I’m quite confident that adding IPA to any beer style will instantly boost its popularity overnight. The definition of what an IPA can be is constantly evolving and expanding. The latest variation I have come across is the Cold IPA. But what exactly is a Cold IPA?
What Is A Cold IPA?
The fundamental characteristic of an IPA should be its ability to showcase the hops above all else. Different brewing methods and a variety of hops have led to numerous variations of IPA. Brewers continue to experiment with when and how to add hops to achieve new results.
First, let’s make it clear that a Cold IPA is not about the temperature at which you drink it, nor is it an IPA enjoyed “on the rocks.” It’s all about the process and ingredients.
There are a few key steps that make the Cold IPA unique. Firstly, the malt used is designed to create a lighter body. This could include Pilsner malt, corn, rice, etc. While IPAs are traditionally ales, Cold IPA uses lager yeast, but it is still fermented warm like an ale.
Using lager yeast in an ale is not uncommon; many other styles employ this technique to achieve a clean, crisp character reminiscent of lagers like Pilsners. This yeast is crucial to the style as it allows the hops to truly shine rather than being overshadowed by the characteristics of ale yeast.
Lastly, the Cold IPA undergoes dry-hopping at the end of fermentation. Adding hops after boiling enhances their presence in the beer, especially in terms of aroma. Dry-hopping IPAs is a common practice, and nearly every IPA today is likely dry-hopped.
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The result is a unique beer with a clean, crisp, and light body that provides an excellent platform for the hops to express themselves.
Like most “new things,” the Cold IPA is not revolutionary, but rather evolutionary. The idea of combining elements of an ale with lager characteristics is not entirely new. Additionally, using hops as the primary flavor component has been done in lagers throughout beer’s history.
So, what sets the Cold IPA apart? Is it simply a way to label something as an IPA to gain more attention?
It all comes down to the process. The Cold IPA takes an IPA and replaces the ale yeast with lager yeast, fermenting it at lower temperatures. On the other hand, the Dry-Hopped Lager/Pilsner follows a traditional lager recipe but incorporates modern dry-hopping techniques and hops.
Opinions on these styles vary greatly, but overall, they haven’t gained much popularity. Many attribute this to their lack of drinkability. The blending of methods often results in unbalanced beers. Some people may love the boldness, while others may find themselves wanting something different.
The Cold IPA aims to strike a balance between being clean and crisp while allowing the hops to shine. In other words, the difference lies in the brewing techniques and ingredients, all crafted to achieve something that dry-hopped lagers have not accomplished. The question now is whether beer enthusiasts will appreciate this style.
One thing I do know is that labeling it as an IPA will undoubtedly grab some attention.
My Experience With A Cold IPA
Like many others, I hadn’t heard of this style before, so I was intrigued yet slightly confused. After conducting some research and familiarizing myself with the style, I was eager to give it a try.
The Cold IPA did not disappoint. The hops provided delightful flavors of pine, lemon, citrus, grapefruit, and even a subtle floral touch. As promised, the lager yeast contributed to a light and clean body, which serves as the perfect canvas for showcasing the hops.
What I particularly enjoyed about this beer is its light body, which makes it less filling. Heavily hopped IPAs can often leave you feeling bloated after just a few, but that’s not the case with the Cold IPA.
If you come across one, I highly recommend giving this style a try. Any hop enthusiast will truly appreciate the Cold IPA. However, as with other IPA variations, it’s nearly impossible to determine whether this style will become popular. New England/Hazy IPAs were considered a passing trend for the longest time, but now they dominate the IPA scene.
I’m excited to see other breweries explore this style and experiment with different hops. Perhaps we’ll even witness single-hop series within this style to fully grasp the contribution of each hop individually. Only time will tell whether beer lovers will embrace this new style.