I have never had a beer from Tree House nor Trillium. Are the Bissell Brothers actually brothers and how much foam does a beer from Foam have? My point is that I’ve never had a NE IPA that was actually brewed in New England, so I have no real baseline upon which to judge the style. Are the hazy, juicy IPAs I can get my hands on locally honest representations of the style or is there something lost in translation? In much the same way that regular IPAs developed distinct differences as they were brewed in different parts of the country, are there differences between NE IPAs in different areas?
This is a complication that has plagued brewers forever. Styles are borrowed from different parts of the globe but tend to take on the characteristics of the region they are brewed in. IPA crossed the Atlantic, where yeast and malt character were lessened and hops became bolder and American in flavor. The English style and the American style might fall under the same style hierarchy but they are distinctly different beers. And while it’s not hard to imagine an ocean between two countries resulting in a change in style, the US is vast enough that it happens within our own borders.
Sometimes the archetypes are widely available and help define the style. Think Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Blue Moon and Fat Tire and their influences on their respective styles. The issue with NE IPA is that it’s a new style and it’s guidelines are still being written. There’s still not a universal consensus on how to even brew it. It’s a fickle style best enjoyed fresh, which has prevented national examples until just recently (and those aren’t even coming from the region where the style originated). So unless you’ve had a fresh can or draft from the source, it’s tough to know exactly what the style is supposed to taste like.
Does any of this even matter? As long as the beer tastes good, does it matter if it adheres to the exact style of the originals? I’d argue it only really matters in a competition. I have no clue whether Old Nation is doing the style correctly as defined by Tree House, Trillium and others. However, I do know that Boss Tweed, the Michigan brewery’s interpretation of an NE DIPA, is a very tasty beer.
It is thick and sticky, with an aroma chock full of ripe peaches, pineapple, green onion, oranges and a hint of pine. It begins by tasting like straight juice, a blend of peach, pineapple and citrus, before just enough bitterness presents itself in the form of grapefruit pith to remind you this is indeed a beer.
Does this compare to Swish or Haze? I have no idea. What I do know is that I enjoy it and that it will likely help define the style in Michigan. Whether that style is the same as the one found in New England or becomes something similar but slightly different will likely depend on how close of an interpretation this beer is. If it’s different enough, we may eventually refer to a Midwest NE IPA sub-style, a name that makes as much sense as Black IPA.