Faddish IPL variant or the future of a more sessionable full-flavoured IPA? That's the question surrounding one of the newest beer styles that have hit our shores, cold IPA. I've delved into the history and talked to a few breweries dabbling with the style, covering what makes a cold IPA great, plus a few question marks.
Oh, and who am I? I'm Andrew Graham the founding editor of Kaddy Community, and you can expect to hear plenty more from me in the future.
Conceptually, cold IPA reads like a miracle beer.
A brew that marries up all the hop-forward, new school aromatics of a modern India Pale Ale, yet finishes crisp and snappy, like a classic lager.
But this new style isn’t a myth - it’s very much here, and for multiple local brewers, it could be the crossover beer that many have been looking for.
The origins of this story lie in a much more derided style - the IPL (Indian Pale Lager, not the cricket competition). So what is an IPL? Theoretically, there are two takes:
As the father of cold IPA, Kevin Davey of Wayfinder Brewery in Portland, Oregon, explains, neither works well.
‘I don’t like IPLs’ he said.
‘Sure, many are delicious and in no way am I saying that beers defined as “IPL” are bad, but the vast majority are, to me at least, clunky’
His dislike of the IPL and desire to put his stamp on an IPA style drove Davey to create something new. With clever use of adjuncts (rice and corn), lager yeasts at differing temperatures, and some ‘nerdy’ late hop additions he created a beer that he proudly describes as ‘having a magnificent hop aroma, clean assertive bitterness and a bold, clean finish that makes the drinker crave another sip’.
Cold IPA was born.
The way that Davey achieved that is a feature in itself, but the guiding principles for cold IPA formed out of it - namely, the use of cooler temperatures (for an IPA), with adjuncts and pilsener malts.
That’s a little simplistic, and for the real detail, you need to read this article in New School Beer (written by Davey himself).
It’s especially worth mentioning that article because every cold IPA brewer you speak with seems to have read it - like Mick O’Rance from Sydney’s Sunday Road Brewing, who was then so inspired he decided to brew one of the first local cold IPAs.:
‘It was one of those beers that I could instantly imagine in my head through the brewhouse, into the glass and drinking’ he said.
‘I was pretty keen to get in early in Australia and have a crack at brewing the version that had almost inserted itself in my head - a cold IPA with Pils malt, flaked corn and a 100% Cryo Hop bill to further reinforce the ‘cold’ aspect of the beer’
‘I was also keen to get something on the brewing schedule besides another hazy something or other’.
The result, as Kendall from Sunday Road Brewing’s sales side explains, it is a style that has resonated through the brewery:
‘You couldn’t believe our excitement when we heard rumblings of this new style that matched what we had brewing up (in our brains, albeit)’ she said.
‘We jumped straight to it, second only to Garage Project and have not stopped since. Having that clean, crisp base has left room for play with hops. In turn, we have had fun creating and drinking the different combinations of hops and recipes Mick has worked hard to create – and nailed, might we add. We are loving this style and think it’s here to stay’.
Sunday Road’s Sweet Escape Cold IPA landed first place in Crafty Pint’s blind tasting of cold IPA styles in December so they’re well on the way. But it’s fascinating to talk to a few local brewers who’ve been impressed enough but still see that it’s very much an emerging style.
Like Jason Burton at Melbourne’s Cavalier Brewing, who believes that cold IPA ‘has longevity, but may take a while to refine and evolve’. Cavalier’s very clever “It’s All a Conspiracy, Man" Cold IPA touches on just how confusing the IPA/IPL definition is, the can dripping with conspiracy theories to give a nod to the blurriness of the cold IPA definition.
Indeed, what temperature is ‘cool’? Does it have to be new school hops?
The progression to cold IPA doesn’t need to come from an IPL either. At Sydney’s Frenchies Brewery, they embraced cold IPA based on their success with other less mainstream styles, as Vincent De Soyres from Sydney’s Frenchies Brewery explains:
‘We have been making cracking lagers and Brut IPAs (and thought this is was worth a try)’ he said.
‘Brut IPAs didn't get much hype even though at our cellar door it is a best seller. We feel like Cold IPA are getting some hype and are actually achieving the same result as Brut IPAs - strong hoppy beers that are extremely sessionable’.
The recipe here is simple, too, as De Soyres notes:
‘We have used our brut IPA malt bill, taken out the enzyme, and fermented it with lager yeast. The result is even more sessionable!’ he said.
Not just sessionable, there is an appeal to beer purists, too, as Kendall explains:
'Cold IPA is the refreshing and purposeful take on what I believe an IPL or IPA lager crossover should be,’ she said.
Therein lies one of the enduring appeals of cold IPA - it gives that ultimate lager/ale appeal:
‘I could ask anyone what they like about a lager, and without question, the answer would be something to the effect of ‘it’s crisp, clean and easy drinking’. The same could be said when asking an IPA fanatic what the crux is; I’d bet money on the answer would be ‘hops, flavour and bitterness’. A cold IPA seamlessly, and without a hint of anything else, combines those two qualities’. Kendall notes.
Finally, another angle is worth exploring - could cold IPA be the perfect antidote for anyone tired of ‘beer as a meal’ style thick hazy IPA?
This article from our US friends at VinePair explores that concept, suggesting that even the name ‘cold’ is a nod to how this style sits at the opposite, rather more refreshing, end of the IPA spectrum to the richer, NEIPA-inspired styles.
Regardless of the angle, there is no escaping the style’s appeal - and it’s not just lager-loving customers either, as De Soyres explains
‘(Our cold IPA) is already a staff favourite!’ he said.