It's about the beer
Gina Miller and Bill Keeper
Let's face it, we're like millions of other craft beer lovers out there who simply can't get enough
of cloudy, juicy pale ales and IPAs. Now Bill, I know we both love other styles too but think
about most of the beers we've truly enjoyed lately and those are just the kind that have been
ignored in industry competitions.
Think about beers like the Alchemist’s Heady Topper, Trillium’s Congress Street, Bissell
Brothers’ the Substance, Tree House’s Julius—these are some of the most coveted beers in
the world -and they have something in common, too: A hazy, golden color; and a juicy, fruity
aroma. Most beer lovers call them truly great but yet they never win a competition.
While their makers all categorize them as pale or India pale ales, the Brewers Association—the
Denver, Colo.-based trade group that supports the U.S.’s independent beer industry—has not
recognized them as anything. Until now. It's about time.
In the just released 2018 guidelines the BA introduced three long-awaited at least by me, new
categories—one each for hazy pale ales, IPAs, and double IPAs. Hooray—at last
hoppy deliciousness.is seen as serious beer trait worthy of independence.
Vindication in the BA new categories means that hazy beers, although not “traditional,” can be
judged this year at the Great American Beer Festival for what they truly are. The GABF, the
beer industry’s most prestigious competition, is heading back to Denver September 20-22 this
year. It will be the first official contest to use the new guidelines. After that, the guidelines will
govern future competitions, including the Brewers Association-sponsored World Beer Cup.
This just might well be remembered as the most important moment in the history of India pale
ale’s evolution. At last year,GABF the elephant in the room was that the most popular IPAs at
the festival were effectively ignored by the medal-wielding judges. What was their excuse?
Every year in the feedback given to brewers the judges usually said the beer was awesome
but it wasn't to style. Now that won't happen anymore. Long live New England IPA!
That's it from me, chug-a-lug, Bill.....see you next time!
Hello Gina -
I think it’s great that after years of industry debate, hazy pale ales are finally recognized as a
unique style. I am certainly interested to see how this changes competitions and how many
people will enter beers into these new styles. Yes Gina, I too am glad to see New England’s
brewers’ innovative style get the national recognition it deserves.
I checked the old style guidelines and wonder why they took so long to realize NEIPA was
unique. It wasn't English-Style IPA. that the guide says there should be " earthy and herbal
hops, crisp, dry and medium to high bitterness". It didn't fit the Session IPA category that has an
ABV limitation of 5% and demands a medium to high bitterness. It does have a few things in
common with the Double IPA requirements but not the part about "very high bitterness and
notable alcohol in the flavor". Both of those characteristics do not fit the NE IPAs. Lastly the
category of American-Style IPA has a lot that fit as it allows for hop haze, a fruit forward flavor
profile, and the ABV is more in line as well but it also requires hop bitterness to be medium-high
to very-high which doesn't fit. It's clear at least to me that this was style has needed its own
category for quite a while.
I doubt however either of us or the BA will convince the famous Brooklyn Beer brewmaster
Garrett Oliver who said the NE IPA style is based around Instagram culture and is a passing
fad.. He did concede that "New England IPA is a beer style that can be really tasty when it is
well made," but then added "it can’t even sit on a shelf for two weeks. It has no shelf life to it at
all." Needless to Brooklyn Brewery does not make a NEIPA. And they wonder why their
domestic sales are not growing.
With all due respect to Mr. Oliver (and that's a lot) I prefer this quote from another well known
brewer, Eric Bachi at Sixpoint::" I don’t know exactly what it is, but there’s a certain appeal to the
overall aesthetic to New England IPAs, They’re opaque, they’re brilliantly orange or grapefruit
colored … there’s something beautiful about it." Formerly of Trillium Brewing (enough said),
Bachli is widely regarded as a driving force in developing the New England IPA style.
The growth of hazy IPAs, this NEIPA “fad”, is at least ten years old. Considering modern craft
beer is about as old and when you consider most of today’s breweries didn’t even exist when
the first NEIPAs were being made, we are well past a reasonable definition of “fad” or even
Gina I salute you for making this the topic of the month. We agree (are reader might be
shocked at that) whole heartedly, that NEIPA is a great style that is here to stay!
Here's looking at you Gina