Thursday, August 3, 2017

IPA Day: A North Eastern influence is invading North Texas

Left: Shazam (credit: Intrinsic Smokehouse & Brewery).
Center: Cambodian Tiger (credit: Malai Kitchen)
Right: Underdog V2.0 (credit: Small Brewpub)

The arrival of August means it's time once again for IPA Day - the international celebration of the India Pale Ale. Last year, in honor of the occasion, I put together a piece entitled "Yesterday and today with North Texas IPAs," which discussed the past and present with regards to craft beer's most popular style. This time around, though, I'll put the spotlight solely on where things stand today, and how things have changed in the local IPA arena over the course of the last 12 months.

To start, I'll go back to something I said in last year's article that still remains true. Nearly all North Texas brewing operations, whether they be new or well-established, have produced at least one IPA to this point. Holdouts from a year ago included 3 Nations, Armadillo Ale Works and Wild Acre, but as of the start of the summer, all three of those entities had entered the local IPA fray. Those aren't the only new IPAs on the market, though, since nearly every brewery that's opened in 2017 has 'hop'ped on the bandwagon as well (Denton County, Good Neighbor, Hemisphere, HopFusion, The Manhattan Project, Thirsty Bro).

The biggest change in the local IPA landscape, however, has been the market introduction of IPAs with an East Coast influence. Originating at breweries like The Alchemist, Trillium and Tree House in New England, these cloudy beers feature bright tropical fruit notes, a fuller body and minimal bitterness. The haze and hop tones have led some to say they look and taste like juice, which has resulted in the term “juicy” becoming synonymous with New England Style IPAs (NEIPAs).

Yet, many wonder if NEIPAs are really a style all their own. That is, as opposed to just being a hybrid of a single or double IPA. Naturally, opinions vary, but perhaps the best attempt to define the style (or at least lay down a foundation on which to build on) was offered by Gordon Strong in the May/June issue of Brew Your Own Magazine (click here to read the article). He's certainly the right man for the job, in light of his list of qualifications. In addition to being the technical editor and commercial calibration specialist for Zymurgy Magazine, Strong is also the president of the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) and the principal author of the latest edition of the BJCP style guidelines.

Of course, guidelines are just...well, guidelines, and if we've learned anything about the craft beer industry over the years, it's that style guidelines are open to interpretation. And, when it comes to NEIPAs, the story is no different in North Texas. Just consider the range of NEIPAs that have hit the local market in the past year. It's a given that they've all been hoppy (to varying degrees), but some have been malty, while others have been bone dry. Bitterness has been all over the map, with beers having anywhere from a somewhat thick to an ultra-thin body.

What that says to me is, when Strong suggests that the NEIPA is an evolving style, he's not kidding. At least based on what has been served locally, what does or does not represent a NEIPA is still a matter of debate. In any case, judging by the style's popularity, it appears as if NEIPAs will continue to draw interest for some time to come.

As for what there is to drink along these lines in North Texas, a list of NE-inspired IPAs is given below. Keep in mind that many, if not all, of these beers are released on a periodic basis with extremely limited availability. My advice? Find one...drink one...and see what your tastebuds think of this developing style.

North Texas takes:
A Louisiana adaptation:
Of future focus (i.e. recipes to come from North Texas breweries in development):

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