New England IPA is all the rage these days. The recipe critique threads on reddit seem dominated by them. And rightfully so, as these juicy drinkable hop potions bring IPA into nearly every beer drinker’s realm of enjoyment. The only drinkers that don’t seem to like them are those who strictly prefer clarity or just don’t like IPA.
Having focused on brewing this style of IPA for several years since I heard Jeremy from Lagunitas (of all places) recommending using oats in IPA, I figured I’d give my tips, tricks, and recommendations for how to make your own version of one of these hazy, hoppy delights. Unfortunately to completely cover the topic this will have to be a series. First up is the theory behind these beers. Why so hazy, how to get the haze, and why the haze doesn’t matter.
Focus on Hoppiness, Not Haziness
NE IPA is seen by many folks as simply hazy IPA, but the haze is a secondary concern. The style is mainly focused on two things, hoppiness without intense bitterness, and silky smooth and rich mouthfeel. The haze is a result of a few techniques that are used to create these two results, not a goal of it’s own. While some pro and home brewers are admitting to using techniques to intentionally create haze in the final product, such as adding flour to the boil, these techniques are not necessary. The haze in most of the NE style IPA’s is not put there intentionally, at least, not just for the sake of hazy beer. The haze in NE IPA is a result of a few techniques that are used for their sensory effects on your palate, not your eyes. The effect of any one of these variables on haze is probably pretty small, but combined the haze is substantial, but the results for hoppiness and mouthfeel are worth the poor visual, at least in my opinion. Some find the haziness totally unpalatable, while others see it as a sign of a great beer. I’m squarely in the middle. I don’t find the haziness particularly appealing, especially if it’s yeasty, but I can forgive the appearance if the mouthfeel and taste of the beer is excellent.
Techniques for huge hop flavor and aroma with low bitterness
1. No fining or filtration
It has long been reported that fining and filtration reduce hop flavor and aroma. To a large degree this makes sense. Hop compounds stick to cell walls of microorganisms, so removing those microorganisms removes those hop compounds as well. This is well established in scientific literature, and is also the mechanism of action of hops to inhibit bacterial growth in beer. Whether or not those hop compounds that are removed with yeast flocculation are good or bad is up for debate to some degree. But in the interest of keeping as many hop compounds in the beer as possible, these beers are not filtered or fined, and I suspect that their popularity is at least a decent indication that the hop compounds attached to non-flocculent yeast are not overtly off-putting, at least for these yeasts, or in this style. Filtration has always been avoided for almost all examples of highly rated IPA, even for the clear west coast style.
2. Lots of late hops
The vast majority of the hops in NE IPA should be added toward the end of the boil, in the whirlpool, or in the dry hop. This is in fairly stark contrast to a recipe like Pliny the Elder which has huge bittering charges at 90, 60, and 45 minutes. Most of the hops in NE IPA are added at the end of the boil to capture the hop flavor and aroma without isomerizing too much AA and contributing huge bitterness. Many brewers seek to gain all their bitterness from these late hops, and that can work very well. Personally, I try to use at least a little bit of hops for bitterness at the beginning of the boil, as I feel it adds a nice background bitterness that lays the foundation for the hop flavors. Adding a huge charge of hops in the whirlpool or hop stand contributes huge flavor and aroma. Many brewers will add multiple additions at different steeping temperatures in the whirlpool or hop stand. These huge additions in the whirlpool probably don’t have a huge effect on the haze factor, but whirlpool hops can contribute tannin and polyphenols which are haze contributors.
3. Dry Hopping during active fermentation
Dry hopping during active fermentation is done to take advantage of a thing called biotransformation. This has been covered in depth elsewhere, so I won’t attempt to cover it here, but suffice it to say that some yeast can take certain hop compounds and transform them into different hop compounds that are very tasty. Only certain yeasts do this, and the dry hopping must occur during active fermentation to take advantage of the process. The consequence of this is that dry hopping while yeast are still active has been reported to disrupt yeast flocculation. This is just a theory right now, but it does seem to hold at least a little water as the yeast haze in some NE IPA’s doesn’t seem to have any other cause. The best examples of these beers do not have mistreated yeast or otherwise poor yeast handling or brewing process, so it would seem that “bad brewing” is not the cause of the yeast haze in these beers.
