I last posted about The Hustler, my attempt at a New England-style IPA. What is a “New England-style IPA?” Depends on who you talk to, and what year you’re having that discussion. In 2013, Harpoon tried to rebrand their flagship IPA as a “New England IPA.” Unfortunately for Harpoon, the Craft Beer Boom launched several new breweries in New England and a new-ish twist on the classic India Pale Ale emerged. Harpoon’s (excellent) malt-forward IPA, however, doesn’t fall in line with these new brews.
The NE IPA has no official definition, but since we’re on my blog, you’re getting my definition. The NE IPA trend probably started with The Alchemist’s Heady Topper, a phenomenal IPA from Vermont that sacrifices clarity for a fuller body, massive tropical fruit aroma, and strong but pleasant bitterness. Heady sets the bar for this style, but there are plenty of competitors that have emerged in the past few years:
- New England Brewing Co’s Ghandi Bot (which is being renamed) is almost as sought-after and has similar descriptors to Heady.
- Out in Western Massachusett’s, Tree House has released several NE IPAs: Julius, Green, and Sap. All amazing.
- In Boston, Trillium has been releasing small batch IPAs that fall into this category, and their Fort Point Pale Ale is certainly a close cousin to the style.
- Lawson’s Finest Liquids in Vermont has long had its Double Sunshine and recently released its Sip of Sunshine.
- And then, of course, there’s Hill Farmstead.
When I brew The Hustler, here’s the characteristics I’m shooting for:
- Appearance: hazy, near opaque, with a bright orange color and fluffy white head
- Aroma: BIG hop aroma, specifically pine, peaches, apricot, tropical fruit, and floral notes
- Mouthfeel: smoother and fuller than your average IPA with a dry-ish finish
- Flavor: lots of hop character, smooth bitterness, lots of fruit notes with none of the medicinal sweetness that comes with a lot of DIPAs (or older IPAs).
The first go-around with The Hustler was a success, but could’ve gone with some minor improvements. The appearance was spot-on, and the aroma was great but could’ve been a little more potent. The mouthfeel was exactly what I was looking for in this style, but the flavor could’ve used a bit more bitterness. The solution: MOAR HOPS. I’ve brewed a few times with the Conan yeast strain used in Heady Topper, and I’ve found that this yeast strain tends mute the hop character that comes through in the beer. It throws its own wonderful esters and provides that great rounded mouthfeel, so I opted for it again this past Monday when rebrewing this beer. I increased my hop additions across the board, so we’ll see how that all turns out.
One minor issue with Monday’s brew: I forgot the Turbinado sugar. My plan is to boil, cool, and add the sugar tomorrow during active fermentation which will hopefully help dry out the finish of the beer a bit.
This Friday (the day before my birthday!) is Mama Said Hop You Out at a liquor store, not too far from my home. I’ve been to this event the past few years, and it’s a great chance to get some Hill Farmstead, Tree House, and other hard-to-find IPAs for only $30. This event is put on by Gordon’s Fine Wines in Waltham, MA. They do a few events like this each year, including a sour beer event and a dark beer event. The attendance on these events is usually less than 100 people and the beers are all – generally – amazing. These are some of my favorite events due to the intent nature, cheap price, and great finds. I realize I’m blowing up my spot by posting about these events, but if you’re in MA you should try to get to one.
September 10-12 is another of my favorite annual events: The New England Homebrewer’s Jamboree. My club, the Metro South Homebrew League (aka MASH HOLES), went to our first “Jambo” last year. It was an absolute blast. One of our guys took home the prize for best amber beer (the categories are broken down to light, amber, and dark). We’re hoping to not only snag a few more awards this year, but hopefully place in the People Choice Award for best club. We only brought about 10 people last year, and this year it looks like our group will double in size. It’s going to be a shitshow, and I couldn’t be more excited.
Last but not least: I’m going to the Great American Beer Festival this year! GABF is THE beer event, and I am pumped to have a chance to attend. I’ll be going to the American Homebrewer’s Association (AHA) session on Saturday with my younger brother, who happens to live in Boulder and will be putting me up for the week. The winners for each category are announced before the AHA Session, so we’ll have a brief period of time to create a plan of attack. Not to mention a week in Denver/Boulder. September is going to be an awesome month.
Holy shit, my hops are blowing up this year.
This photo is about a month-and-a-half old, so they’ve actually gone a little more crazy since these were taken. Not sure how much Willamette I’m going to get out of this year’s harvest, but I’m excited to use them in some of my darker beers (Willamette is my go-to hop for stouts and porters). This will be my first year of actually harvesting and using these hops. I had a decent amount last year, but I decided the amount wasn’t forth the effort to dry and use them. Excited to see how these turn out.
Pumpkin beers are coming! I’m a huge fan of pumpkin beers, and have developed two pumpkin-based homebrew recipes. They are two of my better recipes and I intend on brewing both the Symphony of Decay and Pumpkin Pie Porter this year, as well as a third pumpkin recipe. The third will probably be a pumpkin saison (tentatively titled: Saisonal Creep).