Garage Project gatecrashed the Malthouse West Coast IPA Challenge last week, sending an East Coast IPA instead.
The entry, tastefully called Party & Bullshit, got nowhere. The winner was Moa’s Perris Sky Juice, followed by Epic’s Thor and Tuatara’s Centennial Highway. Peoples’ Choice went to Liberty’s The Nine.
But Garage Project's was the beer that excited the twitterverse. And it wasn’t simply that Party & Bullshit is not a West Coast IPA. It is, clearly, opaque, and this cloudiness surprised and even offended some punters.
The cloudy East Coast IPA is an established and recognised style, but it’s not one that New Zealand brewers have experimented with, so most local craft beer fans weren't prepared for a beer that’s turbid, muddy, opaque and murky.
Perhaps the definitive ECIPA is Heady Topper, from Vermont’s The Alchemist brewery. It’s a cult classic, rated last year by Beer Advocate as fifth best beer on the planet. Famously labelled “drink from the can” so you don’t have to look at it, Heady Topper is one of a range of beers going under the Vermont IPA style.
“This style is interesting,” says Garage Project head brewer Pete Gillespie. “It’s something I came across on a recent trip to America. We’ve got the West Coast IPAs which are scorchingly bitter, loads of aromatics. I love hop aroma, I love hop flavour, but I don’t always want it to be scorchingly bitter.
“Then along comes the East Coast version of the IPA. We haven’t invented it – it became super-popular with beers like Heady Topper, and now there’s a stream of breweries and festivals doing them. They have all the aromatics of the West Coast style, they are aiming for that tropical fruit character, and then behind it there’s a fun malt body and a fraction of bitterness.”
So, for the record, Pete does know the beer is cloudy. It’s intentional.
“I made the call to not use any finings at all in any stage. We don’t filter anything at the Garage anyway, so I’m comfy that a lot of our beers are mildly hazy. This one has no finings and the cloudiness is a combination of protein haze and yeast. It’s fugly but it’s delicious. It should taste like mango fruit juice, and it’s got the mouthfeel as well. It has a big body because we use a lot of oats.”
And again, just for the record, Garage Project did not add flour to the beer. "It’s easy to make a beer clear, so obviously it was quite intentional to make this beer as murky as possible, and that should be part of its fun."
Pete says the cloudy IPAs are best enjoyed fresh, and while some Party & Bullshit will be canned, most will be sold in Wellington bars. But he also expects other brewers to brew the style, following its spreading popularity with US craft brewers.
“It’s a fun style and I’m sure others will try it. I’d definitely like to play around with it more. It will be interesting to see how this one’s received.
“There are definitely some people who love seeing a beer that’s this raw and that hasn’t been processed to buggery. This (Party & Bullshit) isn’t faulted, it’s just an absence of a lot of that processing that we’ve come to think of as absolutely essential, when it’s not.
“And hey, it’s a cool beer if it triggered an intense reaction!”