Not long ago, it was all about the West Coast IPA. California breweries like Stone, Russian River and Bear Republic built empires on the style, favoring a dry IPA base and mountains of resiny, intensely bitter hops to craft aggressive brews that laughed in the face of the day’s macro lagers.
Now, it’s all about the New England IPA, also known as North East IPA. These brews have raised many an eyebrow with their outlandishly hazy appearance, but they’re mostly prized for a distinct "juiciness" resulting from the interaction between fruity, exotic hops and an unusually large suspension of yeast and protein particles. Breweries like Trillium, Tree House and Cloudwater are currently building empires on the style.
Calusa Brewing in Sarasota has only been in business for a year and a half, but it’s made a strong name for itself in that time, partly due to its line of New England/North East IPAs. Earlier this month it debuted The Process, two IPAs with identical recipes — same malt bill; both double dry-hopped with Centennial, Mosaic and Galaxy hops — save for different yeast strains and finishing methods. One beer goes in, two come out: West Coast and North East.
The Process West pours brilliantly clear; its nose subdued, save for some mellow tropical fruit notes. It starts out very dry, with light citrus notes and a touch of earthy pine. The beer is crisp and quite bitter, though not to the point that it becomes unrefreshing. While not as aggressive as its predecessors, The Process West would be comfortably at home in a San Diego taproom.
The Process North East is a very different brew. It’s completely opaque, resembling a glass of slightly watered-down OJ. The nose is dense with tropical fruit aromas, suggesting the style’s trademark juiciness. Surprisingly, the beer is relatively dry, though it does contain a healthy serving of mango, orange and papaya notes. The mouthfeel is softer than the West Coast variant. For beers sharing a recipe, these could hardly be more different.
Calusa does IPAs as well — or better than — anyone in the area, which makes The Process a very compelling exercise. It’s an IPA, two ways; starting with a beer that includes elements of the old and new top IPAs sub-styles and finishing with two startlingly different results owed to little more than different yeast strains. It’s amazing to see what a change in process will do.
Pick up The Process West and The Process North East in four-packs of 16-ounce cans for $16 apiece at Calusa Brewing’s tasting room (5701 Derek Ave. in Sarasota). If you don’t feel like dropping $32, you’ll also find both beers on draft. Don’t be afraid to order both pints at once — it’s a learning experience!
— Justin Grant
Have a suggestion for the Local Craft Beer of the Week? Brewers, have a limited release coming that we should know about? Email [email protected]