Kevin Davey isn’t shy about calling himself the father of the cold IPA.
“I did coin the term, envisioned the style, brewed the first one and put it on a label,” says Davey, the brewmaster of lager-centric Wayfinder Beer in Portland, Oregon. “Sure, I’ll take the title.”
Davey’s first cold IPA, Relapse, was brewed in 2018 and has been renamed Original Cold IPA. It differs from a hazy New England IPA and a more traditional West Coast IPA.
“Cold IPA mainly differs from New England IPA, because it employs a very high amount of fermentable adjuncts — such as corn or rice, which lighten the body — as opposed to unfermentable adjuncts, such as flaked wheat, oats or maltodextrin, which increase the body,” he says. “Like West Coast IPA, it is aggressively bitter and strong in alcohol —above 7%. But, unlike West Coast IPA, it uses no caramel malts and a cleaner yeast profile.”
The taste of a cold IPA is cleaner and crisper than a West Coast IPA and has less caramel flavor, Davey says.
Some beer experts contend that cold IPA is not a new style but rather a new marketing strategy for an IPL (India pale lager). Davey and other cold IPA brewers say they are wrong.
“God forbid a lager-brewer make up a new style!” Davey exclaims. “I think a lot of people had our cold IPA, tried to make a knockoff and didn’t do a great job of interpreting. Then, everyone else just thinks it’s an IPL. It looks, smells and tastes different from an IPL.”
Josh Pfriem, the brewmaster and cofounder of pFriem Family Brewers in Hood River, Oregon, credits Davey for inspiring pFriem’s Cold IPA.
“A cold IPA is everything that an IPL wanted to be,” Pfriem says. “When IPLs were popular, they were mostly brewed from an ale-brewer perspective. Many brewers took their IPA recipes and simply threw lager yeast at them. The result was typically a far cry from traditional lager brewing. The genius of cold IPA is that it is from the perspective of a lager brewer. It should be brewed like a traditional lager and not like an ale.”
Two Colorado breweries, Joyride Brewing and Westbound & Down, collaborated last year on a cold IPA and named it Too Cold for Texas. Joyride’s cofounder Dave Bergen understands why some might think it’s an IPL.
“The cynic in me certainly appreciates the thought that a cold IPA is a rebranded IPL, especially since IPLs are relatively rare, and great examples are even more rare,” Bergen says. “But I do think they are different. In general, IPLs are IPAs using lager yeast. Cold IPAs have an emphasis on crispness with pilsner malt primarily used, maybe a dash of corn or rice to help dry it out, or maybe even a good dose of dextrose. Are they worlds apart? No, but I think they contrast enough to warrant the different nomenclatures.”
A cold IPA “drinks differently than an IPL and a West Coast IPA,” says Jan Chodkowski, the head brewer at Denver’s Our Mutual Friend Brewing Company, which released Dream Burner, its first cold IPA in March. “It has the fruity, piney and citrusy aromas of a West Coast but the drinkability of a pilsner.”
WeldWerks Brewing Company in Greeley, Colorado released Chill, its first cold IPA last year, and re-released it July 29. It was 7% ABV and brewed with citra, El Dorado and strata hops.
The beer is “far from an IPL,” says Skip Schwartz, the head brewer. To make Chill, WeldWerks ferments two beers, one with an ale strain and one with a lager strain, and then centrifuges both in a temperature-controlled tank.
Denver’s Strange Craft Beer Company also collaborated on a cold IPA with Westbound & Down last year. Strange Craft’s Tim Myers, the head brewer and co-owner, compares the taste of a cold IPA and a West Coast IPA.
“When I think of West Coast IPA, my first impression is the intense, lingering bitterness of the hops,” Myers says. “I usually feel it in the back of my palate and often taste the bitterness in the back of my throat long after I’ve finished the pint. The hop aroma is also intense. Cold IPAs should also have intense hop aroma and flavor but usually much lower hop bitterness. The malt characteristic will most likely be lighter than a big West Coast IPA.”
Jameson Arnett, the manager of brewery operations at Denver’s Station 26 Brewing Co., suggests foods that pair best with cold IPAs. Station 26 collaborated on its first cold IPA last year with nearby New Image Brewing and called the beer RE: Your Car’s Extended Warranty.
“Cold IPAs tend to be light and crisp on the palate with a prominent forward hop aroma,” Arnett says. “For me, that combination pairs well with aromatic spices, oily foods, mild cheeses or fresh vegetables. With that in mind, the age-old combination of pizza and beer is always a winner. Deep-fried foods go really well — samosas are my personal favorite pairing — and anything with ginger, sesame or curry gets the thumbs up from me.”
Joyride’s Bergen has a few other suggestions — even a dessert.
“A burger with a decent amount of toppings would be a great pairing,” he says. “The beer is bitter enough to help cut through the fat, while the dryness would help cleanse the palate and prepare you to experience the next bite. Other foods would be bratwurst, fried chicken sandwiches and carrot cake.”