Get used to seeing the word “turbid” on your beer labels, Minnesota.
It’s the new “dank.” The new “funky.” The new “barnyard.” The style du jour in American brewing is the Northeast IPA, aka the New England IPA—named for the way it mimics the hazy, orange juice-like color and consistency of beers made by New England breweries like the Alchemist, Hill Farmstead, and Trillium.
Internet beer snobs have decried the rise of the NE IPA as “the avocado toast of beer.” To their point, juicy, opaque IPAs have risen as the bandwagon drinker’s most sought quarry, pissing off legions in their pursuit just as they did a decade ago with high-IBU West Coast IPAs. In 2017, those hop bombs have been traded wholesale for juice bombs.
The jury’s still out on whether this emergent style has any staying power. All that’s certain is NE IPAs are popular right now, and dozens of Twin Cities breweries have tried their hands at translating the fad for Minnesotans. Here are some of the best NE IPAs made in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Fair State Spirit Foul
IPA, 6.3% ABV, Untappd score: 4.34
Good luck getting your hands on this “silly, hazy, and fun” collaboration from Minneapolis’ Fair State and San Diego’s Modern Times. Spirit Foul has been flying off the shelves since it hit stores in September, garnering a perfect 100 rating from BeerAdvocate and making Fair State head brewer Niko Tonks reconsider the brewery’s entire aesthetic. Spirit Foul is so opaque it’s almost milky, going down with an oatmeal-like thickness that’s totally undercut by the array of tropical fruit (orange, grapefruit, guava) flavors. This beer could very likely unseat Forager’s Chucklebox Hops as the top NE IPA made in Minnesota, never mind the Twin Cities.
Insight Splendid Moose
Pale ale, 6.5% ABV, Untappd score: 3.88
Insight’s fall seasonal, Splendid Moose, was released in competition with Spirit Foul, and though both share a Northeast bloodline, the two popular beers are qualitatively very different. For starters, Splendid Moose is a pale ale and not an IPA, which is kind of a nominal difference. Like a typical American pale ale, it’s clear and fruity, making good use of the subservient pilsner malt to highlight the citra hops. Splendid Moose is a second-generation NE beer for Insight, following the successful Surging From the East IPA. Like all little brothers, it came out with something to prove.
HeadFlyer It Was All a Dream
IPA, 7.2% ABV, Untappd score: 3.82
HeadFlyer Brewing’s flagship NE IPA borrows its name from the opening line of Notorious B.I.G.’s “Juicy,” letting you know immediately what this beer’s all about. It Was All a Dream imagines itself as a “Nordeast” IPA, playfully hat-tipping the brewery’s neighborhood, but the big currents of grapefruit-like citra are all Vermont. This New Englander interpretation is also less viscous than your traditional hazy IPA, which means they’re easier to drink in succession.
BlackStack Local 755
IPA, 6.3% ABV, Untappd score: 3.79
BlackStack Brewing has re-imagined its Local NE IPA series a few times, with the citra-hopped 755 being the most popular iteration. Sweet and fruity, Local 755 has tinges of peach and lemon zest. The differentiating factor in this St. Paul NE IPA is the use of lupulin powder pellets in dry hopping, giving Local 755 and its many permutations a huge, intoxicating aroma. Be on the lookout for the latest retooled 755, in the taproom now.
Eastlake Sun Dogs’ IPA
IPA, 7.5% ABV, Untappd score: 3.87
The baseball fans over at Eastlake Craft Brewery nicknamed their IPA “Sunny D” for the way it resembles the orange juice adjunct of the same name. It also smells a bit like the tropical ’90s drink, blossoming with pineapple and nectarine aromas straight from the pour. A generous, pillowy head softens the rather high 78 IBU, but Sun Dogs’ IPA is definitely more bitter than other NE IPAs on the market. It’s like a West Coast IPA that moved to Burlington and is trying to fit in with the locals.
Wild Mind Velvet Crush
IPA, 6.5% ABV, Untappd score: 4.04
Wild Mind founder and brewer Mat Waddell set out to create a no-IPA brewery when he opened his south Minneapolis brewhouse in July 2016. But the regulars demanded hops—and, more recently, haze. He acquiesced, churning out an inventive line of IPAs, the highlight of which is Velvet Crush. Velvet Crush is pollen yellow, thick as porridge, and tastes like the pith of a grapefruit. Like many of Wild Mind’s offerings, it’s fermented by wild yeast, but the whirlpool citra, mosaic, and simcoe hops swallow most of the yeast flavors up.
Barrel Theory Rain Drops
IPA, 7.5% ABV, Untappd score: 4.23
Barrel Theory only launched in June, and it’s already found a foothold for its near-perfect take on the NE IPA. Rain Drops is a beer you could take a bite out of. Smelling like musty, soft grapefruit, it makes use of citra (of course), mosaic, and vic secret hops for a soft IPA that leaves a frothy lace on the glass. The double dry-hopped version is even better, or if you wanna keep it Californian, you can opt for sister brew Drop Tops—which also borrows its name from the lyrics of “Bad and Boujee” by Migos.
Wheat IPA, 7.1% ABV, Untappd score: 3.92
The differentiating factor for Modist’s Dreamyard is its 100% oat and wheat constitution. It’s long been a trade secret that oats and wheat soften NE IPAs and add to their cloudy body, but Modist’s unique mash filter has allowed them to transform that tip into a full-fledged juicer of a beer. More than any beer on this list, Dreamyard looks, smells, and tastes like orange juice. It’s uncanny. If that’s your thing, you’re in luck—but be prepared to forfeit up to $15 for a four-pack of tallboys.
Session IPA, 4.9% ABV, Untappd score: 3.95
Clean, malt-forward beers have always been the calling card of North Loop brewery Fulton, but the June release of Hopstar saw a transition in style. Hopstar stands apart from the competition because of its sessionable ABV (4.9%) and complex grain undertones. The second batch of tallboys came off the line a lot less cloudy, but it’s still a great go-to if you want a goblet of juice with a little less booze. For a full-ABV take on the NE IPA, grab their Grog (7.1% ABV) when it periodically reappears on tap.
Sisyphus The First Beer We Distributed
IPA, 6.9% ABV, Untappd score: 3.96
Lowry Hill nanobrewery Sisyphus distributed its first bottled beer back in January—a New Englander cheekily named The First Beer We Distributed. Predictably, it’s a thumbed nose at most of the haze heads out there, pouring an iconoclastic lemon yellow and settling nearly clear. A 20% oat body softens the taste, but a peculiarly dry finish is the middle finger salute at the end of the swallow. The first batch flew off the shelves, and 705 mLs of this beer are currently unavailable, but Sisyphus is brewing the second go-round of TFBWD, so keep your collector’s eyes peeled.
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