What makes an IPA a NEIPA?

Answered by James Porterfield

As an expert sommelier and brewer, I can share with you the unique characteristics that make a New England (NEIPA) stand out from other IPAs. NEIPAs, also known as Hazy IPAs or Juicy IPAs, have gained popularity in recent years for their distinct hop profile and smooth, fruit-forward flavor. So, what exactly sets them apart?

1. Focus on Hop Aroma and Flavor: One of the defining features of a NEIPA is its emphasis on hop aroma and flavor. Unlike traditional IPAs that prioritize bitterness, NEIPAs are crafted to showcase the vibrant and aromatic qualities of . Brewers achieve this by using large amounts of late hop additions during the process, maximizing the oils and flavors extracted from the hops.

2. Reduced Bitterness: While bitterness is still present in NEIPAs, it is typically less pronounced compared to traditional IPAs. The goal is to create a more balanced and approachable , making it appealing to a wider range of beer drinkers. This reduction in bitterness allows the hop flavors to shine through, resulting in a smoother and more enjoyable drinking experience.

3. Hazy Appearance: NEIPAs are known for their cloudy or hazy appearance, which is a result of the brewing techniques used. Brewers purposely leave the beer unfiltered, allowing the suspended particles and to remain in the final product. This cloudy appearance gives NEIPAs a distinct visual appeal and adds to the overall perception of a juicy and flavorful beer.

4. Fruit-forward Profile: NEIPAs often exhibit a pronounced fruitiness in both aroma and taste. The hop varieties used in brewing NEIPAs can impart flavors of tropical fruits, such as mango, pineapple, and passionfruit, as well as citrus fruits like orange and grapefruit. This fruity character adds a refreshing and juicy quality to the beer, making it highly appealing to those who enjoy fruit-forward flavors.

5. Softer Mouthfeel: NEIPAs typically have a softer and fuller mouthfeel compared to traditional IPAs. This is achieved through the use of specialty grains, such as oats or wheat, which contribute to a smooth and creamy texture. The combination of the hazy appearance, fruit-forward flavors, and the velvety mouthfeel creates a beer that is often described as “juicy” or “pillowy.”

It's worth noting that not all NEIPAs are made with hops from the New England region. The name primarily refers to the style's origin and the breweries that popularized it in the New England area. However, breweries all over the world have embraced this style and experiment with different hop combinations to create their own unique NEIPAs.

Personal Experience: As a brewer, I have had the pleasure of brewing and tasting various NEIPAs throughout my career. One particular memory stands out when I brewed a NEIPA using a combination of Citra and Mosaic hops. The aroma was incredibly vibrant, with intense tropical fruit notes that immediately transported me to a tropical paradise. The beer had a smooth, velvety mouthfeel and a burst of juicy flavors that lingered on the palate. It was a truly enjoyable experience, both in brewing and savoring the final product.

A NEIPA is characterized by its focus on hop aroma and flavor, reduced bitterness, hazy appearance, fruit-forward profile, and softer mouthfeel. These qualities come together to create a beer that is both visually appealing and bursting with tropical and citrus flavors. Whether brewed in New England or elsewhere, the NEIPA style has captured the hearts of many beer enthusiasts seeking a refreshing and flavorful IPA experience.