This episode is the first of two parts where we try Northern Light Helles, Red Zeppelin Irish Red, and Zombie Dragon East Coast IPA.
We get to talk to Davis Tucker founder of NXNW. We talk about how a car accident led to a trip tp Europe which birthed the idea of Austin's oldest craft beer brewpub. Davis talks about his days brewing Pecan Street Lager at Shiner, his fight to allow brewpubs and beers to go in Austin, deathbed beers, the White Stripes, Zeppelin, Game of Thrones, and the importance of making quality beer.
Music for the show:
Evil Eye/ The Stranger Rides Tonight by Daddy Long Legs is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 License.
Bottle of Beer by simon_mathewson is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License.
A glass of Helles
Helles or Hell is a traditional German pale lager beer, produced chiefly in Southern Germany, particularly Munich. The German word hell can be translated as "bright", "light", or "pale".
Helles-style beers typically are full-bodied, mildly sweet, and light-colored, with low bitterness. The beer is clear due to filtration prior to bottling, although some restaurants and breweries do offer an unfiltered version. Munich-style Helles is a yellow beer brewed with bottom-fermenting yeast, bitter hops such as Hallertau hops, and an original specific gravity (prior to fermentation) between 1.044 and 1.053 (11 to 13 degrees plato, and between 4.5 and 6% alcohol by volume. Helles has a less-pronounced hop flavor than pilsner beers.
Until the 1960s, Helles were universally available in German-speaking regions. In many regions, Helles was slowly replaced by Pilsner-style beers, which was also driven by changing consumer preferences from draft beer to bottled beer. In regions outside of Southern Germany, Helles is regaining popularity, particularly Berlin, where the beer's traditional image has become trendy.
Helles enjoys great popularity in the Southern German regions of Bavaria, Franconia, and Baden-Württemberg. It can be referred to as "Helles", "Spezial", "Landbier", "Munich Lager", or "Export". No clear distinction is drawn between Lager and Export, although Export typically is closer in style to Dortmunder Export, which has a slightly higher ABV of 5.5% for extended shelf life.
Main article: Bitter (beer)
Pale ale, English style
The expression first appeared in the early 19th century as part of the development and spread of Pale Ale. Breweries would tend to designate beers as "pale ale", though customers would commonly refer to the same beers as "bitter". It is thought that customers used the term bitter to differentiate these pale ales from other less noticeably hopped beers. Drinkers tend to loosely group modern bitter into "session" or "ordinary" bitter (up to 4.1% abv), "best" or "special" bitter (between 4.2% and 4.7% abv) and "strong" bitter (4.8% abv and over).
India Pale Ale
Main article: India Pale Ale
India Pale Ale or IPA is a style of pale ale developed in England for export to India. The first known use of the expression "India pale ale" is in an advertisement in the 'Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser' on 27 August 1829.
Worthington White Shield, originating in Burton-upon-Trent, is a beer considered to be part of the development of India Pale Ale.
The color of an IPA can vary from a light golden to a reddish amber.
Irish red ale
Irish red ale, red ale, or Irish ale (Irish: leann dearg) is a name used by brewers in Ireland; Smithwick's is a typical example of a commercial Irish Red Ale. There are many other examples being produced by Ireland's expanding craft beer industry. O'Hara's, 8 Degrees and Franciscan Well all brew examples of Irish Red Ale.
There is some dispute as to whether Irish Red Ale is a genuine style or the same as English keg Bitter.
In the United States, the name can describe a darker amber ale or a "red" beer that is a lager with caramel coloring.
Irish red ale is a balanced, easy-drinking pint, with a moderate malt character full of caramel and toasted notes. The deep reddish copper color comes from both crystal malt and a small dose of highly kilned grain, such as roasted barley. Despite a slightly sweet overall character, the highly kilned grain adds a touch of dryness to the finish and can add a very slight touch of roasted flavor too. Hop bitterness is evenly balanced, but the dark malt addition can make the beer seem a little more bitter than the IBU level would indicate. Hop flavor and aroma is often close to non-existent, but there are examples with a touch of hop character. This beer can be brewed as either an ale or lager
This is a beer style with limited history. Whether that limit is because some of it has been lost or because it is a relatively new style, not especially sought after in its own country, with a history half buried in that of English bitters, is hard to firmly nail down.
