Et Tu, Brut IPA?
If you follow me on Instagram (@bostonbeerhunter, if you were curious), you can gather from a cursory glance at my pictures that I drink a lot of IPAs. And most of them, truth be told, fall into the category of that ubiquitous yellow favorite of my home state: the hazy New England IPA (NEIPA).
I recognize that this beer style has been condemned by many for its status as a fad and hype-builder, but I can’t deny the truth: I enjoy the darn things. And since I’ve been drinking them for over four years, I feel entitled to my status as an early adopter of the style that has quickly become the most sought-after and talked about it in the Northeast craft beer scene.
The only thing that drives a line outside of a brewery like Trillium as quickly as a new juice bomb is a decadent pastry stout, typically a collaboration with another line-attracting brewery (see also, J. Wakefield). We live in the age of haze-slingers and pastry stout junkies. We live in the age of the Triple IPA.
Having admitted my own love for NEIPAs, it might surprise you to learn that I’m starting to root for the underdog: in this case, the comparatively humble lagers and porters that some brewers take no small measure of pride in producing — a steadfast example of allegiance to classic styles with pure procedure.
Take breweries like Notch, Idle Hands (a KYC client), Brewery Silvaticus, and contract brewers Small Change Brewing. They have shown a consistent dedication to making traditional ales and lagers, even as market demands among young craft beer drinkers sway heavily in favor of whatever new hazy beer releases are being plastered all over Instagram.
Idle Hands is a good example of a brewery that has successfully straddled the line (producing high-quality NEIPAs like Four Seam and their coveted Double IPA Six Seam, while focusing on their traditional — and delicious — pilsners and lagers). Small Change Brewing, alternatively, is focusing exclusively on overlooked and underserved styles. Most recently they released a robust porter that was refreshing (and delicious) in its simplicity.
Into this room, still standing in the corner and observing the debate, comes the next wave of potential hype-gatherers, chief among them the Brut IPA. I’ve given into curiosity and tried a good 5 to 6 of these dry, ‘champagne-like’ IPAs and I have yet to understand the appeal. Is it mere excitement over a new style? Is it simply a style that hasn’t been perfected in the Northeast yet (it has its origins, like most modern American IPAs, in California)? Or is it a small indicator that folks are ready to try something different?
I’m taking a wait-and-see approach on this one.