Kevin Davey provides more detail about the origins of Cold IPA
Not long ago, I posted a story about a new collaboration beer from Ecliptic Brewing and Wayfinder Beer, two damned fine breweries in Portland, Oregon. As to what style of it beer they created, it was dubbed a “Cold IPA,” which I described as a newish style IPA. I did not offer a very robust description or definition of the style and the process behind Cold IPA. (Above: The world’s first Cold IPA – Relapse Cold IPA, Wayfinder Beer.)
Truth be told, it did not occur to me that I needed to provide a lot of detail. If an award-winning, highly respected brewer like Kevin Davey (Brewmaster at Wayfinder Beer) said it was a “newish style,” and that it was different than other styles, I assumed people would take him at his word. Furthermore, for this particular collab beer, Kevin worked with John Harris, the brewmaster at Ecliptic Brewing. He is nothing short of a legend in the brewing world. Look it up.
Still, as the comments came in on that original post, it became clear that some people questioned or derided the assertion that there was something different about this beer.
To me, it’s like telling Leonardo da Vinci, “That’s not Mona Lisa.” It’s like telling Vincent van Gogh, “Those aren’t sunflowers.” But I digress.
I now offer a more complete description of Cold IPA, which includes some very geeky details about how Kevin Davey created it and how he arrived at the name. No doubt, some of you will still disapprove, or question, or deride. That’s fine. After all, this is the internet.
But I assure you, they are sunflowers whether you like it or not.
Cold IPA Defined
From Kevin Davey, Brewmaster at Wayfinder Beer
It started off with a little negativity. I’ve got an opinion to share: I don’t like IPLs. 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. The clunkiness comes across in two ways depending on how the IPL was brewed. Those two camps are: the “IPA with lager yeast” approach and the “Dry-hopped Lager”.
IPA with lager yeast: recipes in this fashion employ a clean, American IPA recipe and sub the yeast from Chico to lager yeast, usually 34/70, ferment cold and see what happens. The dry hopping doesn’t work the same. The lager esters and uptick in SO2 really does not work with American hops. That sticks out like a sore thumb. Usually, the fermentation is hurried, or it is mis-handled because brewers that try this approach don’t hang their hats on lager styles. They just do not stand out enough to gain any footing.
Dry-hopped lager: This takes a normal pilsner-style recipe and changes the hopping from a classic approach to what we see with American IPAs these days: all the kettle hops in the whirlpool, large dry hop with newer IPA hops (Citra+Mosaic, or NZ+AU varieties, or Hüll varieties). The amount of grassiness is heavy. It lacks the spicey bitterness we’re accustom to with pilsners. This lends the beers to finish sweet and fruity. All of this distracts from drinkability.
Back in 2017, when I was designing the early beers for Wayfinder, I really didn’t want to make an IPL. Wayfinder is a Portland-based brewery that makes about half lager beer and half IPA. We may be more known for our lager beers to which I’m delighted. Portland was just starting to see the trend of the NEIPA. I knew I wanted to master that style and put my own spin on it, and we did with Flower in the Kettle IPA. I also wanted to make a clean, West-coast, classic C-hopped beer with a touch of caramel malt (gasp!), and we covered that too with Doomtown IPA named after the classic Wipers song about Portland. But after a while, I just wanted to put my own spin on IPA. It needed to be something that was categorically different than IPL or other IPAs before it.
What I came up with is kind of a blend of lots of things. First, I wanted to incorporate adjunct brewing in IPA. Brewing with adjuncts may be the most American way of brewing so it seems to fit that we make it an IPA, too. Using rice and corn does add a certain body and mouthfeel but allows the beer to be dry without being naked and overly bitter. It also gives the beer its stark yellow appearance.
Second, I used our house lager strain of yeast, but ferment it warm (65F) to avoid the excessive SO2. Using a clean fermenting yeast like this allows the hops to shine without a backdrop of ale yeast aromas. We have also tried to make these styles of beer with American Ale and Kölsch yeasts. I’m convinced that many NEIPA enthusiasts might confuse ale esters for hop aroma, (I’m looking at you, London 3) and I wanted to avoid that altogether.
Lastly, I added the technique we use for Italian Pilsners: the dry-hop spund or dry hop krausen. In this nerdy process, we dry hop at the tail end of fermentation when there is still plenty of activity or we add fresh fermenting beer to a finished tank with the dry hops. We achieve three things by doing this. 1. We fully carbonate the beer. 2. The still active yeast scrubs any oxygen we add during the dry hopping. 3. Biotransformation of hops.
What we ended up with is decisively unique from IPL or Dry hopped lager. It has a magnificent hop aroma, clean assertive bitterness and a bold, clean finish that makes the drinker crave another sip. I felt it needed a name to differentiate it. So it’s a bit Wester than West-coast, it’s crisp and sessionable, but strong and sneaky. It’s Cold IPA.