First We Feast published a #juicy article on the growing trend of “New England-style” IPAs and their limited releases in cans on Monday, and it’s recommended reading for anyone interested in what will eventually coax Jimi Hendrix’s corpse to play a concert in the middle of a beautifully bucolic hop farm, performing revamps of such legendary songs as “Purple Haze” (“A Haze Daze for Dayz”) and “All Along the Watchtower” (“All Along the Hopvine”). It’s also important to note that preceding Hendrix, Naughty By Nature will be performing a two-song set with “O.P.I.P.A.” and “Hip Hops Hooray,” and Dr. Seuss will be reading excerpts from “Green Kegs and Ham.” I can’t wait!
The article’s author, Aaron Goldfarb, accurately defines this particular class of IPA—itself the craft-beer world’s most popular style in recent years—as “lacking in much bitterness, dry-hopped to oblivion to produce an insanely fragrant aroma, soft in carbonation and thus crushable like a glass of orange juice, and about as hazy as some pulpy fresh-squeezed too.” Furthermore, these New England-style IPAs are “generally packaged in 16-ounce ‘pounder’ cans [and] sold exclusively from their breweries, a day-old in freshness, and usually in highly-limited quantities that necessitate queueing up, sometimes for hours.”
Unsurprising to beer loons, Goldfarb’s list of culprits causing this current canned-IPA commotion includes Carroll Gardens’ Other Half Brewing Company, which has focused heavily on IPA, and with great success, since opening in 2014.
Goldfarb’s section on Other Half:
“Many of these other IPA producers are in smaller towns, or the boondocks, leaving Other Half to answer the question: what would happen if a hot brewery opened in Brooklyn, an hour’s radius from perhaps 20 million people? Every other Saturday, sometimes starting as early as 4am, tristate and beyond beer geeks wrap around a Carroll Gardens’ block, forging a line that sometimes takes four to five hours to get through—and that’s once it’s started moving. Luckily the pot of beer at the end of this rainbow is pretty great. Other Half releases a silly amount of different IPAs, sometimes four new ones biweekly, many of which are collaborations with a lot of the other breweries mentioned here.”
After finishing the list (Grimm Artisanal Ales also gets a nod for its Cantastic Pours), I began to ponder: What are Other Half’s favorite hop varieties to employ to create its “silly amount of different IPAs,” many of which are packaged by Iron Heart Canning? A few seconds later, I called one of the brewery’s founders, Sam Richardson, to ask him.
Before that question, though, I inquired about Richardson’s approach to architecting a hop-focused recipe. “I look at using hops like playing the lottery,” he explained. “There’s a pretty large amount of combinations of numbers in lotto, and the amount of combinations of hops is the same. You can also use just one hop, which we do a lot, or two hops, which we’ve been doing more of recently.” Do you think you’ll exhaust all of those possible combinations at some point? Are you worried that your IPAs will get indistinguishable from one another? “Even for us and how many we make, I don’t think we’re anywhere near exhausting our creativity on that front. Plus, new hop varieties are always coming out. I don’t see it happening.”
The below are Other Half’s five favorite hop varieties, as told by Richardson. For each variety, he also picked his favorite beer (at the moment) that showcases it best.
Favorite Because: “Mosaic might be the easiest hop to work with. You get this huge tropical-fruit aroma and flavor that’s pretty distinctive. It gives the pungency you want in an IPA, but it also has this subtle dankness that’s really interesting. The whole package can really pop a beer. Our single-hop beer, you can smell it from across the room.”
Beer: “We’ve done a lot of beers with Mosaic. I really like our Double Mosaic Dream, which is an imperial single-hop beer. That has a lot of depth of flavor. At the same time it’s really crushable for something over eight percent alcohol.”
Favorite Because: “I really love the Galaxy hop. It’s delicate, juicy, mellow. I get a passionfruit note without the acidity. That was one of the reasons we used it in a beer we just did with The Veil, Topical Depression. That had 400 pounds of passionfruit in it. But I would say its best feature is its delicacy. So a beer with Galaxy you need to drink quick. It baffles us when someone checks in a beer with Galaxy on Untappd from five months ago. We’ve seen that for our Galaxy single hop. Like, drink that shit now. Crush it.”
Beer: “Probably the Motueka + Galaxy. That was a double IPA that was super juicy—a lot of passionfruit—and really easy to drink. We’re definitely going to make that again.”
Origin: New Zealand
Favorite Because: “There’s an interplay between lemon and lime in Motueka that I really like. It’s not like the lemondrop hop; that has a sharp lemon character, much more one note. But the Motueka isn’t a strong lemon or a strong lime, it’s this subtle blend of both. And that’s what I’m hoping to get when I use them.”
Favorite Beer: “We did a single-hop beer called Crush It!: Motueka that really showcased the hop and that lemon-lime character nicely. It was really low in alcohol and had a soft mouthfeel, which is always the biggest challenge when you’re making a beer that light.”
Favorite Because: “Simcoe is a classic West Coast hop. It’s really interesting; there’s some dankness, some pine character; there’s also an underlying fruit character. I’ve heard some brewers describe it as ‘catty’ but I don’t really get that. It’s definitely one of the most balanced hops you can use in a beer. We use it every week, it’s one of the core hops in our namesake IPA.
Beer: “Our single-hop Simcoe IPA is fucking delicious. We just canned another batch recently.”
Origin: New Zealand
Favorite Because: “This is our ‘new girlfriend’ hop; we’ve been using it a lot lately. It gives grassy, tropical-fruit, and melon notes. It’s not super aggressive by itself but it makes everything better. Every beer we’ve made that I would put at the top of the list, it’s in there. The only downside is it’s a pain in the ass to get. Not as hard as Nelson Sauvin, but still hard.”
Beer: “We did two collabos with The Answer. The one we did in Brooklyn was No Layups. That had Wai-iti, Galaxy, Moteuka, so it had three of my favorites. And they work really well together. It was an extreme juice bomb, tons of flavor with a light mouthfeel. A lighter mouthfeel is always nice.”
Photos courtesy of Other Half Brewing