IPAs are the rock stars of the craft beer world. They capture most of the love, attention and money. In recent times, some exciting new sub-styles have emerged, New England IPAs and Brut IPAs, which have extended the range of IPAs even further.
IPAs now run the gamut from sweet to dry, clear to hazy, piney to fruity, light to dark, sessionable to imperial, and bitter to not. No style has proven so stretchy and yet so consistently beloved.
Forget the origin story of beers being shipped over to India, the basic concept of the modern IPA is simple – it’s a beer with more hops. And more hops equals more flavour. And that is the essential promise of craft beer too – beer with more flavour.
Here are some of the latest intriguing IPA styles I’ve been drinking.
Dry and fruity Brut IPAs
The Brut IPA is the newest kid on the block of IPA sub-styles. Invented by a San Fransisco brewer, in today’s globalised world it hasn’t taken long for the style to take root in Australia too.
Australian brewers have quickly followed each other in turning their hand to the style, with Wolf of the Willows, Bacchus, Revel, Mr Banks, Sauce and Slipstream all giving it a crack so far, with more being brewed by the day.
The brewer’s trick with this style is to use a particular enzyme to remove additional sugars and dry the beer out further so that it takes on a champagne-like dry finish.
Slipstream Brut IPA has the familiar citrus and tropical fruit hop aromas but the dry finish does give the beer a distinctive twist to the beer. Highly carbonated and bubbly, little haze and a dry rather than bitter finish – it is somewhat reminiscent of a champagne.
A nice contrast from the sweet malty bitter IPAs, it’s easy drinking and refreshing. I think there’s a place for this style to make an even bigger name for itself.
Hazy, juicy New England IPAs
It’s the style that has taken over the craft beer scene, already the predominant style of IPA in the US now and now building momentum in Australia too. NEIPAs took the use of fruity aroma hops to an extreme and removed the bitterness that was such a big part of the earlier waves of modern IPAs and especially the West Coast IPA.
Australian brewers have been turning their hand to the style over the past couple of years. While the style lacks the bitter punch to those accustomed to drinking IPAs, it delivers fantastic fresh aromas when done right, which gives the style a broad appeal. We have a long way to go before we hit peak haze with drinkers continuing to lap up this style where they can get their hands on it.
Co-Conspirators The Matriarch delivers a powerful fruity hit of tropical fruit salad on the nose and a smooth not bitter finish creates a pleasant easy drinking experience. While NEIPAs are generally preferred fresh, this was holding up really well after a couple of months, and didn’t disappoint in aroma or balance.
Big Shed Boozy Fruits winner of the People’s Choice award at GABS this year based on the Frosty Fruits ice creams proving themselves again the masters of replicating desserts (along with Bacchus) after their Golden Stout Time and nutella replica beers.
I can see why this beer received so many votes, it stands out for the boldness of its fruity flavours, but is a little sweet and candy-ish for my tastes, while the haze levels in my bottle were obscene, creating a murky greenish appearance and a thick mouthfeel.
Fruited malty DIPA
Nomad Supersonic Rainforest Lime Edition
Rather than following the latest trends from the US, this IPA stands out as a little different, using a unique Australian ingredient, the Rainforest Lime, to impart a profoundly zesty citrusy juicy beer.
This packs all the fruity punch of a New England IPA but isn’t hazy or thick, and still contains bitterness though this is nicely balanced by some of the malt sweetness in this deceptively strong beer.
This was one of the best IPAs I’ve had in a while and my favourite of the Supersonic series so far.
Kettle Soured NEIPA
Daintons Grapefruit Sour New England IPA
Does what is says on the tin. The kettle souring works well with the overtly fruity style, finishing tart and acidic against the pithy bitter citrus of the grapefruit. I feel like this variation of the style works well, the sour aspect leading to a nice finish in the absence of bitterness.
The future of the IPA
This is an exciting time with new styles taking the IPA in a new direction with the pendulum swinging towards lower bitterness styles and fruity aromas. I don’t see that lasting forever, there is sure to be a swing back towards bitterness at some point but I believe there is a time and place for both the new and older styles in the future.
I still hang out for the now old-school piney resinous flavours of IPAs of yesteryear (exemplified recently in Deep Creek’s Pine Needles IPA) and for a nice bracing bitterness at the finish. But I do agree the bitterness arms race did got too much at times (Mikkeller’s 1000 IBU being a case in point) and some IPAs lacked balance – too much sweet crystal malt and too much bitterness.
The new style of IPAs are going to be the same, there will be good ones and bad ones. In general, the dry finish of the Brut IPA makes them more sessionable than the sweet malty IPAs, while there is something that’s really tantalising about the bright flavours being produced in NEIPAs and fruited IPAs. The haze in NEIPAs is controversial but when done well adds a nice mouthfeel to the beer.
At this point we’re seeing brewers playing around with these new styles and sometimes tending towards the extremes, which means some of these beers are a hot mess, but when done right, like the IPAs before them, they are great full-flavoured highly drinkable beers, which is what good IPAs are all about.