Predicting beer trends is like predicting San Diego weather: Easy. Sunny and 70 degrees, with a West Coast IPA. Its flavors are often clean, crisp and bitter, sometimes piney and dank. Although they are not in any danger of being dethroned, an invasive species is poised to elbow out at least a few of them at the local taproom. The Northeast IPA has arrived.
This style is known for its fruity, some say “juicy” flavor and mouthfeel. They are less bitter than their West Coast cousins, and a bit easier to drink. One characteristic stands above the others, however. The haze.
“The first time we sold (one) to Hamilton’s they were like, ‘Man, is this OK to serve?’” says Daniel Drayne, head brewer at Half Door Brewing. (903 Island Ave.) “They wrote ‘hazy’ next to it.”
Drayne has been brewing Northeast (or New England) IPAs at Half Door and helped innovate the style in San Diego. He says it took a little while for customers to get used to them.
“We got mixed reviews at first,” he says. “I’m glad more people are doing them now.”
Another brewery that has hitched its sails to the easterly winds is the always innovative Modern Times. It has released a string of fruit and juicy IPAs, including Accumulated Knowledge, Underworld Dreams and Attack Frequency.
“It started when we began formulating Orderville, our year-round IPA, which is fermented with an old school English yeast,” says Modern Times founder and CEO Jacob McKean, in an email. “That’s one of the key elements in these beers.”
Many East Coast breweries have built impressive reputations in the beer-trading community on the back of their hazy and hoppy IPAs. Names like Tired Hands, Hill Farmstead and The Alchemist are synonymous with the style.
“A bunch of folks who work at Modern Times have moved to San Diego from the East Coast, myself included,” McKean said. “Our friends back east send us beer. We really enjoyed some of the hazy IPAs we received, so we decided to figure out how to make them.”
Abnormal Beer Co., Belching Beaver, Coronado Brewing have also gotten on board, as has Monkish Brewing in Torrance, California. Derek Gallanosa, head brewer at Abnormal Beer Co., says West Coast brewers are already topping some of the original East Coast trailblazers.
“It’s on par (with them) when you get it fresh out here,” he says. “Some of (what) is produced out here, especially by Monkish, I prefer over some of the East Coast ones.”
Abnormal’s version, New Money IPA, was a top-seller, and Gallanosa says more is on the way.
Despite the up and down nature of beer trends, there is optimism that this one is here to stay. Drayne said he is tweaking his recipes and working to merge the two styles.
“You’re going to have a lot of hazy beers out here soon,” Drayne says. “It’s going to be like a West Coast IPA, it’s going to be a standard. But how do you make a West Coast IPA with these flavors? That’s what I’m trying to figure out.”
This coastal back-and-forth is not exactly the Tupac-Biggie rivalry of the beer world, but like music fans of the 1990s, beer lovers are reaping the benefits.