If you can’t keep up with the many sub-genres of IPA, we forgive you. Between West Coast versus East Coast, sparkling and brut, double and triple and more, there are a lot of hopped-up moving parts. But if there’s one you ought to know and get used to right now, it’s the Cold IPA.
Devised at Wayfinder in Portland, Ore., several years back, this is very much an IPA-lovers’ IPA, a brewers beer if you will. It’s most reminiscent of the India Pale Lager (IPL). However, that style doesn’t quite respect and embrace the hop bill quite like the Cold IPA does. The newest genre is certainly inspired by the age-old lager beer, but looks to really spotlight the hops — but removing any potential conflicting flavors.
“We were shooting to make something to contrast the -New England IPA,” says Kevin Davey, brewmaster at Wayfinder. It’s a version that hops fans will quickly fall for. It has “a strong punch of aromatic hop intensity and high bitterness,” continues Davey. “But finishes crisp and clean leaving the drinker craving another sip.”
The core of this beer resides in a lighter base. Brewers use lager yeast, but instead of fermenting it in a very chilly style, they tend to warm it up a bit — at least relatively speaking. The higher temperature spells a quicker ferment and minimizes the fruity esters at play. Some brewers have referred to it as a deconstructed IPA of sorts, one that relies most on heavy hop expression. If you enjoy a sparkling IPA or miss the quick-lived Brut IPA trend, this one is well worth your time.
The style hasn’t quite spread like wildfire, but it has been embraced by an increasing number of breweries from coast to coast, especially here in the Pacific Northwest. Esteemed labels like Single Hill, Reuben’s Brews, Fremont Brewing, Rogue Ales and even McMenamins have tried their hand at the Cold IPA. And many more are likely to follow suit.
What does it drink like? Think crisp and clean like a lager, yet aromatic and hoppy like a great IPA. It comes at an ideal time when IPAs are still surging, especially here on the west coast, but drinkers are also looking for lightness. It’s fair to say that after another long pandemic winter, we may have palate fatigue due to one too many imperial stouts, smoothie sours or Triple IPAs.
Unsurprisingly, Wayfinder has collaborated with a bunch of regional breweries to make different Cold IPA takes. When you’re credited as the inventor of something in a bustling and highly collaborative world like craft beer, people come knocking. Davey has even been called upon by some of his peers overseas, in places like Poland and Spain. Look out for even better versions from other significant players going forward as the style is further embraced and fine-tuned. It’s got us very excited for fresh hop season, as this seems like an ideal style to showcase right-from-the-farm hops.