We live in Scotland and tend to be misguided and premature on the notion of summer, but it does almost feel like it’s just around the corner for 2019. With a few hints of sunshine, we’re now turning our focus to our scheduling and plans for product offerings during the hotter (less cold) months. No amount of wind and rain can diminish our beer-garden optimism!
As you may know, we’ve been running our “Surf Line” series of West Coast inspired pales and IPA’s. The focus here was to show-case new and exciting hop varieties, held up by a striking yet refreshing bitterness, and with a malt bill to complement. It’s been a great experience for us brewers, who have had the chance to try out hop varieties out-with the core range recipes. We are currently working on the last two beers for the series, and so it’s time to start thinking ahead to what’s coming next…
However, there’s a big murky elephant in the room… We started off with the West Coast of America, so the obvious direction – as far as beer goes – is to take the series to the East Coast of America. In recent years (for the UK at least) we’ve seen what has become arguably a pivotal style in this “craft” beer movement. The “New England IPA” started to hit the scenes, causing somewhat of a controversy amongst beer drinkers. Originating from American breweries in the North East around Vermont and New England, we began to see the aesthetic of beer change quite considerably, with more drinkers coming around to the idea of a turbid, hazy beer. This meant that more hop character and protein-rich malts could be utilised, without concern for the detriment to the visual appeal of the beer. I think fundamentally we’ve been experiencing a push towards fuller-flavoured beers, with a focus on quality over economy.
Wherever you stand on your opinions on this new-wave of beer style, we’d be remiss in not turning our attention to it. We’ve been putting our heads together and discussing what we would want our version to be. It’s such a new style, relatively speaking, and there have been many differing approaches and opinions on what it is. Certainly from our experience and examples we’ve tried, there are some key points to consider. To give you a little insight into the thinking behind it all, I’ll rough-out the considerations from a brewer’s perspective:
- Firstly, the hop character should be significant, pronounced, and forward. This is where modern US, Australian, and NZ hops can really shine. We want punchy, aromatic (almost pungent) fleshy fruit notes on the nose. This should also carry through to the experience in the flavour. In process, that means; late hops, little-to-no IBU bitterness, multi-staged dry hopping, and of course, a carefully curated hop selection. Recent hop developments such as Citra and Mosaic really allowed brewers to get some amazing new flavours and aromas from beer, and these will most definitely be hops we use as a foundation.
- Secondly, we look towards the yeast we’re using. This can really make-or-break in this style. We’d be looking for something that’s a medium-to-low attenuator, with low flocculation. Basically it needs to finish sweet, and not drop bright. In terms of yeast-derived flavours, we want very low phenolic production. Ester production should be pretty low, although if we can eek some creamy fruit notes out from it, all the better to complement the hops! It’s just important that it doesn’t get in the way and muddy the waters (at least, not in a bad way)!
- Thirdly, the malt bill is what can really play a part in making this style what it is. We can utilise flaked cereals and low colour dextrin malts to achieve that hazy, fluffy, juicy look and taste that’s come to be expected. The high protein content in the grist can play off the hop’s polyphenols to really cement that hazy opaque appearance, making it unmistakeable from a mile away. (That’s not strictly true, as it’s often mistaken for a glass of orange juice…)
- Last – and certainly not least – is the water chemistry. As with any beer, it’s the culmination of ingredients and processes that give us the result, and it’s all too easy to overlook something as obvious as water. This is something that can dictate and restrict the outcome. There have been many schools of thought on what is and what can be as far as water profile for brewing goes. All that’s worth pointing out here is that we need to stay open-minded with our choices. The traditional IPA profile is a far-cry from what this newer style offers. We want to steer the focus away from bitterness and the sharper edges of the “olden days”. We’re after a soft mouthfeel and juicy finish.
In conclusion, you can really analise everything down to the minute and the mundane, which is something I’m often guilty of! However, some things just require a leap of faith. We can put our collective knowledge together and come up with something we’re happy with. The NEIPA has often been remarked on as a “HYPE” style, but it’s hard to deny its significance as a landmark in the progression of beer throughout the years. We have chosen this opportunity to embrace it, so when the time comes; cheers!
Angus Morison, Head Brewer