By now, beer lovers are well familiar with the style of beer known as West Coast IPA. We're probably well familiar with the proper noun West Coast IPA from Green Flash too. The West Coast style is bracing; it's typically big or rather BIG on overtones of grapefruit zest, pine and resin. I've never tried it, but I'm betting that it might make a fine substitute for coffee in the morning as the bitterness snaps me to alertness every bit as efficiently as caffeine does.
In the last couple of months, I've noticed a decidedly different sort of IPA coming from three New York City-based brewers, Singlecut Beersmiths, The Other Half and Grimm's Artisanal Ales. I don't think it's a deliberate collective response to the west coast style, but it's definitely a trend. The highlights of this NYC IPA include a big bright start, citrusy sweetness, florals and a smoother finish with just enough pine to substantiate the hop backbone for the beer's flavor.
I first noticed this difference when Singlecut began bottling their delicious beers. Their whimsically named Does Anybody Remember Laughter starts out with a big blood orange like flavor that gives way to big a cool floral overtone that's like a Tiger Lily, then finishes with just a bit of pine and spruce. Yes, it's an amazing beer, and they followed with two others that offer a similarly enchanting (there's a word not often used with IPA's) flavor narrative, TNT Bon Bon, and Full Stack.
When the Other Half opened in early 2014, their declared intention was to brew west coast style IPAs for New Yorkers, but they quickly diversified beyond that goal and began making stellar lambics, stouts, and saisons. They too are offering beer in small formats, cans actually, but only at the brewery. A customer of mine traipsed out to the brewery one Saturday morning and stood in line for 45 minutes (yes New Yorkers have really embraced the arrival of great beer) to get a case of their All Green Everything, then he surprised me with a four pack as a gift. Anyway, the IPA lives up to its name right from the outset with aromas of rosemary and basil. The herbal notes continue so prevalent throughout the flavor narrative that the hop bite at the finish feels like watercress.
It is little surprise that Joe and Lauren Grimm, the gypsy brewers who live not far from Other Half's brewery are creating IPAs with distinctive sweetness. Many of their sours and Belgian style brews have sweet overtones as does their award winning stout, Double Negative. Both of the IPAs that they have canned, After Image and Pulse Wave share these tendencies. Pulse Wave starts off with a big whiff of tropical fruit and offers overtones of tangerine and blood orange before concluding with a nice bit of pine. Their latest IPA, Tesseract releases next week.
It's too soon to say that there's an East Coast IPA to counter the West Coast version, but it's clear that New York City brewers are thinking outside the box when it comes to this well-known style. And as is often the case, great minds are thinking alike here.
Martin Johnson is a beer buyer and merchandising manager for Westside Market East Village in New York City.When not selling or drinking beer he writes about jazz and beer for the Wall Street Journal, basketball for Slate, beer for Eater and about a variety of cultural and culinary topics for The Root.
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC, its affiliates, or its employees.