A few weeks ago, a director of a popular South Shore brewery poured me a beer I’d never had before.
“What you get is insanely wild,” says Mike Dyer, vice president and co-owner of Scituate’s Untold Brewing, as he explains the brewing process for “Frozen Fractals,” a beer he classifies as a cold IPA.
We’ll see how that beer tastes in a moment, but for that, the definition and origin of the term Cold IPA are worth investigating. Over Christmas last year, Untold co-founder Matt Elder was visiting family in Seattle when he noticed the unfamiliar style being made everywhere. West Coast breweries like Seattle’s Reuben’s Brews and Georgetown Brewing Co., as well as San Francisco’s Fort Point Beer Co., all make beers they label as Cold IPAs. Elder drank a few while there and took some home to study.
In January, Kevin Davey, the Portland, Oregon-based brewmaster of Wayfinder Beer, wrote a blog post explaining his part in the creation of the Cold IPA sometime in 2021. The post is geeky and better taken by someone with extensive brewing knowledge, but succinctly Davey writes that he was trying to make a cross between an IPA and a lager that was not an India Pale Lager, most of which he calls “clumsy.” A Cold IPA, he writes, “has a magnificent hoppy aroma, a clean assertive bitterness and a bold, clean finish that leaves the drinker wanting another sip.”
There’s some debate among brewers as to whether Cold IPA is a brand new style or an adaptation of several others, but it tasted new to me and the branding is nice, so we’ll keep going. Untold is at the beginning of experimenting with the style in Massachusetts, so “Frozen Fractals” was my first chance to try one.
As with any artistic endeavor, Untold’s first attempt at Cold IPA was a little nerve-wracking.
“Two weeks into the trial, we were trying, ‘this is a failed experiment,'” Dyer says. “It smelled weird, it was blurry. But we kept looking at it and kept looking at it, and in 72 hours the beer just kind of changed.”
When Dyer pours me the beer, it appears to be the color of pale straw in the glass, not a vibrant orange. It’s a little cloudy, but mostly clear, and the aroma that blows off it is… interesting.
“The crazy thing about this beer is that on the nose you get fruity, funky — it almost smells like overripe pineapple,” says Dyer. “And then when you first sip it, it’s smooth—I get almost Starburst-fruity flavors—and then it turns back to a dry, clean, slightly bitter finish.”
I have to admit that the beer is not what I thought it would be. And if you’re a super fan of heavily saturated, OJ-forward IPAs, this probably isn’t for you. But I liked how Frozen Fractals contained some of the fruity flavors I enjoy the style, how it was mostly clear and fizzy rather than cloudy, and how I could make out the pine notes at the end. It would take me a second (or third or fourth) taste of different Cold IPAs to form a coherent opinion of the style, but at least it’s new and interesting.
Beer lovers looking to try a Cold IPA soon are in luck. Untold recently brewed another one, with friends at Cushwa Brewing of Williamsport, Maryland, and plans to release it in early May.
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