I get why beer-style purists debate how and where New England–style IPAs fit in the beer taxonomy. They are distinct from other IPAs, even as they bring their own perspective on what it means to be “hoppy.”
The truth is, I don’t care which category they fall under. I prefer to focus on enjoying them.
A classic West Coast IPA is a fine example of the transformative power of hop bitterness, but the first time I sipped a Heady Topper from The Alchemist in Vermont, it was an epiphany. It was more bitter than many recent IPAs I’ve encountered, but the taste of its hops was rich and nuanced, offering much more than simple citrus or pine. Later, I’d fall in love with Juicy Bits from WeldWerks in Greeley, Colorado, along with its double-dry-hopped variants.
The bottom line? New England–style (or hazy or juicy) IPAs are less a repudiation of sharp bitterness than a celebration of the extended spectrum of hop flavors.
As usual, we can get there without going all-grain—but first, let’s deconstruct the style’s core traits, so we can plot the most effective plan of attack.
Fruity Hop Flavors
The heart of this style is complex, fruit-forward hop character coupled with relatively low bitterness. That character begins with the specific hops you choose. You’ll want hops with citrus, melon, or tropical-fruit character. Citra, Mosaic, and Lemondrop are all good starting places, along with many of the hop varieties from New Zealand and Australia, such as Galaxy, Motueka, and Pacific Jade. While you can certainly stick with a single variety, layering different varieties together will pay dividends.
Once you’ve selected the proper hops, you need to harness them with the right process. While a small bittering addition is not out of line, juicy IPAs forego the standard hopping schedule. The bulk of the hops come into play with a hop stand or whirlpool addition after flame-out. It’s fairly common for brewers to stagger additions over time in the hop stand to emphasize different aspects of the hops at progressively lower temperatures, as well as to draw these aspects from individual varieties.
Dry hopping is another key element of the process, but there’s a twist. Normally, dry hopping takes place in the secondary or keg, to avoid outgassing the delicate aromatics. Juicy IPAs often include the usual dry-hopping step, but many brewers precede that addition with an earlier one during primary fermentation. The idea is that active yeast interacts with the hop compounds, altering them via a process called “biotransformation.”
While dry hopping during primary fermentation definitely seems to contribute to the hazy appearance, there’s some dispute about the impact on flavor. Regardless, this is part of the secret sauce for brewing NEIPAs. Some yeasts are more supportive of biotransformation. Two of the most common are Wyeast WY1318 London Ale III and White Labs WLP007 Dry English Ale; either will also add a touch of ester to support the hop character without dominating it.
A creamy, slightly thicker mouthfeel is another part of the whole juicy experience. Some of the usual techniques come into play—from higher-protein grains, such as oats and wheat, to increasing the level of dextrins—but water chemistry is even more important. It all comes down to chloride and its ratio with sulfate. To simplify, higher chloride favors malt, while higher sulfate emphasizes hop bitterness. Balancing toward chloride will bring out the malt, soften the bitterness, and add some silkiness to the mouthfeel. Aim for somewhere between 1.5–2.0 parts chloride to 1 part sulfate, with a baseline of 90 ppm or so of sulfate. This adjustment will be specific to your own water profile.
It would be remiss not bring up “milkshake IPAs” at this point. This sub-category of NEIPAs adds lactose to build sweetness and thicker mouthfeel. This can be pleasant, if not overdone, but it’s a matter of preference. Aside from a potential issue of lactose intolerance, milkshake IPAs can be cloying, and that sweetness can distract from the hop flavors. If you haven’t already, try some commercial examples and decide for yourself.
Ultimately, the haziness of NEIPAs is a direct result of how brewers build the hop character and mouthfeel. High-protein grains, heroic amounts of hops, and low-flocculating yeast—with all that, it would be hard to achieve much clarity, even if you tried. However, just as there are some hazy IPAs with West Coast levels of bitterness, there are juicy IPAs that are not all that hazy. Some brewers have minimized the haze by relying on heavyweight hop stands instead of low-flocculating yeast while leaning more on water treatment than oats or wheat for mouthfeel.
A thicker haze does add to the aesthetic of a juicy IPA—but I think it’s purely optional.
Easy Recipe Construction
Most NEIPA recipes are aimed at all-grain brewers, who can bring oats and/or wheat to the grist to build up the mouthfeel. If you’re an extract brewer, the style is still within your grasp because you can get a similar effect using a wheat malt extract along with dextrin malt and Golden Naked Oats (a huskless oat crystal malt) as steeping grains see “Bring On the Oats: Tips for Extract-Brewing Hazy IPA,” beerandbrewing.com.
The other key elements—water chemistry, hopping schedule, and yeast selection—kick in at the boil phase or later, so they’ll work just as well for an extract brewer.