Fundamentals #106 — Burnt Mill Polar Energy IPA

The New England IPA has been the source of much debate since it emerged from innovative breweries in the North-Eastern US over the past decade or so. Should beer really be this hazy? Is a beer with no discernible bitterness really an IPA? Does any of this matter if it’s delicious, and people enjoy it immensely? In answer to the latter: Absolutely not.

The style has also been the subject of much technical debate within the brewing industry. Not only due to the way this style uses a significantly larger volume of hops that many styles have previously, but in the way they are used during the latter stages of the brewing process and during/after fermentation to impart aroma, and towards mouthfeel, rather than for the more traditional infusion of bitterness.

I’ve been to lectures about a phenomenon known as “hop creep” (not to be confused with someone who lurks in beer bars minesweeping juice bombs), wherein the volume of hops added at, or after, fermentation may contain enough sugar and enzymes to unlock those sugars to restart fermentation in a beer that is otherwise “ready” to package. Another of these is “biotransformation” wherein the reaction of yeast with hop alpha acids breaks down some flavour compounds and forms them into brand new ones, giving brewers the opportunity to obtain different flavours from certain combinations of hops and yeast.

These ideas are still largely theoretical, although there is a growing amount of research to support them. Unsurprisingly the best of that research happens in the brewhouse, which is what Suffolk’s Burnt Mill brewery has been doing with its latest series of New England-style hazy IPAs, each one using a different yeast strain to influence the beers final flavour and mouthfeel.

In the third beer of this series, Polar Energy, in addition to exploring different yeasts it has used Citra, Kohatu and Bru-1 hops, the fusion of which has given the beer pronounced notes of ripe strawberry, orange rind and kiwi fruit.

Burnt Mill rarely, if ever drops the ball, and this is yet another impeccably made beer – maybe one that will spark your own interest in the research breweries are doing into how different combinations of hops and yeast yield varying flavours. Or maybe you’ll just sit and enjoy it, the biggest intellectual decision to come from that being what beer you’ll pick from the fridge next.

Matthew Curtis is a writer, photographer and editor of Pellicle Magazine. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @totalcurtis and @pelliclemag. Sign up to our All Killer No Filler subscription box and you'll find incredible beers like this one every month, plus more great writing from Matthew and our food writer Claire Bullen.