Are “Cold IPAs” The Next Big Beer Trend?

There are many beer trends that come and go. You can read our article at the end of 2020, where we polled owners and brewers, to get their thoughts on where they see the industry headed for 2021. Now enter the “Cold IPA” for 2021.

To begin, we should probably discuss what exactly is a Cold IPA? From our research, a Cold IPA is a higher ABV, higher hopped, “as clean as possible” IPA. The aim is to create a crisper style of beer. The style is thought to have been created when Wayfinder Beer collaborated with Great Notion on “Cold Kush IPA“.

These IPA’s are usually brewed with Pilsner malt and lager yeast. Adjuncts are sometimes used, like rice or corn, to lighten up the body of the beer and allow the beer dry. These are essentially IPA’s that are brewed as lagers. This sounds like what we would refer to as an India Pale Lager, right? Well since it’s an IPA and the ABV is higher, you can expect way more hop character out of these. And we are talking about newer hops, not older-style hop varieties.

To understand the trend a bit more, we spoke with two PA brewers (each on opposite ends of the state) about what their thoughts are on this new trend. Is this here to stay, or is this a fad that will die out?

Andrew Witchey, owner & brewer of Dancing Gnome Beer:

“The whole origin of Cold IPA was, basically, to make a legitimate IPL.

We brew Lager Lustra every year for Lustra Day but have never categorized it. It’s just Lager Lustra, its own thing. We keep the base of Lustra the same, ferment with an American Lager strain, treat it like a lager throughout, and then dry hop it. The difference between this and a Cold IPA kind of starts at the beginning. The recipe needs to be treated as a crispy lager and a snappy IPA, so it’s not so much just taking an IPA recipe and lagering it, or taking a lager recipe and dry hopping it, it’s bringing the best aspects of the two together. To me, that’s an IPL, but so few breweries put one out, let alone put out a great one, that the style kind of got lost and muddled, and that’s when Cold IPA stepped in.

Dancing Gnome Lager Lustra (Photo courtesy Untappd)

Cold IPA is new enough as a sub-style that it’s really not possible to say yet what kind of longevity it will have. It could get some play this summer, with breweries wanting to try something new, but I think it will most likely go in the way of the Brut IPA; some hype upfront, and then it fizzles without a word. But, admittedly, I’m kind of an old man waving my fist at the clouds.”

Ryan Seiz, co-owner & brewer at Warwick Farm Brewery:

“We believe our Juicy Pils would be considered a “Cold IPA”. We wanted to create a bridge between a Czech Pils and a Hazy IPA (which seems kind of nuts). Our goal was to create a smooth and crisp Pilsner that highlights the flavorful hops that many customers have fallen in love with. Customers are constantly asking if we have it in stock and it seems to be a beer/style we have become to be known for. Customers have asked us what the difference is between our Juicy Pils and a clear American style IPA is. In our opinion, the lager yeast and process we use creates a much cleaner and flavorful product.

Warwick Farms Juicy Pils (Photo courtesy the Breweries In PA Facebook group)

This style isn’t easy to create because of time, labor, cost, and tank space. We ferment at cold temperatures with a lager yeast to ensure we create as clean a beer as possible. After dry-hopping is done, we allow the beer to naturally clarify by allowing it to age at 35 degrees for 2-3 weeks. This style is an absolute pain because it ties up two tanks for a long period of time. The other thing that has taken us some time to figure out is how to balance the bitterness. We want this style to be smooth, but bitter enough to where it is extremely crushable and crisp. The feedback of this style has been so positive for us that we are dedicating 2-3 tanks to it when we open the tasting room.”

I would love for this style to stay, but I believe breweries with limited fermentation space will have trouble fitting this into a brewing schedule. Breweries will need to educate customers on this style and hopefully, the beer community will learn to appreciate them. All of the popular hops like Citra and Mosaic are typically more expensive and the “Cold IPA” requires them. Cold-IPA’s or Dry-hopped Pilsner will most likely be in the same range that you would pay for a Hazy IPA (in some cases maybe more). The great thing about this style is that it’s very approaching to customers who enjoy Hazy IPA’s and lagers. This style could be the bridge that allows the beer community to start exploring styles they typically wouldn’t try. Many Hazy IPA fans try our Juicy Pils and can’t believe it’s a lager. Now we see those same customers exploring and enjoying styles like Helles, Czech Pils, and other lager-styles! Overall, I am very excited to see if this becomes a trend!

So now you’ve read what Andrew and Ryan think about this “new” style of beer, what do you think? Let us know if you believe this will take off, or fizzle somewhat like the brut IPA phase of 2020.

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