Everybody's Talking About Cloudy IPAs Now

Apparently, Denver has its own Great Notions

Beer styles are apparently like cars or babies: When you get a new one, all of a sudden you start noticing them everywhere else.

Or at least that's my takeaway from this Westword post about Colorado's influx of new, cloudy New England-style IPAs.

As Westword tells it:

We wrote about he same thing last week in reference to the wildly fruity new brews from Alberta's Great Notion, which shocked a lot of people by taking two of the top five spots on our blind taste-off of all 73 Portland-brewed IPAs.

So far, Great Notion—which has only been brewing since December and will celebrate its grand opening with a release party this Saturday—is the only Oregon brewery (readers inform me that Block 15 is also experimenting with the style) making this style of aggressively light, fruity, cloudy IPA. And then might be taking it further than even its progenitors—I'll get to that in a minute.

In my analysis last week, I noted that this new style is a disruption of the ultra-bitter style that's dominated the Northwest for a decade. I tend to agree with Great Notion brewer James Dugan, who told me that, "[A] lot of the people who say they prefer the West Coast style just haven't had the opportunity to try the Northeast-style IPAs, because they really offer up a flavor profile that's juicy and have a mouthfeel that's soft and pillowy, and it doesn't have that biting bitterness."

THREE KINGS: Great Notion's James Dugan (left), N.W.I.P.A.'s Jackson Wyatt and Fat Head's brewer Mike Hunsaker, who took first and second place in our blind taste-off of Portland IPAs. THREE KINGS: Great Notion’s James Dugan (left), N.W.I.P.A.’s Jackson Wyatt and Fat Head’s brewer Mike Hunsaker, who took first and second place in our blind taste-off of Portland IPAs.

I argued these locally unique beers will be influential—not only are Great Notion's Ripe and Juice Jr. going to be the beers of the summer, I think they're poised to become the official IPA of New Portland—but not everyone is buying it. Over at Beervana, the city's most esteemed beer writer, Jeff Alworth, disagreed: "Heady Topper is a fascinating beer, but its influence was basically nil in the pubs and breweries of New England, which have largely tended toward English-inflected, balanced, and notably malty beers….It's not an old trend there. Those small New England breweries didn't even drive a palate shift in Portland, Maine, so I have a hard time believing they drove one in Portland, Oregon. And anyway, Portland has its own fairly long history of the kinds of IPAs "

The history in Jeff's post is worth reading—he literally wrote the bible on beer—but he's a busy man and hasn't had the Great Notion beers yet. And I think his opinion might shift a bit once he does. In Portland, Oregon, these Great Notion beers are a totally new and unique thing.

I'm even more sure of my thesis now that I've tried Great Notion's Ripe next to the beer that birthed it, Heady Topper. It'd been over a year since I last had Heady. Happily, one of my friends happened to get a shipment from Vermont last week, so we took the Pepsi challenge with Ripe and a fresh can of Heady on Monday night. Though Ripe uses yeast propagated from Heady, I found it even more Heady than Heady. It's fruitier, more turbid and lighter on the tongue.

Obviously that can of Heady was older than my day-old crowler filled behind the bar at Great Notion, and had to travel across the country. But based on that tasting, Ripe really shoves hard in the direction Heady gently steps.

The demand for these beers is intense—Great Notion keeps selling out, Heady and Julius have a cult following, most of the top-rated IPAs in the world on BeerAdvocate are now that style—and I think it's only going to increase in the year to come.

Try for yourself at Great Notion this Saturday. If you see Jeff, please buy him a beer.

The Alchemist's Heady Topper (left) and Great Notion's Ripe. The Alchemist’s Heady Topper (left) and Great Notion’s Ripe.

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