There is a brief mention of “red ales” in a Irish poem dated back to the 8th or 9th century. This fleeting reference seems to be the earliest such allusion to red ale and says it was drunk in “Dorind” in Kerry, and “about the land of the Cruithni” (Cruithni is a name given the Pictish tribes). It is safe to suppose that what we consider Irish red in its modern styling is very different from the red ale spoken of in this poem.
For one thing, hops had just started to find their way into brewing and were a few hundred years away from monopolizing the job of “brewing herb.” Other herbs such as heather, sweet gale, bog myrtle, and buck-bean still fed the bulk of the Irish brewers’ art.
The Modern style seems to find its roots in English bitters and Pale Ales more than in any ode to the above lost and mysterious “red ale.” Its beginnings are in the Irish town of Kilkenny in 1710 and the birth of the Smithwick Brewery and its Smithwick Draught ale. This new red ale was less hops focused and instead zeroed in on the malt.
It’s interesting to note that this style is much bigger here in America then the country it’s named for. This may seem odd at first, but there are two factors that I would contend, at the very least, greatly contribute.
In 1980 Coors Brewing bought the license to use the name Killian from George Killian Lett, a fifth generation brewer that had closed the doors of his once famous Brewery of Enniscorthy. Coors began to brew Killian’s Irish Red, a lager somewhat in the Irish Red style; and with all its marketing muscle to backup this new venture, it found popularity in America.
Also, Ireland has a much longer history with the dry stout and porter then it does with the Irish Red. Maybe its Irish pride, a genetic taste for those dark brews, or stout dominated advertising, but the new kid just doesn’t enjoy as much popularity there as its dark cousins.
New Englang IPA
New England IPAs are beers that are purposely hazy or cloudy, which can give these brews a smooth, creamy mouthfeel – a departure from the light/dry mouthfeel you often get with West Coast IPAs – with little to no hop bitterness at the end utilizing hops that impart a tropical, juicy sweetness rather than the classic bitter, dank or citrus-y flavors West Coast IPA lovers have come to expect.
This new style all started with Heady Topper, the cult beer made by The Alchemist that has resulted in hop heads lining up days in advance for a chance to consume this golden liquid goodness. And the result of the beer’s popularity has been other brewers across the region copying and riffing on the style.
The first brewers to embrace this new version of IPA were fellow Vermonters, a fact that has caused many to lobby for the style to actually be named Vermont IPA instead of New England IPA, though as John Kimmich, brewmaster at Vermont’s The Alchemist told Eater in an interview last year, “There are people in the Vermont scene that really push the idea of Vermont-style IPA, but I am not one of them. Personally, I find it a little arrogant to try and claim that we do something so different that it deserves its own category.”
And yet this style of beer is spreading across the country, with many clamoring for The Brewer’s Association to officially add New England IPA as a new style. But The Brewer’s Association has been resistant so far, and much of that may have to do with their overall resistance to hazy beers in general. With so many new breweries opening across the country, there is a lot of bad beer out there and much of that has to do with bad brewing. Last year the association published a treatise titled “Beer Haze: Clarity in a Topsy-Turbid World” that broke down the various reasons for and dangers of hazy beer.
But New England Brewers are insistent that they enjoy the haze, and to use it as a signifier that the beer is faulty is inaccurate. Other IPA hubs such as California, Oregon and Colorado seem to agree, and they’re giving the style a try. While the beer’s hazy appearance may be a departure from the crystal-clear brews these prominent IPA regions are used to,, the fact that they’re experimenting with the style at all proves New England IPA has become a style of beer that’s worth paying attention to.
Origins of New England IPA
In defiance of American drinkers’ long-lasting penchant for bland beer, hop-forward India pale ales continue to dominate craft beer. It remains the fastest-growing sector of the industry, and just as craft surprised a drinking public accustomed to boring beer, controversy surrounding the IPA now captivates craft.
