What is a Cold IPA?
What is a Cold IPA?
A Cold IPA is a strong, hop-forward, pale beer brewed with rice or corn to lighten its body. The beer is fermented with a lager yeast – though at warmer temperatures - for a crisp, clean flavor to complement high hop bitterness and flavor.
It just might be the next big thing in craft brewing.
While the popularity of hazy IPAs is as strong as ever, the style might be getting played out. Once, articles covered the excitement around the New England IPA. Now, recent posts have lamented that "all hazy IPAs taste the same." Simply put, beer lovers are always looking for the next big beer trend.
So, what is the next big thing in beer?
Hazy IPAs have been so hot, perhaps it’s time for a Cold IPA!
History of Cold IPA
The Cold IPA is the brainchild of Kevin Davey, the now former Wayfinder Brewing brewmaster. The veteran brewer describes the Cold IPA as antithetical to the currently popular hazy IPA/ New England IPA.
Wayfinder brewed the first Cold IPA in October of 2018. According to their webpage dedicated to the style, they "were trying to make something with the elements of West-Coast IPA but taken to the extreme. We wanted something drier with excessive hoppiness but a cleaner finish. Frankly, we tried to make a style of beer that could showcase American hops in a new way."
The idea caught on. Soon Davey was fielding emails from brewers worldwide for tips on brewing a Cold IPA. Early adopters included 21st Amendment and Ecliptic Brewing. Even Firestone Walker started playing around with the process.
The Cold IPA style leverages adjunct grains to deliver a dry and crisp drinking experience.
Adjuncts refer to any non-malt source of fermentable sugar, like corn and rice, that are added to the recipe in addition to malted barley. Adjuncts help brewers adjust for body, color, and ABV. Due to their fermentability, corn and rice are historically used to lighten a beer’s body. Notably, hazy IPAs use adjuncts, flaked oats, for example, to increase body.
The Cold IPA is excessively bitter, something of a pre-requisite to IPAs for most of its history. However, modern iterations of IPA have ditched bitterness in favor of increased hop flavor and aroma. The Cold IPA offers a return to high bitterness along with plenty of hop aroma, taking notes from advances that drove hazy IPA mania.
Another component of the style is that the Cold IPA employs lager yeast for a clean fermentation. The original New England IPA is believed to have been created with a mutated English Ale yeast which made fruity flavors like peach that accented the late-hopping of tropical-flavored hops. If fermented under the watchful eye of an experienced brewer, lager yeast will produce a beer free of fruity esters and spicy phenols. The result is a clean, smooth beer-drinking experience that highlights the beautiful aromas and flavors of the hops!
In the end, the Cold IPA represents a much different experience than the Hazy IPA, a clean, crisp drinkability with a throwback to classic American IPAs. If the Hazy IPA was the Anti-IPA, the Cold IPA is a new superhero destined to save our bored, muddled palates.
Credit: pexels, cottonbro studio
What makes Cold IPA different from other IPAs?
Beer fads come and go – particularly IPAs. Black IPAs, White IPAs, Belgo-IPAs, and, let's not forget, Brut IPAs, all lacked the sustained appeal of the West Coast/ American IPA and, more recently, Hazy IPAs. Each style brought an unorthodox component to the IPA; roasted malts, wheat, spices, enzymes, and lager yeast. Each had their champions who claimed the newcomer as superior somehow, but all of them were just traditional IPAs with a new hat. All of them faded.
By contrast, Hazy, New England Style, or Vermont IPAs differed. Sure, they used a ton of hops, but not at the traditional hopping intervals. These new IPAs were softer, less bitter. Their tropical hops produced an illusion of sweetness. Over time, the bitterness of these beers came way down. The goal of making the most bitter beer became the goal to capture the most hop flavor without aggressive bitterness getting in the way.
Hazy IPA found success not by adding something to IPA; instead, they took away bitterness, and the process was central to this breakthrough.
Brewing a Cold IPA, too, hinges on the process. Yes, it adds adjuncts to lighten the body, but this practice isn't novel. Pliny the Elder is a classic American Double IPA in which the Russian River uses turbinado sugar to lighten its body. Cold IPA couples this American Lager-style malt bill and ferments with lager yeast.
Doesn't that make it just an India Pale Lager?
An IPL is an IPA malt bill fermented like a lager. A Cold IPA is an adjunct lager malt bill, hopped like a west coast IPA, and fermented at a warmer temperature than a lager but cooler than an ale.
Keys to the Cold IPA
Beer lovers are a curious bunch. Understanding how a beer is made and what goes into them helps the beer adventurous understand what they taste from the glass.
- 20 to 40 percent rice or corn with American 2-row pilsner malt creates a pale, bone-dry base beer
- Quick fermenting lager yeast that finishes clean
- Dry-hopping during active fermentation to counter risk of oxidation
Credit: pexels, cottonbro studio
What does a Cold IPA taste like?
A Cold IPA reminds us of a classic American West Coast IPA. Davey said he was trying to elevate the style to make the West Coast IPA even "wester" than West.
A Cold IPA will taste like New World hops that include notes of floral, fruity (berry, tropical, stone fruit), sulfur, diesel-like, onion-garlic, catty, citrusy, piney, or resinous varieties. Malt sweetness is very low, and malt flavor is neutral. Alcohol is present but should never be harsh. The beer's bitterness can be relatively high but also not astringently harsh.
A Cold IPA will be the straw to pale in color due to using pale malts and adjuncts. The beer is clear. The mouthfeel is crisp and refreshing, with some alcohol warming to be expected.
Pairing Cold IPA with Food
A Cold IPA screams a summer frisée salad with crumbled Mycella blue and dried cranberries. The greens will complement the bitterness, while the blue cheese interacts with the carbonations and beer's strength.
The style can also be an excellent tool for rich BBQ, buttery seafood, or even decadent desserts like a dense New York-style cheesecake. Remember to use the beer's bitterness, alcohol, and carbonation to cut fat and allow the beer and food's more subtle flavors to shine. This is especially true with a malt bill like the Cold IPAs with a high level of adjuncts that can be easily lost. Find a way to let those delicate flavors shine as the more assertive flavors duke it out.
Credit: Andy Sparhawk
Why is Cold IPA becoming so popular?
Craft beer fans love their hops, and nothing showcases the ingredient quite like an IPA. The excitement around the Cold IPA is indicative that craft brewers have found a new, exciting way to celebrate them.
So, is Cold IPA here to stay? Ultimately, the Cold IPA is just a return to bitter IPAs. It was to be expected people get bored with the same thing. The Cold IPA bucks the juicy trends of Hazy IPAs just as American IPA was a departure from amber ales.
The Ultimate Cold IPA Beer Trip
Do you love a Cold IPA? Or are you curious about the style and want to taste great examples? Thanks to BreweryDB, you have the most expansive list of beers and breweries at your fingertips.
Search for Cold IPAs near and far with BrewKnowledge. The easy-to-use beer database allows beer lovers to filter their search by beer specifications and availability. Once you’ve found a list of Cold IPAs to seek out, hop onto the BreweryDB route finder and plan the ultimate beer road trip.
Whether your trip starts in Oregon at Wayfinder, the birthplace of the Cold IPA, or breweries closer to home, BreweryDB has the tools to help you research, plan, and enjoy your brewery adventures thoroughly. Try it today!