One of the hottest trends in craft beer right now is popping up in local breweries and customers can’t get enough of it.
New England or Northeast India Pale Ale beers are sweeping across the country and have made their way to Fresno. The brews are characterized by their unfiltered, hazy look, and are a refreshing alternative to the dank and super-hoppy IPAs made on the West Coast.
First-timers may be a little overwhelmed by the aroma of fruits, including grapefruit, pineapple and tangerine. Unlike traditional California IPAs, the NE IPAs have little to no bitterness. They drink easy and have a smooth finish. Many people refer to the beers as NE IPAs, but you will also hear them called juicy or hazy IPAs.
“It is not what most people think of when you say IPA and that’s why it has become so appealing,” says Mike Cruz, president of Tioga-Sequoia Brewing Co. in Fresno.
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It appeals to a much wider range of people.
Tioga-Sequoia Brewing Co. owner Mike Cruz
Tioga-Sequoia, a local leader in the craft beer business, is one of several local breweries making versions of the NE IPA. Also pumping out the new beers are Full Circle Brewing Co., House of Pendragon, and Pine and Palm Brewing. Local liquor stores, like The Fort at 9415 N. Fort Washington, or bars, including Goldsteins, 1279 N. Wishon Ave., and Spokeasy Public House, 1472 N. Van Ness Ave., are also bound to have some juicy and hazy beers.
Cruz says Tioga-Sequoia jumped in on the NE IPA craze largely because their customers were asking about them. Earlier this month, they released, “Valley Haze” in a 16-ounce can as part of its Art Hop series of beers. They only made 900 gallons of the beer and it sold fast. The downtown brewery and tap room on 745 Fulton St. went through half of its supply in several days. And the beer that is sold in four-packs of 16-ounce cans are in short supply.
Cruz, who promises more hazy beers, says he isn’t surprised at the response, given Fresno’s growing interest in craft beer.
“It appeals to a much wider range of people, including those who said they would never drink an IPA,” he says.
Poured into a glass, Valley Haze looks like an orange cream soda. The beer has fruity notes of mango, pineapple and grapefruit. It’s got a pleasing feel and is easy to drink. On the bitterness scale it comes in at about 40, while most IPAs are in the 60 to 70 range.
Even the hop heads like me like it.
Mike Sumaya, Full Circle Brewing Co.
Mike Sumaya, the brewer at Full Circle Brewing, says his NE IPAs – Juicy NE and Casa de Fulton St. – have quickly become best sellers. He was brewing a batch of Juicy NE recently, having run out of the beer because of high demand.
“It’s a great beer that has a real pleasing aroma,” Sumaya says. “It’s a good alternative to IPAs that are all about the bitterness. But even the hop heads like me like it.”
As a beer maker, Sumaya likes the haziness of the NE IPAs, saying normal filtering can strip out some of the hops character. A special blend of hops, yeast, oats, wheat and water combine to create a softer feel in the mouth along with the fruity aroma.
Craft beer aficionado and home brewer Matt Vaught has experimented with the new IPAs and likes what he’s come up with. He says the new beers are also helping to educate people about IPAs.
“A lot of times when people say they don’t like a hoppy beer it’s because they don’t like the bitter taste,” he says. “But when you use different hops, the juicy ones, you get a whole different flavor and mouth feel. It’s like the difference between sipping something that tastes like alcohol juice to drinking a mimosa.”