Hazy, Juicy, New England IPAs have been the most popular beers on many a craft brewery’s taproom in the last three years. Other than one notable holdout, just about every microbrewery in my neck of the woods has at least once NEIPA on the menu. And that’s no surprise—the style is very approachable for longtime craft beer lovers and newbies alike. Whenever I do a beer appreciation session with folks who tell me they don’t like beer, as much as I hate to say it, NEIPA is an easy crutch. The fruity flavours, the soft mouthfeel, the low bitterness make this a style so many people love.
Defining the Style
When I shared my first NEIPA recipe, the style hadn’t yet been recognized as an official beer style by the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP), which had last been updated in 2015. The BJCP has since included NEIPA in its provisional styles, which will get added to the new styles guidelines. By the BJCP’s definition, a New England IPA is:
An American IPA with intense fruit flavors and aromas, a soft body, and smooth mouthfeel, and often opaque with substantial haze. Less perceived bitterness than traditional IPAs but always massively hop forward. This emphasis on late hopping, especially dry hopping, with hops with tropical fruit qualities lends the specific ‘juicy’ character for which this style is known.
At its heart, NEIPA shares characteristics with English IPA, in that it accentuates and highlights ester-driven English yeast strains. Esters are fruity flavours produced during fermentation.
But while it shares the ester profile of its English cousin, NEIPA does differ in how its yeast responds to fermentation. English IPAs tend to have high-flocculating yeast. In other words, the yeast is quick to drop to the bottom of the fermenter, leaving a clear beer behind. With NEIPA, we tend to use English yeast strains with lower flocculation.
So, like an English IPA, NEIPA will feature fruity esters. But how does it compare to an American West Coast IPA? Well, it practically inverts the entire experience. West Coast IPAs tend to be clear, with a pronounced bitterness and hop aromas that highlight notes of pine. By contrast, NEIPAs are hazy, much less bitter—thanks to late-hop additions—and taste juicier and fruitier.
While the style is fruity, that should not be confused with sweet. The higher esters may give a perception of a sweet beer, but that perception should come strictly from the esters and not from unfermented sugars. In other words, you do not want a high final gravity, as that would have a negative impact on the beer’s drinkability.
…with a soft mouthfeel…
The other noticeable difference between traditional IPAs (English and American), and NEIPA is a distinct mouthfeel that is often described as soft and pillowy. Here too, this sensation can leave an impression that the beer is sweet, but that perception comes from the dextrins, not from unfermented sugars.
Some attribute the mouthfeel to the use of high-protein malts like wheat and oat for the distinct body of the style. However, others have made the style without high-protein malts and instead attribute the mouthfeel to one of the most important considerations of the style: water chemistry. In my own experience, water chemistry, combined with dry-hopping, are the two biggest factors that will help you brew your best version of this style.
…requiring close attention to water chemistry…
Whereas West Coast IPAs tend to use more sulphate to accentuate bitterness, NEIPAs use higher chloride. Your target ratio is between 1:1 and 3:1 of chloride to sulphate, which is the near inverse of what you would use in a West Coast IPA. Each brewery has its own “golden ratio,” so you should embrace the experimental nature of this style and see what ratio works for you. I have provided specific ratios in my NEIPA recipes, but those are guides only. If you want to follow a specific example, WeldWerks has been on the record with its target chloride and sulphate levels: 150-175 ppm chloride and 75-100 ppm sulphate.
Why make these water adjustments? Because the higher chloride brings out the malt character of the beer, which many believe helps with the mouthfeel and overall balance. The sulphate level ensures you accentuate the hops without accentuating their bitterness.
…a different approach to hop additions
As I mentioned above, we want less pine, more fruit in NEIPA. We get more fruit in four ways:
- Using only late-hop additions, adding hops in the whirlpool and/or during fermentation, and adding few, if any, during the boil. This means we get a big focus on hop aroma and much less on bitterness. By adding the hops during fermentation (dry-hopping), a bio-transformation happens as the hops interact with the yeast, which also contributes to the style’s flavour. While this has yet to be fully tested, the theory is that by adding hops during active fermentation, hop oils will be transformed by metabolic pathways of yeast into different chemicals with additional fruity properties. Regardless, dry hopping has the single largest impact on the hop character of NEIPA.
