The acronym “IPA”—which stands for India Pale Ale—typically conjures an image of a golden, hoppy glass of suds. However, this vision of the increasingly popular beer style doesn’t tell the whole story. “The IPA category is stretched in lots of different directions these days,” says Tim Adams, co-founder of Maine’s Oxbow Brewing Company.
Adams would know. Oxbow crafts some IPAs with a single hop variety, and others with a blend. He experiments with yeast, souring certain beers before letting them soak in oak barrels. The result is a lineup of unexpected, grassy brews that are nothing like your standard Lagunitas.
While all IPAs focus on hops, Oxbow proves there’s plenty of wiggle room in execution. Massachusetts breweries Tree House and Trillium are crafting juicy, aromatic brews emblematic of New England. Meanwhile, Colorado’s Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project and Paradox Beer Company produce a range of wild IPAs, beers defined by spontaneous fermentation (from, say, yeast cells that sneak in on a berry—though most brewers encourage development with specific strains and bacteria). Then there are self-explanatory single-hop IPAs, each highlighting the wonders of a lone hop strain. New iterations are created daily, presenting flavors and aromas aplenty to pair with a range of cheeses.
These beers are fermented to bring out the tart (think sour cherry) and funky (think wet blanket) tastes that complement fruity hops—Brettanomyces yeast, for example, provides brews with wonderful caramelized-pineapple notes. Zoe Brickley of Vermont’s Jasper Hill Farm suggests matching these intense flavors with a New World Alpine wedge such as Switzerland’s Scharfe Maxx, a sticky, hard cheese with aromas of slow-cooked onions and cured meat. A similarly savory washed rind also does the trick.
New England IPAs
These turbid, unfiltered brews are known for colossal aromas of grapefruit, mango, and lime zest. Bold flavors call for equally bold pairings—sharp clothbound cheddar showcases sweetness and umami notes to balance bitterness from aggressive hops, and fudgy, brawny blues also find harmony.
These stripped-down quaffs highlight specific hop flavors—such as the clean mango and peach notes of Mosaic hops or the bright orange-blossom aroma found in Amarillo hops. Lemony chèvre offers brightness to offset the clean bitterness of the Centennial hops found in Bell’s Brewery Two Hearted Ale, says Matthew Thayer, owner of Boston cheese shop American Provisions. Uplands Cheese Company Rush Creek Reserve, a soft-ripened wheel wrapped in spruce bark, provides a woodsy sweetness that echoes the soft pine notes of Lost Nation’s Mosaic-laden beer.