04 August 2017

Quantum juice

Session logoIt took Gail Ann Williams of the San Francisco-based Beer by BART blog to bring The Session around to the inevitable topic of New England IPA, a style which seems to be just clinging on as the current darling of the beer-geek-at-large. It is, of course, not without controversy, breaking many of the hard rules of brewing IPA in the American style, where cleanness was once king, and accepted as the best way to optimise quality hops. Now it's all about extreme late-hopping, getting the beer from the fermenter to the drinker in the shortest possible time, eschewing clarification, and the use of estery English ale yeasts to add body and mouthfeel.

I'm fairly agnostic on the merits of the whole process. When it works it makes wonderful-tasting (if butt-ugly) beer. But it seems that balancing the whole equation is a tough proposition and not every brewery is up to it. Often those fuzzy yeast and proteins will interrupt the delicate hop flavours; too much bitterness is another flaw that just throws the whole recipe out of whack. Juiciness is the name of the game, but it can be hard to pin down.

And then, sometimes, one encounters a New England IPA that does something completely out of the ordinary. With beers in the style coming thick (ha!) and fast, it's not difficult to sort them into the ones that get the formula right and the ones that don't. On a recent trip to Liverpool I encountered BrewDog's Hazy Jane, and from the first sip thought I knew which kind it was. It's typically unattractive, with a dense custard-like appearance topped by a desultory effort at a head, but the flavour immediately exploded outward in a riot of ripe tropical fruit: mango, pineapple, guava: all of that lot. I'm in for a good time here, I thought. The second taste introduced a seam of pine resin bitterness, still laying down those fresh hop vibes, but distinctly harsher and less New-Englandy. And that's where it settled. The only other complexity was a wisp of savoury yeast bite it would have been better off without.

It's entirely possible to appreciate this as a big West Coast hop-bomb, but just that tantalising flash of tropicality at the beginning had me expecting something more fun and fruity. I also have no idea why this strange phenomenon happened: was it just my sense of taste at fault, could I have imagined the mango? It's a beer of many questions, and maybe I need to give it another go. I leave it here as just another example of how diverse the New England IPA style can be, even within the flavour profile of individual beers. How Hazy Jane manages to exist in a state of both juiciness and bitterness is for better minds than mine to work out.


  1. it's all about extreme late-hoping

    I've drunk some of those all right.

    1. Too slow, Captain Typo. I had that one fixed before you posted ;)