IBU has been an important craft beer label initialism for a number of years. It stands for International Bittering Units and it’s a numerical score that indicates (you guessed it) bitterness. In the beer world, the higher the number the more bitter the beer. Scores of 25 might represent a mild bitterness while a score of 100 or more might indicate a face-puckering bitterness. As a side note, bitterness isn’t limited to hop-heavy beer as stouts using roasted grains or coffee also present a bitterness.
Over past four to five years, the beer world has seemingly turned 180 degrees. Pushing the limits of 100 + IBU ales has given way to the pillowy soft juicy experiences of New England style IPA. Many brewers today forego the addition of bittering hops in the kettle in favor of a post-boil dry-hopping. While the boiling wort releases the bitter alpha acids found in hop oil, dry-hopping or late addition hops allow for a different hop experience.
Fractal Mosaic Galaxy by Equilibrium Brewing Tasting: January 30, 2018 Style: IPA Beer # 1,128 ABV: 6.8%
I really wasn’t impressed with my first can of Fractal Mosaic Galaxy. It was an easy-drinking beer that went down quick but it was demure and unassuming. While having my second can, it dawned on me the demure piece was bitterness. I see this beer in a whole new light. Taking it in slowly, Fractal Mosaic Galaxy offers up a swirling range of mellow hop characteristics like orange rind 90 points
Tasting: September 29, 2017 Beer # 1,095 ABV: 6.8%
Apparently, they’ve tweaked the earlier version of Wrench IPA. According to the label, they had to “unlearn everything”. I’m glad they did as this is very New England. It’s entirely smooth, drinkable and crisp. I get a pithy lemon, pear some mellow mango and a wisp of pineapple. Wrench IPA is a very nice 91 points.
Tasting: September 29, 2017 Beer # 1,096 ABV: 5.4%
Label says that this is tastefully dry-hopped with Cascade, Centennial and Comet hops. Simplistic and not much depth here but still entirely drinkable. A tad fizzy a little clunky bitter on the finish. I’d tab Green Room at 86 points.
Silent Disco by Funk Brewing
Tasting: September 30, 2017 Style: American IPA Beer#: 1, 097 ABV: 6.8%
Pear and citrus upfront. Just a tad fizzy and has some minor throat burn. However, still a well-balanced easy drinking beer. In conclusion, 90 points.
There’s this “east coast versus west coast” thing in beer. Funny, there seems to be an east coast versus west coast thing virtually everywhere. In football, there is the west coast offense versus northeastern smash mouth football. Rap music had a bicoastal rivalry that resulted in more than one murder. For many years, craft beer has had a rivalry. The west coast (specifically California) has Pliny the Elder and the east coast (specifically Vermont) has Heady Topper and fans bicker over which is better.
In Massachusetts, brewers like Trillium and Tree House have kicked up the rivalry a bit with a trendy push to hazy looking or unfiltered juice bombs. These beers moved away from the assault of bitterness found in popular west coast style IPA and highlight flavors of fleshy citrus and sweet tropical fruits. However, brewers from Oregon have claimed to have been creating these juice bombs long before their east coast counterparts.
What makes New England Style IPA different than other IPA?
Higher protein malts, such as wheat and oats, in the grist (POH: grist is de-husked grain or could mean grain already ground)
Use of contemporary, fruit-forward hops varietals
Restrained bitterness from fewer kettle-hops additions (POH: kettle hops are added at start of boil) and higher whirlpool-hops rates (POH: Whirlpool is cooked beer or wort that is pumped into a vessel at high velocity causing a whirlpool)
Adjusted water chemistry to favor higher chloride levels than typical for IPAs
Fermenting with a low-attenuating (POH: attenuating is the amount or percentage of sugar consumed by yeast), low-flocculating (POH: flocculation describes how yeast react at the end of their life-cycle), ester-forward yeast strain
Unique dry-hopping techniques and schedules, including dry hopping during fermentation
If you don’t live in New England, what’s a beer lover to do?
The New England style IPA has gained a strong legion of fans but unfortunately, the most popular brewers in the northeast are self-distribution and typically brewery-only releases. Trading sites on Facebook are bursting with activity and interest in juice bombs from the northeast.
Other regional brewers have started to introduce their own interpretation of the style and I’m glad to have my hands on two popular entries from the great craft beer state of Michigan.
M-43 Old Nation Brewing
(C) 2017 popsonhops
Tasting: September 8, 2017 Style: New England Style IPA Beer # : 1,092 ABV: 6.8%
M-43 is a 136-mile Michigan highway that connects the East Lansing area, Kalamazoo and points southwest. The highway also passes through Williamston, the location of Old Nation Brewing. This beer could be the quintessential New England style IPA of the region and I’m happy that my friend gave me one from his recent trade.
M-43 is the first release in Old Nation’s “New Orthodox” IPA series, it uses Calypso, Simcoe, Citra and Amarillo hops. According to the brewery, it promises citrus, tropical notes of pineapple, mango and grapefruit with a soft, pillowy mouthfeel. Bitterness is moderate at an IBU of 65.
I got plenty of juice with mango, papaya and pineapple. Really enjoyable, I wish I had more. 94 points.
Tasting: September 8, 2017 Style: New England Style IPA Beer # : 1,093 ABV: 5.7%
Juicy? Not in my book but entirely drinkable. Has a lot of tea leaf and honey. I like that the bitterness is throttled back. The flavor does drop-out mid-palate and there is some odd fizziness on the finish. In conclusion, Juicy is a solid beer at 92 points.