of fuss in online forums about the clarity of this style not being attractive, or signaling that there is a problem with the beer.  You can find many posts online, like this one, claiming it’s not a style and the disdain for calling it such.

I don’t know that style is the correct word, it’s more of a variation of an IPA.  I wouldn’t call it a new style in terms of BJCP guidelines, because I think it still fits an American IPA. A lot of people don’t like the region being in the name, but let’s face it.  Before NE IPAs there was certainly a distinction between west coast (dry, bitter, piney, citrus) and east coast (maltier, floral, earthy) style IPAs.  While those descriptors don’t hold true for all east coast or west coast style IPAs, there was a noticeable difference.

I also personally don’t care about haziness.  Hazy or clear, as long as it has the flavors I”m looking for, I’ll gladly consume it.

OK, How do I Brew a NE IPA?

I personally love this new variation in conjunction with the delicious bitter and clear IPAs out there.  So I did a ton of research reading interviews with professional brewers and reading over thoughts from homebrewers on various forums.  I came up with a list of the ideas that kept popping up in terms of brewing a NE IPA.  I should note that I haven’t actually brewed this type of beer yet, but plan to do so in the near future.

Bissell Brothers - Swish

Bissell Brothers – Swish

  • Use a high flocculant English Ale Yeast
  • For the grain bill:
    • Use 10-25% adjunct for body.  (Oats, Flaked Oats, Flaked Rye, Wheat, Flaked Wheat)
    • 70-85% Pale Malt (2 Row)
    • Optionally use a small percentage (2-5%) of Carapils/Dextrine for body and sweetness.
  • Massive additions of late and whirlpool hops.
  • Massive additions of dry hops.  Some talk of multiple stages, others say one is fine.
    • I’ve also spotted several recommendations for adding dry hops after 2-4 days into primary fermentation.  Some sort of reaction with the yeast and dry hops is supposedly supposed to bring out more flavors.
  • For this style typically fruity, tropical, and citrusy hops are key.  They should also have a high percentage of essential oils.  e.g. (Mosaic, Simcoe, Galaxy, Azacca, Citra, Equinox, Amarillo, etc.)
  • Mash temperature is slightly higher than normal, 151-154 F
  • I encountered several posts talking about higher chloride levels in the water possibly being essential to this style.

My First Attempt at a NE IPA Recipe

Based on the above and the research I’ve done I crafted my first recipe which I’ll be brewing in the near future.  The below recipe is for a 5.5 gallon batch with a 152 F 60 minute mash.

Amount Name Percentage Notes
12 lbs 5 oz Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM) 77.0%
1 lbs 14.7 oz Flaked Oats 12.0%
1 lbs 4.5 oz White Wheat Malt (2.4S SRM) 8.0%
7.7 oz Cara-Pils/Dextrine (2.0 SRM) 3.0%
1 oz Columbus (Tomahawk) [14.00 %] – Boil 60.0 min
1 oz Citra [12.00 %] – Boil 4.0 min
1 oz Mosaic [12.00 %] – Boil 4.0 min
3 oz Citra [12.00 %] – Steep/Whirlpool 0 min
3 oz Mosaic [12.00 %] – Steep/Whirlpool 0 min
3 oz Mosaic [12.00 %] – Dry Hop 7 days Add 3 days into primary fermentation
3 oz Citra [12.00 %] – Dry Hop 7 days Add 3 days into primary fermentation
1 pkg London Ale III (Wyeast Labs #1318) [124.21 ml] Make 2L Starter