Quick! Everyone think back to the first sip taken of an IPA! Say it with me now: Dogfish Head 60-Minute. Yep. Thought so. Mine, too.
The first time I had it, I didn’t enjoy it, so I went back to my usual witbiers and oatmeal stouts. But it was inevitable. I started sipping hoppier suds. Then, I slowly fell in love with the bitter-beer flowers. The industry term for people who enjoy IPAs is “hop head.” (There are also Haze Bros and Flocc Bois, but we’ll get to that later.) While I’ve spent the better part of my adult existence dodging labels and titles, if being a hop head is wrong, I don’t wanna be right.
The IPA genre is ever-expanding—so much so it’s difficult for even the most enthusiastic of beer nerds to keep up. So I’m here to break down some of the newer styles to get everyone up to speed because nothing is better than walking into a brewery with full confidence about what to order. But for folks who don’t have as much confidence, well, our craft industry bartenders know how to make spot-on recommendations with just a mere suggestion of enjoyable flavor profiles! Here are a few to start off with … cheers!
New England IPA (NEIPA)
I had to go to a local expert to make sure I had my facts straight for this one. Former Vermonter Matt Wiley—who’s now an official Wilmingtonian working as the research and development brewer at Flying Machine Brewing Company—helped clarify what gives the New England IPAs their signature hazy appearance. “The haze comes from hop oils in solution from the dry hopping process, low-flocculating yeast strains, and high-protein grains like wheat and oats,” Wiley explains.
Let’s unpack it a little: Flocculation is the process of yeast falling out of suspension to create clarity in beer, so a low-flocc yeast creates haze. Protein also suspends in the liquid and contributes to the look of the beer. What does it mean for taste? Well, dry-hopping showcases more flavor and aroma of hops and less of the bitterness. So NEIPAs tend to be tropical, juicy, and demonstrate soft bitterness. They’re a great stepping stone for IPA skeptics.
There are many fantastic NEIPAs to sip around the port city. Obedience to Ritual at Flying Machine Brewing Company tops the list.
The first time I had a milkshake IPA, I was really hesitant. I mean like really hesitant. I’m pretty sure I said something like, “Oh, no, nope. Ew.”
Then I sipped a strawberry milkshake IPA with strawberries, vanilla and lactose (milk sugar). It was from Stockholm, Sweden’s Omnipollo: “Abrahadabra.” After the first taste, my mind was blown. It was soft and sweet, but presented a pleasant hop character on the finish, accompanied by a bright, zippy carbonation. I was instantly turned into a believer.
A milkshake IPA is effectively a NEIPA with lactose and fruit added. The fruit is optional, but the lactose is what makes it milky, and contributes to both mouthfeel and flavor. It’s a silky-smooth beer that finishes slightly sweet.
Milkshake IPAs can vary greatly in sweetness and viscosity, so I recommend folks who prefer drier, more bitter beers either steer clear or find a friend to go splitsies. My husband and I like to share a 16-ounce can. We’re always happy when we have one, but we’re also typically ready to move on to something dry.
Wilmington Brewing Company makes excellent milkshake IPAs. One of my favorites is Seasonal Bartender. It’s 7.8 percent and brewed with mangoes, pineapple and guava.
The brut IPA emerged as a popular style in late 2018. It’s made to emulate dry, sparkling white wine, like a brut Champagne, hence the name. Brewers add an amyloglucosidase enzyme, which breaks down additional sugars and presents yeast with more fermentable material. The additional attenuation (yeast’s consumption of sugar to produce alcohol) produces a bone-dry, bright IPA with zero residual sugar.
The Bruturtle Brut IPA from Salty Turtle Beer Company in Surf City flew out of their taproom last year. Dan Callender, owner-operator, says it definitely appeals to a certain demographic.
“We’ve noticed women tend to go for the brut IPA style more than the guys,” he notes. “They are pleasantly surprised with how light the body is and often compare it to drinking a glass of champagne.”
It’s a great style for summer, so local sippers should keep an eye out for the potential return of Bold and Brutiful from Bill’s Brewing, Brut Willis from Wilmington Brewing Company, or Brut Suede Shoes from Wrightsville Beach Brewery.