Summer is in full swing, and we’ve made note of some of the hottest trends hitting patios and coolers across the country.
New England IPA
After years of West Coast domination, the IPA crown has travelled east to New England. Aggressively hopped and hazy, NE IPAs deliver a cloudy, juicy brew, chock-full of floral and fruity flavours. It’s a refreshing change of pace for brewers and drinkers alike, but it’s also symbolic of a broader change in how IPAs are being interpreted. The classic American template of big C-hops – notes of pine and citrus – all balanced against a lightly sweet background began to decline as brewers experimented with non-traditional hop varieties. Craft pioneer, Sierra Nevada, led the charge with its Southern Hemisphere IPA, drawing heavily on New Zealand varietals. Kiwi IPAs became a minor thing, and every new hop had its moment on the stage, with New England holding sway as the current belle de jour.
There are a few ways to introduce hops in the brewing process, with hop pellets being the most common. While they look like something you may feed to a hamster or gerbil, pellets are compressed hops – ground and formed into a cylindrical shape. Upon addition to liquid, the tenuous binds that hold the pellet together dissolve, providing optimal surface area to extract bitterness and flavour. Or near-optimal. The only thing that could pack more of a punch would be an even finer grind, one that is coincidentally produced as a by-product of the process that makes pellets. Hop hash is a gummy, resin-like substance that packs a big punch.
The first sip of a milkshake IPA can be a revelatory experience, making you question what you consider as beer. The addition of lactose sugar makes for a thick and sweet brew, with heavily laden fruit flavours. It’s a chewy, sweet concoction, that sometimes feels like an IPA in name only. However, it’s earned its spot in the craft beer pantheon, and has become so wildly popular that it’s one of the summer trends you may miss out on this year. One of the most active producers of 2017 is Ontario’s Bellwoods Brewery, who have released a number of versions to date. All have tasted fantastic (and sold out within hours of release).
Radlers came from out of nowhere to become a go-to option for light refreshing beer in the Summer. In fact, they’re one of the few craft styles that have made a rapid and successful transition to mass market. The concept of a radler is simple – it delivers a basic grapefruit-forward beer that’s refreshing for craft drinkers, and approachable enough for those wary of pushing the boundaries. The style was a bit of a departure for fruit beers in Canada – many previous attempts had taken an ale base, and often delivered mediocrity with the fruit addition, but radlers flew in the face of that, aiming to deliver something even fruitier and less recognizably like a beer. The unfortunate thing with the style is that it can be one-dimensional, and luckily this has encouraged innovation, as brewers seek out ways to bring refreshing grapefruit flavour into other styles. The natural choice has been hop-forward styles like pale ale and IPAs, where the grapefruit addition punches up the existing C-hops. There are already a few prominent examples, but like the radler, we don’t expect this trend to die any time soon.