Cold IPA: Lowering the Temperature on a Classic Style

No other style of beer has spawned more sub-variants than India Pale Ale.

From its origins as the extra strong and hoppy ‘beer concentrate’ brewed to last the trip from Britain to India, IPA has evolved into a myriad of different styles.  Everything from Black IPA, to the industry shaking Hazy, stems from that one common ancestor. Now the strain has mutated once again, giving rise to the new Cold IPA style. A clean, lite and decisively hop focused approach to this classic beer.

This is achieved by making one of the most significant breaks from the core style ever, swapping traditional ale yeast for lager, and undergoing the same cold fermentation as the latter, meaning that while it is still referred to as an ale, Cold IPA is technically a lager beer.

This slower, gentler fermentation process combined with significant use of more neutral grains like rice and corn, produces the uniquely clean and light body that typifies the style.

With this extra smooth and neutral malt base, even more focus can be cast on the hop characters than ever before.

This doesn’t just mean ‘more hops’ which has been IPA’s principle mantra since its inception. Rather, the intrinsically drier malt flavour means that hops can be explored in entirely new ways than before, focusing on more nuanced and fragile aromas and flavours that would previously be drowned out by the richer malt body, or the higher bitterness required to offset it. These beers can be aptly described as the closest thing to anti-hazies that we have, which has proven a compelling prospect to the increasingly large camp of drinkers finding themselves over that scene dominating style.

While Cold IPA is still a style very much in its nascent development, the last few months of releases have more definitely started to indicate that brewers are becoming more comfortable with this latest addition to the pantheon, with releases beginning to show a clear and distinct identity. Here are some recent highlights which best typify everything that Cold IPA is, and the direction of future releases yet to be.

‘Between The Lines’ 5.8%abv

Utilising the developmental hop ‘NZH-101’ this release from Hop Fed is a modern beer on all accounts.  It’s also one of lightest of the new Cold IPA’s, in both %ABV and the ethereal nature of its flavours. A nimble and gracefully aromatic beer, with delicately pungent herbal character mixed with fragile floral tones.

‘Blizzard of hops’ 6.5%abv

Fully embracing its mixed lager bloodline, using a Bohemian yeast that accentuates its smooth and grainy malt backbone, makes Blizzard one of the weightier recent examples of Cold IPA. Still significantly hop driven with it’s broad mix of NZ and US varietals, this more explicitly lager focused release should make headway with the Steinlager purists.

EPIC BREWING: ‘Rooster’ 6.3%abv

As described, Cold IPA’s gentle character leaves them with less need of the traditionally big IPA bitterness. But, in true Epic fashion, they wondered what would happen if they instead dialled the bitterness even higher… The result is one of the most impactfully bitter IPA’s in recent years. One for the true IBU thrill seekers.

Tim Newman –