Restaurant critic Craig LaBan is a fan of the New England-style IPA trend. We asked him to recommend some local versions.
Craig LaBan: I’ve complained for years about the over-hopping of IPAs as the West Coast style took over American craft-beer culture in increasingly exaggerated examples. I prefer subtlety and balance. More is not always more. Just as the hottest pot of chili isn’t always best, neither is a beer so intensely bitter with hops that it will peel the enamel off your teeth.
The recent boom in New England-style IPAs (also known as East Coast style), in which the hops are added much later in the process to accentuate the fruity flavors and aroma rather than bitter qualities, has been a revelation to me and given me a new appreciation for why people are crazy about various hop varieties to begin with. Hazy and unfiltered Vermont cult beers like Heady Topper helped launch the trend. But local brewers have taken up the style with fervor, too.
Tired Hands in Ardmore has been a trend-setter in that genre around here, especially with some of its one-off special canned releases. But I’ve enjoyed several other examples, including Cloudy with a Chance of Charcuterie from Free Will Brewing, Cloudy and Cumbersome from Levante Brewing, Stable 12’s Crowd Pleaser, and one of my new favorites, Fuego from Tonewood Brewing, which has brought the freshly brewed joys of dank and juicy IPA to South Jersey.