Fremont Baxter Cold IPA and the rise of the light and lagery...

Posted by John Shearlock on

There’s a saying that every dog has its day and going by the chit chat in current beer circles - at this moment in time, that dog would seem to be lager. And yet, this lager dog (sorry, sounds a bit strange I know… but stick with me on this one) isn’t exactly what I’d call a pure breed.

Brut IPAs and IPLs are part of the recent trend; one a hoppy beer made in a dryer lager-like style and the other, a lager pumped full of hops to bring it closer to an IPA. So, we’ve apparently decided we like lager - but we just want those lagers to be big and hoppy and more like an IPA - less like a lager. Fair enough.

The Cold IPA continues the theme, which is essentially about creating lighter styles, that are still brimming with flavour and yet possess the drinkability to induce the next sip. The style was created by Kevin Davey, brewmaster at Wayfinder in Portland, which - funnily enough - is famous for its lager-centric brewing, making lagers and IPAs in equal amounts. The perfect hot bed for a lager/IPA crossbreed one might say!

Kevin Dacey wanted to create a drier styled IPA with big hops and a clean finish and he did this through a combination of techniques. First he added the old faithful American adjuncts of corn and rice into the mash bill to provide a certain leanness and balance. Then he deployed lager yeast and fermented warm so as to avoid high levels of So2. Both of these techniques allow hops to shine through and so, of course, his last move was to dry hop at the tail end of the fermentation. Voila, the Cold IPA was born (or should it be a Warm Lager??) - its first incarnation being Relapse IPA (which also sports some super sexy can art too). The style is now drifting around the world and, no doubt, evolving as we speak.

Which brings us to our Fremont Baxter Cold IPA. Here, the hop mix is different and 2-Row Pale and Pilsner malts have been joined by flaked corn, but no rice. Baxter, according to the brewery, is named after the pets of Fremont Brewery and that 'Love is a four-legged word'. Which brings us squarely and oddly back to our lager dog.

Let’s see what it’s like.

It’s a pale amber colour in the glass. The nose is lighter than I expected but maybe that’s the corn element diluting the malt and the absence of ale yeast esters. Nevertheless, there is a decent smattering of juicy citrus and apricot fruit which is seasoned with green, vegetal hop notes. It’s beautifully clean and the lightness continues into the palate which has more sweetness than I expected too and which is presumably thanks to juicy hop sweetness and possibly some impact from the corn, seeing as the malt is very much playing second fiddle to the hops.

A totally intriguing brew this one, which does feel new, different and somehow familiar at the same time. It certainly has a clean quaffability that quite a few IPAs don’t possess, or do, but lose about half way down the glass.

The ebb and flow of drinks styles is always fun to watch and, although what is essentially a big hoppy style, doesn’t sound like anything new - the Cold IPA and the current fad for all things light and lagery may well be proof that the tide is finally turning in the beer world. Our love affair with big, adjunct heavy, mashed up and mixed up craziness hasn’t exactly disappeared - but our collective palate certainly seems to be opening up to elegance and lightness once again. Amen to that.

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