The New England IPA (sometimes called Vermont IPA) has made a big splash in the United States, with some claiming it’s the way of the future—cloudy, smooth, and fruity, with an artfully refined bitterness. What’s interesting is that those who brew the style usually attribute its name to the press and beer enthusiasts, not to the breweries themselves.
The style supposedly began with Heady Topper, the cult beer brewed by The Alchemist that prompted long lines to score a chance for a taste. Limited supply and distribution created scarcity and perpetuated demand for the beer, and its popularity naturally encouraged other brewers in the region to imitate it.
Dave Carpenter, editor of Zymurgy® magazine, when asked about the New England IPA, touched on an interesting aspect. “The impassioned ‘brewer’s lore’ that surrounds the style [is most intriguing]. Some speak in whispers about origins of yeast strains and swear by internet videos that suggest stratospheric levels of water hardness, while others draw battle lines separating haze and clarity. It’s like a secret society or the New England mafia. If you can stand on the sidelines and watch, it’s pretty entertaining.”
With the likes of New England breweries such as Fiddlehead Brewing, Hill Farmstead Brewing, Other Half Brewing, and Tree House Brewing all pumping out cloudy, fruity IPAs, this new take on the style appears to have gained momentum beyond its region of origin and finds itself in a national discussion about the validity of the style and its hazy appearance.
Why the Haze Craze?
Appearance is the first thing we notice when a beer is placed in front of us, and a beer’s clarity—or its opacity—can influence our perception before we even take a sip. Andy Sparhawk, the Brewers Association’s Craft Beer Program Coordinator, wrote a treatise titled “Beer Haze: Clarity in a Topsy-Turbid World” that breaks down various causes of hazy beer.
It appears that the hop craze is shifting our assumptions about clarity and quality. Sparhawk notes, “Hop haze is a permanent haze brought on by aggressive dry-hopping… the addition of more and more hops can have repercussions on clarity—and some brewers, as well as their hop-head fans, are OK with that.”
Haze has many contributors, one of which is high-protein grains like wheat and flaked oats. When you include such grains in an aggressively hopped beer and leave it unfiltered, a robust haze can develop.
But it’s not just massive hopping that makes the New England IPA appealing to beer drinkers. Water chemistry is sometimes different than it is for other IPAs. There’s often a higher balance of chloride to sulfate, which lends a softer mouthfeel and a smoother, rounder IPA than what we typically associate with the West Coast.
Yeast plays a major role, too. Often a lower-attenuating strain of English origin, yeast creates fruity esters and remains suspended in the beer during bottle conditioning Taken together, these factors deliver an unfiltered, cloudy appearance that might otherwise signal a defect in many styles. But craft beer drinkers can’t seem to get enough of it.
Is New England IPA a Style?
Does the high demand for the New England IPA mean it merits its own style? We took a look at the Brewers Association style guidelines.
American-Style India Pale Ale is allowed chill haze at cold temperatures and hop haze at any temperature. Hop aroma is high, exhibiting floral and fruity characters, while hop bitterness is medium. It seems as though the New England IPA is an unbridled hop-forward IPA and is made for the proudest of hop enthusiasts who sacrifice nothing to the filter.
While debate still looms over whether the so-called New England IPA is a fad or a style with staying power, beer enthusiasts’ admiration for hop flavors makes these beers no-brainers, and the excitement surrounding them is evident. When asked why demand for these IPAs is soaring, Sparhawk explained the hazy IPA “is part of an overall trend toward bold, bursting hop flavor. Craft beer lovers are accustomed to flavor, particularly hop flavor (not the same as bitterness).”
In the end, the question of whether the New England IPA warrants its own style category depends upon the continued influence of these juicy examples. Their popularity is growing and inspiring many imitators, but is it a flash-in-the-pan riff on the American IPA? Is it just a West Coast IPA with new hop varieties that change flavor and appearance? Or do high-protein grains and English yeasts herald a new style definition?
John Kimmich, brewmaster at The Alchemist told Eater in an interview, “There are people in the Vermont scene that really push the idea of Vermont-style IPA, but I am not one of them. Personally, I find it a little arrogant to try and claim that we do something so different that it deserves its own category.”
A perhaps surprising statement from someone who inspired a movement toward softer, rounder, juicier IPAs.
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