Just because it’s the dead of winter doesn’t mean we have to deny our love affair with hops. I might be dabbling with some barrel aged stouts and marshmallow adjunct porters, but IPA is my one true beer love. So, here are five new IPAs that I’m drinking right now.
Okay, that sounds like I’m drinking these beers all at once, which would be alarming. Like, “intervention time” alarming. But I’m not drinking all five of these beers at the same time. I’m spreading them out, like one here, one there. Individually. Sometimes, on completely separate days. Like a normal person. I don’t have a problem! You have a problem!
Satulah Mountain Brewing is a small brewery in the mountainous western corner of North Carolina. I happened to be traveling through the small town that Satulah calls home and discovered that I really, really like their IPA. Cullahaza is actually a series, with different volumes that focus on different hops. Volume 1 used Citra, Amarillo and Chinook. Volume 2 is a lighter than Volume 1, using El Dorado, Citra, Galaxy and Bravo hops. Both of those are long gone, and I got ahold of their current offering, Volume 3, which is brewed with Citra, Galaxy and Simcoe in the style de New England. It’s hazy, but doesn’t crush your sweet tooth. It smells fruity, pours pale yellow and has a creamy mouthfeel with some grapefruit and orange notes. There’s some nice zest on the end too. It’s a great New England IPA that doesn’t go over the top into orange juice territory. I appreciate that restraint.
Anchor is best known for their steam beer, but they make IPAs too. And this new one, Fog Breaker, has just been added to their year-round portfolio. It’s full of 2-Row pale malt, countered by Citra, Cascade and Denali hops. It has a smooth mouthfeel that’s more slippery than creamy. It’s not citrusy but not full of pine either—instead landing in the middle. It’s only a little bit hazy, only a little bit bitter. Ultimately, it feels a bit nostalgic—like a throwback to the West Coast IPA, but much lighter. You could easily call this a pale ale, because it’s so easy to drink, even though it comes in at 6.8%.
For the last 10 years, Stone Brewing has held a Homebrewers Rally at their Headquarters where the winners get to see their beer brewed and distributed by Stone. For this year’s beer, Stone collaborated with those winners (Corey Magers and Elizabeth Bakas) and Burgeon Beer Company to make a hazy New England IPA that has the bitterness of an old school West Coast IPA. Mojay is a mashup of Mosaic hops and orange juice, and it sums up what you’ll find inside this big bomber. It’s damn good, no matter which side of the West Coast/East Coast fence you stand on.
Okay, this is a Christmas beer and Christmas is over. Settle down, Scrooge. If you’re looking for a seasonally-appropriate IPA, look no further. Drakes brewed this baby with fresh spruce tips and juniper berries (like gin) and the result is freaking delicious. The spruce tips are all over this beer and there’s an underlying herbal quality that’s super enticing. It pours light, with a mellow head and has the easy-drinking character of a session IPA, but is way more complex (see herbs, spruce above). There’s plenty of hop bite, plenty of pine, but it’s actually a lighter alternative to the stouts and porters you’d typically be snacking on during this time of year.
No doubt you’ve caught wind of this whole Brut IPA trend. Just about everyone is making one, and I get it: they’re kind of fun. Imagine the qualities of a super dry Champagne super imposed onto your favorite IPA. It’s almost like the anti-New England IPA, actually. Anyway, New Belgium’s entry into the Brut IPA category has bubbles for days, pours a light yellow and disappears in your mouth before you swallow it. Seriously, little elves sneak into your mouth and suck the beer out with straws before you can gulp. The surprising effect of the super dryness is that the hops take a prominent role, because there’s not a lot of malt sweetness. That’s not to say this beer lacks balance. There’s some soft fruit in there, like honey dew, but it’s mellow as hell and can barely hold its own up to the bitter hops at play. I dig it, but I’m not sure I want to see this style take over the scene.