India pale ale can be as restless as a caged bird, forever ready to fly in unexpected directions. In the playful palms of brewers, IPAs can be inky and roasty or bursting with grapefruit. Typically governed by their brewers’ creativity, as well as the hop varieties used, IPAs can trend as bitter as political discourse, or drift more tropical than a tiki drink. But now, brewers are turning to other ingredients and brewing techniques to offer something new to the IPA-loving public. From milkshake mimics to new hop varieties, meet and drink the latest generation of IPA spin-offs.
India Pale Lager
Brewers are fast realizing that cold-fermenting beer with lager yeast fashions a clean, brisk platform for hops alight with pine, citrus and tropical fruit. Snappy and aromatic, India pale lagers (IPLs) are less sweet and more refreshing than their ale analogues.
Try: Jack’s Abby Hoponius Union, a lager awash in citrusy, island-vibe flavors.
India pale ale is just that: a beer that utilizes the warmer-fermenting ale strain of yeast. But now, brewers are taking IPAs on a funky ride with feral Brettanomyces yeast. Used in tandem with ale yeast, Brettanomyces can supply IPAs with a rustic-farmstead character. Brettanomyces’ insatiable microbes—they never cease eating a beer’s available sugars—can toss off fruity, tropical bouquets and tastes that snuggle up to trendy hops like Citra and Mosaic, while also lending an acidic or sour bite to the palate. (Note: Wild IPAs—those fermented with wild yeasts and bacteria like Brett—will continue to dry out, while flavors deepen and deviate with each passing month.)
Try: Crooked Stave Artisan Beer’s Project Hop Savant. The Coloradans rotate the experimental hop variety for each batch of its dry, earthily complex IPA.
“Fresh is best” is the guideline for IPAs, as their flavors and scents rapidly dull. However, some brewers are looking to crush such beliefs. They’re seasoning IPAs with wood, using barrels that once contained Bourbon, gin or even Pinot Noir, adding depth as foil to the beer’s bright fragrances. Breckenridge Brewery’s quarterly 471 IPA Barrel Series ages a double IPA in whiskey casks. Its oaky tannins are paired with revolving hops like Hüll Melon, known for its honeydew-like aroma. Cigar City’s White Oak Jai Alai uses oak to add vanilla and coconut tones that complement the rich, caramel-flavored palate.
Try: Gigantic Brewing Company’s Pipewrench. The imperial IPA’s citrusy profile is accentuated by a three-month stint in herbaceous, Ransom Old Tom Gin barrels.
These velvety IPAs contain zero ice cream. Instead, lactose serves as the secret scoop. These dairy-derived, unfermentable sugars, long essential to milk stouts, supply sweetness and boost the body of these silky, dessert-inspired IPAs. The style was pioneered by Sweden’s Omnipollo and Pennsylvania’s Tired Hands, which make “milkshake IPAs” with fruits like strawberries and mangos. The addition of oats and wheat further amplifies body and mouthfeel. Toss in tons of fruity hops (Citra, El Dorado, Mosaic), and you have a trend suitable for both happy hour and dessert.
Try: Urban Family Brewing Co.’s Limesicle. The Seattle brewery uses 200 pounds of limes per batch to concoct this zesty, lactose-crammed IPA.
Six New Hop Varieties to Know
❶ Idaho 7
Developed by Idaho’s Jackson Hop Farm, this experimental variety delivers apricot, orange and papaya notes, partnered with pine resin and black tea.
❷ African Queen
South Africa’s hop scene is ascendant, headlined by this decidedly tropical hop, which nods to black currants, lemongrass and blueberries.
Released last year following 14 years of research, America’s Loral is floral, flaunting mint and a spicy, herbal edge.
❹ Hallertau Blanc
This classic German hop evokes aromas of passion fruit, pineapple, grape and lemongrass.
Named after the Haitian agriculture god, this American dwarf variety (it’s grown on shorter-than-usual trellises) conjures pears, papayas and lemons sprinkled with pine needles.
This Washington cultivar (formerly called Equinox) is a citrusy twist of lemons and limes, with papayas and green peppers lending tropical, vegetal verve.