Sometimes I’ll try and convince myself that I’m bored of NEIPA. That, somehow, I’m better than it. That my taste has become too sophisticated, my palate transcending to a plane far beyond the physical realm where I sit and enjoy my crispy lagers, while leaving the proletariat to their juice.
But there’s always a beer to draw me back in and remind me that when done well, like any beer style, NEIPA can be delicious. And, holy shit, this bad boy, Down is the New Up from Manchester’s Track Brew Co, ticks all the boxes. Then it grabs someone else's paper and ticks those boxes too. This is a beer determined to ensure all boxes in existence have resolutely been ticked.
The aroma drips with potent notes of ripe mango, orange zest and freshly sliced cantaloupe. It’s a real fruit basket of flavour too. Freshly squeezed orange juice is the first that comes to mind, and there’s melon, and lychee, along with yet more mango. Such is the quality of its pronounced tropical character that I’m tempted to grab the rum and make me some punch.
Its finish, however, is what marks this beer as an exceptional piece of brewing. There’s a restrained acidity – not unlike what you’d find in actual fruit juice – followed by a delicate, drying finish. It’s this mouth-puckering, gently tart character that keeps all of its intense fruit character in check, making sure it’s as drinkable as it is delicious. A rare quality in so many copycat New England style beers, and one that ensures Track continually stand out from the pack. This beer really is sensational.
I’m writing a book at the moment called Modern British Beer that’ll be out in the spring, and in it I’ve had a lot of opportunity to examine the influence of contemporary US brewing on our own brewers. What’s fascinating is that in beers like this you can taste the influence of breweries like Tree House, Trillium, and even originators of the style like The Alchemist and Lawson’s Finest Liquids. But what I think is making the best UK NEIPAs stand out from the pack is that, increasingly, breweries are making the style their own.
While this is a beer that does wear its influences on its sleeve, what makes it so compelling is that it tastes, resolutely, like a Track beer. Increasingly, as breweries look to stand out from the back in the challenging modern beer market, finding that own unique sense of place will be crucial if breweries want to stand out. Maybe it’s even time to start calling these Manchester IPAs. Regardless of the nomenclature, however, I’ll be reaching for another can very soon.
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.