IPA has more or less cemented its position on beer lists the world over. With decades of synonymity with the craft beer movement, these hop bombs and their loyal worshippers aren’t going anywhere in a hurry. But whilst the bitter, clear, assertive west coast style was once the darling of hop heads the world over, in the last 5-10 years a new player has emerged which has quickly taken over the hearts and imaginations of brewers and drinkers alike. The Hazy, smooth, juice bombs known as New England IPAs (or “NEIPAS”) seem to break most of the rules for achieving a successful West Coast IPA, but that hasn’t stopped millions of drinkers around the world from flocking to the style in droves. Making a good one is relatively straightforward, but you can definitely go astray, so let’s do a deep dive into the style and how best to hit the markers for NEIPA heaven.
The three main things which set a NEIPA apart from other types of IPAs are: Texture, Perceived Bitterness and what we will call “juiciness”. All three of these play into each other in interesting ways and it is important to consider all 3 when designing a recipe. Having the smooth, creamy texture helps to soften the bitterness from the large quantity of hops, which in turn allows the fruity flavours of the hops to shine through without being drowned in IBUs, so all the choices we make in the process enhance the beer in several ways. I will hopefully cover these sufficiently in the following paragraphs, before providing my favourite recipe at the end.
To begin with, let’s look at texture. A NEIPA usually has a smooth, creamy, even “fluffy” mouthfeel which helps define the style. Part of this comes down to water chemistry, which we will cover later in this article, but the bulk of that creaminess comes from the grain bill. Ensuring there is adequate fat and protein content is crucial to achieving the creamy, fluffy texture associated with the style. Protein content is usually achieved through the use of unmalted wheat (usually flaked). This helps to generate the characteristic “haziness” most recognize as critical for a NEIPA, as well as contributing a fluffy mouthfeel and some added malt complexity. For the fat, it has become standard practice to include oats in a NEIPA recipe. Oats have a far higher oil content than barley and the coating effect of that extra fat, whilst adding body and texture to the beer, also helps to protect the tongue from the bitterness present from the large amount of hops used in these beers.
This leads us to perceived bitterness. The trick of a NEIPA is to have IPA levels of bitterness, without the perception of an overly bitter beer. We have spoken about the oil content of the grains helping to coat the tongue, there are two other strategies for reducing the perception or “harshness” of the bitterness of a NEIPA. The chloride to sulphate ratio of the water used will have a large impact on the way a beer comes across on the palate. Water that is heavier in sulphate will come across as sharper and drier. Perfect for a west coast IPA, but not for a New England. The softening effect that comes from a higher chloride content is what we are chasing here. Depending on your source water, I try to shoot for a 1:10 sulphate to chloride ratio. The other strategy is hop timings. It is fairly traditional to try and get the majority of the IBUs in most beers from the initial 60-minute addition. With a NEIPA you want to get approximately half of the IBUs from a whirlpool/flameout addition. This requires a very heavy hand with those whirlpool hops, but the result is much less harshness in the bitterness and a considerable boost to the hop flavour and aroma. A lot of brewers now are looking less at the IBU numbers and focusing instead on grams/Litre. There is absolutely something to be said for this, as ultimately the flavour is what you are chasing more than a specific bitterness, and so long as you approach the recipe keeping in mind what has already been discussed, the bitterness perception should still be style appropriate.
Finally, we have the juice factor. There has been a lot of talk on a phenomenon called “biotransformation”. Basically, the theory is that certain hop derived compounds are converted into other compounds throughout the process of active fermentation. It is thought that these new compounds are essential in producing the characteristic “juiciness” of a neipa. Specifically, Geraniol is believed to be converted to Beta citronellol when there is an excess of Linalool. What this basically means is that in order to fully achieve the classic NEIPA flavour, the hops chosen should be varieties which have sufficient quantities of these compounds. The classic option is the Galaxy, Citra, Simcoe combo which features in a huge number of beers. Yeast choice plays a big role here as well with certain strains are better for this transformation than others. Strains like the WY1318 or the WLP066 are classic choices, and Bluestone has just released a “New England” strain for homebrewers as well. There are more and more studies coming out all of the time looking at different approaches and varieties of hops. One thing which has come up recently is that biotransformation tends to happen more readily with hot side derived hop compounds, so that flameout addition we mentioned earlier has become even more critical.
The other strategy that is commonly employed by brewers which is possibly a bit more contentious, is the double dry hop. It was thought that the high krausen dose of dry hops was needed for the biotransformation, and the standard 2-day dry hop was for the classic dry hop aroma. It is now split in two camps as to whether it is better to dose all of your dry hops at high krausen, or if the double dry hop is the way to go. I say it is worth experimenting and seeing which you prefer! One consideration worth taking into account on a homebrew scale is oxidation risk and dry hop creep. Dry hop creep is where enzymes contained in the hops break down complex carbohydrates still in the beer and the yeast begins a weak attempt to ferment these new sugars, creating issues like diacetyl. There are also risks associated with dry-hopping at the end of active fermentation if you are not operating in a relatively closed system (like a pressurized fermenter for example). These both lend weight to the practice of dry hopping only at high krausen, both to ensure any enzymatic activity happens at a time when the yeast is positioned to deal with the newly created sugars and that there is enough active CO2 production to help protect the beer from oxidation during the addition of the hops.
With all of this in mind, here is the most recent iteration of my homebrew NEIPA recipe. It deviates slightly from our Fresh Wort kit to accommodate my personal taste preferences, but if you would like a quick and easy “sure thing” to get into the swing of the style we will include a link to the kit down below.
Recipe: Ben's Favourite NEIPA Recipe
4.2kg JW Pils
250g Golden Naked Oats
250g Malted Oats
250g Flaked Wheat (or Plain flour! Make sure it isn’t self raising.)
2. Mash Schedule
Heat 33 litres water to 68 degrees Celsius.
Dissolve 1g Calcium Sulphate and 10g Calcium Chloride, or calculate appropriate additions to get your water 1:10 Sulphate to Chloride.
Mash at 66 degrees Celsius for 60 minutes followed by a stirred ramp to 77 degrees Celsius.
3. Boil – 60 Minutes
Simcoe ( %) – 20g @ 60min ( ~30 IBU)
Citra ( %) – 20g @ Whirlpool/Flameout (~15 IBU)
- Galaxy (%) – 20g @ Whirlpool/Flameout (~15 IBU)
Citra ( %) – 60g – Dry Hop Charge – High Krausen
Galaxy ( %) – 60g – Dry Hop Charge – High Krausen
Simcoe ( %) – 20g – Dry Hop Charge – High Krausen
- Kettle Finings: One half Whirlfloc tablet or 2.5g GelBrite, 10 mins from end of boil
- Yeast Nutrient: 1tsp, 10 mins from end of boil
Pitch a healthy quantity of an appropriate NEIPA yeast, we recommend WY1318 or Danstar New England as good options. Ferment at 17 degrees Celsius and expect an FG of approximately 1.015.