It's about the beer
Gina Miller and Bill Keeper
Admit it, you love New England IPAs just as much as I do. When it's made right and fresh it's
my favorite style. And yes, by fresh I mean less than a month old regardless of its ABV or the
claims of store managers, distributors, or even the brewery itself. And if there is no date on
the can I categorically will not buy it. I can see you shaking your head Bill but take a blind taste
test of the same NEIPA, one fresh the other old and you'll see what I mean.
I know you've heard that rant before but I had to get it so you'd understand why I'm so
concerned that the style is now on store shelves from the bigger craft labels and regional
brewers such as Boston Beer, Schlafly, and several ABI-owned "crafty" ones like Blue Point.
The larger the brewery and their distribution channels the harder it is for them to do justice to
the freshness the style demands. As an early champion of NEIPAs that gets me upset.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that big breweries can't make a good NEIPA. They can.
The first time I had one from Sam Adams I was quite impressed. Unfortunately when I went to
buy it again the available beer was old and had fallen off immensely. Just because a large
brewer labels their national, year-round beer as “Hazy and Juicy” and calls it a “New England
IPA” doesn't make it so.
Look Bill, all hop-forward beers suffer from a short shelf life. That's especially true for a beer
that relies on late/dry-hopping for flavor and aroma as a predominant feature like NEIPAs do.
The aromatic compounds that give these beers their fruit juice flavor and pungent nose
dissipate or degrade quickly,
The NEIPA has become a phenomena thanks to local breweries, limited production, and the
chance for we consumers to purchase it at or near the brewery that made it. I don't see how it
can be mass-produced and nationally distributed without damaging it's very essence.
My advice - drink local!
That's it from me, chug-a-lug, Bill.....see you next time!
Hello Gina -
I agree with you (I'd be afraid not to) that the New England IPA craze has been fueled almost
entirely by small breweries with limited or no distribution. If you look at the breweries that
popularized the style like The Alchemist, Trillium, Treehouse, Bissell Brothers and Other Half
you'll see they all sell the vast majority of beer on-site and very soon after it’s packaged. The
key is limited distribution. That to me is what has driven demand more than anything. Follow
any of those breweries on social media and you’ll get a deluge of stories about wait times, long
lines and per-person purchase limits. If people are willing to jump through these hoops for this
beer style, doesn’t it stand to reason that a larger brewer without the same production and
distribution constraints could sell a massive amount of NEIPA?
Gina, I don't think you realize there are a number of advantages bigger breweries have as they
produce New England IPAs. The biggest oneis the economy of scale meaning bigger breweries
should be able to make the beers on scale and then sell them at a lower price point, which is
huge when many small batch NEIPAs are routinely over $20/4 pack. Lower prices for beer is
not a bad thing, Gina. These breweries also have the distribution apparatus in place to get the
beers right onto the shelves soon after they are packaged so it is possible for you to buy it
fresh.. An advantage that is easy to forget is the big hop contracts large breweries sign. They
should have no issues buying large lots of sought after hop varieties which is often an issue for
small breweries.. And lastly note that these larger breweries typically employ talented brewers
who should be able to develop recipes that are competitive with most of the better beers on the
Having said all of that I agree with you that the larger breweries face a huge competitive
problem in making sure their consumers buy and drink fresh beer. It's important to note that
just because their beers might reach store shelves "fresh" that doesn’t mean they are still at
peak flavor and aroma when they are purchased and consumed. I’ve already seen a number of
NEIPAs from mid-sized breweries that have clearly been sitting on the shelves well past their
peak despite an arbitrary freshness date they may or may not have stamped on it. By the way I
hate the "fresh by dates" some breweries are now using. I frankly don't trust them. To some,
fresh means 4 or 5 or even 6 months.
As I see it Sam Adams isn’t going to convert Trillium drinkers but they can compete for
marketshare with other mid-sized and large breweries making NEIPAs. Competition is a good
thing for consumers in theory, but I too worry that old and mediocre beer sitting on store shelves
will damage the reputation of a great style.
Here's looking at you Gina