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Kevin Davey on the Thinking Behind “Cold IPA”

If you don’t like the phrase “cold IPA,” blame Kevin Davey, brewmaster at lager-centric Wayfinder Beer in Portland, Oregon. He coined it to describe a particular lager-ale hybrid; since then, a growing throng of brewers have picked up on the trend. Here, he explains more about the term and where it may be going.

Kevin Davey Nov 4, 2022 - 6 min read

Kevin Davey on the Thinking Behind “Cold IPA” Primary Image

When we made Relapse IPA to commemorate Relapse Records’ 30th anniversary in 2020, I never imagined that it would cause such controversy.

I came up with the recipe mainly as a lager brewer’s answer to the brut IPA trend. The term “cold IPA” was certainly cheeky, but it really was a great way to describe a lighter and more refreshing IPA. We had a meeting where we brought up the obvious complaint that all IPAs are cold and it doesn’t make sense—but in my view, it does makes sense. Asahi Super Dry is actually super-wet. There is no milk in cream ale. Hell, even India pale ales aren’t made for shipping to India anymore (and some of them aren’t even pale). It’s all just a way of communicating to the customer what they’re going to get.

The biggest fan of the trend is Shaun O’Sullivan, brewmaster at 21st Amendment in San Francisco. He’s ended up making many of them. (I really need to spend some time down in the Bay Area and brew some with him.) After that, I really saw a lot of them being brewed everywhere. Emails came in from brewers in Spain, Poland, Japan—even Florida—asking about how to make it. I think the tipping point was when we made the iconic one with John Harris at Ecliptic Brewing here in Portland. That’s when the internet collectively loved or bashed the style. The beer was fantastic. It sold really well, too. He has since re-brewed it.

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