4. Huge dry hop charge
To go with dry hopping during active fermentation, many NE IPA’s use multiple dry hop charges, some during and some after fermentation, but all total the dry hops are frequently pushing half of the entire hop bill, which is already quite substantial. These huge dry hop charges serve to increase the hop presence of the beer without substantially adding to the bitterness of the beer. The BJCP guide lists dry hop haze as acceptable for American IPA and Double IPA, so it follows that a large dry hop charge would result in some haze.
5. Estery, biotransformation capable yeast that happen to be lightly flocculent
This point is a bit debatable, but the two most commonly used yeasts in NE IPA are Wyeast WY1318 – London Ale III and The Alchemist’s Conan (or a deriviative of the same). While WY1318 is reported to be a heavy flocculator outside of NE IPA, I have not had that experience, it has always been relatively tough for me to get to flocc out, but I’ve also only used in in high protein beers, so possibly that interrupts it’s flocculation, I’m not sure, but to me it is a low flocculating yeast. Conan is well known to be lightly flocculent and a haze contributor. These yeasts are selected for two reasons: One, They are both capable of biotransformation, as far as I’m aware. Two, they both produce esters that are very complimentary to IPA type hops. Peach, berries, stone fruit, but not so much of the darker fruit esters or the like. One other popular yeast is WLP007 which is an extremely high flocculating yeast, but is reported to be virtually non flocculent in NE IPA. I haven’t experimented with this yet as I’ve liked Conan better than 007 in a side by side with an IPA, so I’ve stuck to using Conan or 1318. These yeasts may play a role in mouthfeel as well, but I can’t figure out how to separate out just this component to test this theory. I would recommend selecting yeast primarily based on enhancing the hop presence and not as much on the flocculation character.
Techniques for silky smooth and rich mouthfeel
1. High Chloride water
High chloride levels are reported to increase the body of the beer and provide a smooth and silky mouthfeel. You can test this on your own by using RO water to make your coffee and tossing a single grain of CaCl into the cup of coffee. Make one cup with CaCl and one without and taste them blind and see what you think. One other consequence of increased CaCl is that a high level of chloride in the brewing water is reported to cause some haziness in the beer. I can’t confirm this through any experience of my own other than in NE IPA, but my NE IPA’s are certainly high in Chloride and certainly high in haziness. The high chloride is usually matched with a similar level of sulphate to enhance hop character, but we’ll cover that more in the next part of the series.
2. Flavorful basemalt
Many NE IPA’s use a flavorful basemalt like Maris Otter, American Pale Ale Malt, Golden Promise or similar malts to enhance the malty perception without adding sweetness that can detract from the hops. Many of these malts, in my opinion, offer greater mouthfeel than American 2 row. Perhaps they are more prone to dextrin formation or maybe it’s just in my head, but these malts seem to be very important to the overall flavor profile of these beers, and I think they enhance the body as well. I also like to blend base malts such as using 50/50 2row/maris otter.
3. Protein Rich adjuncts
Protein rich adjuncts like flaked grains, in particular oats or wheat, provide a very silky, rich, and enjoyable mouthfeel without making the beer feel heavy or too full bodied. The residual proteins also contribute significant haze to the beer. I don’t think that the mouthfeel of the beer is terribly affected by the haze itself, as those proteins are too large to really coat the palate, and an experiment I did seemed to indicate that a clear beer made with oats had the same mouthfeel as a hazy beer made with oats, but I think that the haze is effectively left in the beer due to lack of filtration or fining, similar to hefeweizen, but for the sake of hop presence as described above.
In summary, many of these aspects create haze in the beer, but none of them are used specifically to do so. The main focus of these beers is on the hoppiness and mouthfeel, and the haze is a result of attempting to get those two things to a level that is difficult, if not impossible to achieve without the haze.
In the next part, I’ll cover more specifics of recipe creation and provide a sample recipe.