- Using new hop varieties. Many new hop varieties have intense fruit flavours associated with tropical fruits like mango, passionfruit, guava, papaya, as well as stone fruits like apricot and peach, or citrus like orange and tangerine. Rare is the NEIPA that features resiny, piney, dank, or herbaceous characteristics. In other words, you want hops like Citra, Mosaic, Galaxy, Azacca, Simcoe, Amarillo, El Dorado and newer experimental varieties that may not even have names yet.
- Using a lot of them. Not only are we saving a large share of the hops for the cool side of brewing, but we’re also using a large quantity of them. Specifically, during the whirlpool, you could add 0.75–1 oz/gal. During dry hopping, you could use as much as 0.5–1.5 oz/gal.
- And dry-hopping during active fermentation. If nothing else, you dry-hop during active fermentation because active fermentation will keep the hop matter in suspension and help you extract as much of their flavour as possible. Dry-hopping at this stage has the added benefit of minimizing oxygen, which will keep your NEIPA fresher longer. And this is a style that needs to be enjoyed as fresh as possible. The high hop rates mean you should not age this beer. Enjoy it as soon as you can.
The result is a beer with low bitterness. Despite the large hop additions, NEIPAs typically have less than 65 IBUs.
…a neutral malt profile…
With the hops stealing the show in this style, the malt profile is pretty neutral, acting as a blank canvass for the hops to shine. That means caramel malts are typically kept off the grain bill, especially darker caramel malts. The most you’ll get from the malt is a touch of grain or bread flavours, and maybe some toasty, honey-like biscuit malt flavour.
In practical terms, the style is made using similar base malts to American IPAs. That means, pale, 2-row, and Pilsen malts. But sometimes you’ll find British pale malts like Golden Promise, Pearl, and Maris Otter. Rather than complement those base malts with crystal malts, you would typically complement with high-protein malts like wheat, and oats. But as I mentioned above, there is some debate on the degree to which high-protein malts impact mouthfeel. Some have argued that high-protein malts help with haze stability. Regardless, a large share of the styles on the market today make use of high-protein malts, so you’re in good company if you choose to use them in your recipe. And your focus should be on flavour, not haze for the sake of haze.
…and an English approach to fermentation
I mentioned at the top, the close ties NEIPA has to English style beers, with its fruity esters. As with any beer, yeast plays a huge role in driving those flavours.
A consensus has emerged here, with most breweries using a medium-to-low attenuating, medium-to-low flocculating, high-ester-producing strain. Many have been on the record with their specific choice of London Ale III (Wyeast 1318), or Dry English Ale (White Labs WLP007). New varieties have since popped up, marketed specifically for this style.
Why do you want lower attenuation? Because it helps balance the intense hop characteristics of the beer while contributing to the soft mouthfeel. In other words, it helps you get a fuller-bodied beer without cloying.
As I mentioned near the top, we want expressive yeasts to contribute fruity notes like apricot, peach, and tropical fruit.
And we want lower flocculation to improve haze stability (with the same caveat I mentioned earlier—you’re not making this beer hazy for the sake of making it hazy.
Now, it’s your turn
If you’re looking to brew your own version of this delicious style, I have two recipes for you to try.
If it’s your first time brewing an NEIPA, I recommend starting with my Fifty-Fifty NEIPA. I have kept the cool-side hop additions to a manageable level, and have sought to create the simplest dry-hoping schedule I could. I even cut down the mash and boil times in half, hence the name (50/50).
If you’re feeling ambitious and want to go true to the style in the purest form, then you want to try my original NEIPA recipe. This one has lots and lots of hop varieties and dry-hop additions. It’s a labour of love, so don’t say I didn’t warn you! It’ll be worth the sweat and tears though.
Once bottling day arrives, be sure to look at my tips for bottling your NEIPA. All those hops make this beer a bit more challenging to bottle, but I’ve experimented with different approaches, so you’ll have a leg up.
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