(Bloomberg) -- India Pale Ale (now known by the colloquial acronym, I.P.A.) began in the era of British colonialism, in the 18th and 19th centuries. Designed for export to occupied India, it was a style brewed to higher strength, more generously hopped than England’s standard Pale Ales of the time (alcohol and hops both have strong preservative qualities, which kept the beer from spoiling when handed off to East India Company traders).
The fruitily bitter flavors yielded from these hoppier recipes, born out of pragmatism, quickly became quite popular. A century later, they were taken to the next level by West Coast American craft brewers in the 1990s. As with so many things American, the addition of hops became competitive bloodsport in beer making, with a super-sizing of IBUs (International Bittering Units, a scale that was developed to measure a beer’s perceived bitterness).
As demand increased, new American boutique hop varietals were developed to provide a myriad of flavors when used in brewing. The result was a culture of hop connoisseurship/worship. In the early 2010s, a new riff on American IPA was generated in Vermont, which then quickly influenced brewers in neighboring states. This New England-style IPA—officially recognized as a style by the Brewers Association in 2018—is characterized by an ephemeral juiciness over bitterness, with a more pillowy mouth-feel than the astringent IPAs popular in the ’90s.
Aesthetically, these beers often have a trademark appearance that’s hazily opaque. (The style’s most iconic example, Heady Topper from the Alchemist, instructs drinkers to imbibe straight from the can, probably due to its turbidity.) Now, this fresh take on India Pale Ale has come full circle, back to the U.K., with Old England’s most acclaimed craft brewers drawing influence from New England’s style.
Here are five of the best such producers that are providing British beer nerds with excellent spins on the hop elixirs of the U.S. Northeast.
Manchester’s Cloudwater was voted No. 2 brewery in the world by RateBeer.com users in 2017 and is easily the producer of the U.K.’s most sought-after hop-forward beers. Mostly packaged in cans adorned with sophisticated, eye-grabbing graphics, its beers are pounced on after each new release. These perfectionist brewers often re-tweak old recipes from their portfolio to get better and better. Recently, Cloudwater updated its well-received 2016 DIPA v3. The new version, “v3.1,” added flaked oats to the malt bill, along with some adjustments in the hopping. Teeming with notes of mango and pineapple, it’s tropically juicy.
The Kernel team, out of London, simply doesn’t know how to make a bad beer. Likely the greatest classicists featured on this list, their catalog of deceptively simple beers bridges the gap between old school British brewing tradition and new school American experimentation. Kernel’s exceptional India Pale Ale—unpretentiously packaged, in the same minimal fashion as the rest of its portfolio—varies batch-to-batch in both alcohol by volume and hop varietals. But it can always be counted on to provide a beautifully citric palate, balanced by a soft bed of malt and only a necessarily balancing bitterness.
Lost + Found
Lost + Found is one of the more exciting newer experimental craft outfits in the U.K., whipping interesting concoctions since the early days in a makeshift brew-lab out of a townhouse garage. Its brewers, too, have been bitten by the haze bug and have made terrific contributions to the New England IPA tradition. A recent release, R27. TRIo.J, was one such perfectly juicy hop-forward delight; think orange juice, light coniferous brightness, and tea-like bitterness.
When a can of beer bears the name “Magic Rock,” you can rest assured that its contents will be worth drinking. Whether it’s a barrel-aged stout, sour farmhouse ale, or something hoppy, there is a de facto guarantee of quality. One of Magic Rock Brewing’s fan favorites, the double IPA Human Cannonball, recently got the New England haze treatment. The limited release, called Neo-Human Cannonball, showcases low bitterness that paves the way for an explosion of fruit-forwardness from the hops. The beer packs big notes of melon, candy, and light mint.
Whenever Verdant releases a new can of beer, it won’t last long on London’s boutique shelves; hop-heads invariably snatch up fresh batches city-wide, in short-order. One of its most hyped brews remains double IPA Putty, the hoppiest beer it has produced. Billed as an annual springtime limited release following its debut in 2017, deep flavors of various citrus, passion fruit, and peaches hit you once a tallboy is freshly cracked.
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