If you tried to tell me the current hype in craft beer wasn’t the “North East” or “New England” style IPA I would tell you that you were very very wrong. People are lining up outside of breweries in the North East almost every single day to get their hands on the delicious nectar. Now, we Cincinnatians are getting our chance to grab the hazy golden awesomeness right here in our own city. When Listermann first announced Brass Monkey and Brass Monkey Junkie the craft community exploded with excitement. We knew it was going to be huge, but were we prepared? Oh yes, and we were thirsty for it as the cans flew out of the brewery and off the shelves within a matter of hours.
So what’s the deal with the NE IPA style that’s sweeping the nation? NE IPAs are typically very low on the IBU scale, the crazy hop notes are just not there. Instead they are very fruit and juice forward creating a super refreshing beer that just about any beer lover can enjoy. The hops that find themselves in the style always play well with the overall juiciness. Simply said these beers are easily crushable, hazy and down right tasty. But…You probably already know that. If you want to read more about the whole NE IPA craze my buddy Craft Beer Joe did a nice piece talking about the phenomenon. Tell him I sent you!
Now that we are two Listermann can releases into the recent hype here in Cincinnati I decided to reach out to Jason Brewer, General Manager. My goal was to dive in and see what their plans are for the style, to see if this is something that will be come a regular thing, and just get their general thoughts on NE IPAs.
When someone first suggested to Jason that Listermann should first start brewing NE IPAs he resisted until he got the chance to try a few himself. Once he tasted some of Trillium’s brews he was 100% on board to start brewing some hazy awesomeness. You may not know that Listermann released some test batches and finished NE IPAs in the taproom far before they hit cans. They were a little hush hush about it (probably because they wanted it for themselves…I kid I kid), but those small releases were just a test run of what was to come. People drank so much of it that they knew they had to take it to the next level.
Listermann isn’t just “riding the wave,” as you may call it, they wouldn’t be making these beers if they weren’t beers that they loved. Jason says “We like to make beer that we like to drink. I don’t care how much hype is behind something, we wouldn’t make it if we didn’t like drinking it ourselves.” Even if there were only two people waiting outside at a can release they’d still be chugging them out. It would just mean more beer would make it to distribution and, of course, more for them! Jason and Jared, Listermann’s, head brewer were very adamant that they really loved their NE IPAs. The love for their own beers is really contagious. It’s always great to see a brewery love their own beers so much they can’t stop saying it.
When Brass Monkey dropped the Listermann team were blown away by the response. They were even further blown away with their recent Biggie and Pac release. “It’s humbling to see all these people come to our little brewery and are excited about our beer,” Jason said. “A lot of times you’re making beer and you get lost in the process. You get into beer because it’s fun, but once you start working at a brewery level it becomes a job. It’s still fun, but there’s a lot of work.” These releases are another reminder to them that what they do is one of the best jobs in the world to have. One of Jason’s favorite part of release day is walking the lines and talking to his fellow Cincinnati craft beer lovers.
So What’s With the Hip-Hop Names?
I think one of my favorite parts about Listermann’s NE IPAs is the branding. You can’t deny seeing all these hip-hop references kind of brings you back a little bit. It’s that nostalgia that really makes it special. Because of this I had to inquire where the idea behind these hip-hop names came from. When the crew first started getting into the haze craze they happened to be watching Hip Hop Evolution on Netflix. It’s a movie that documented the hip-hop scene from the 70s to the 90s. That movie kind of planted the seed for the branding. It inspired them to pay homage to the East Coast and West Coast artists. You’ll be happy to hear hip-hop was a major part of their brewing process blasting into all hours of the night. “It’s a great blend of culture and beer. It gave us a chance to pay tribute to artists that we really love and enjoy.” Jason added. On release days their jukebox is always pumping out all day. Their number one song played is Brass Monkey which is definitely not a surprise.
As you know this weekend on March 11th is their third NE IPA can release with No Sleep ‘Till Norwood East Coast IPA which is brewed with Galaxy, Falconer’s Flight 7 C’s and Motueka hops and Brewers Delight East Coast IPA brewed with Pineapple and Galaxy, Citra and Zythos hops. Make sure you get down to Listermann early because the lines will be long! The party starts at 10am at 1621 Dana Ave, Cincinnati, OH 45207.
Is There an End in Sight?
So is there any end in sight for NE IPAs and Listermann? “When you stop buying it” Jared chimed in jokingly, “but we’re still going to make it because that’s what we love drinking.” Listermann plans on continuing on staying hazy. 5 of their 7 tanks are filled with it currently. Their only holdup is their schedule and getting the mobile canner in. I asked if I could pry their next two beers out of them and they happily obliged. Their next two cans will be dubbed 99 Problems but a Beer Ain’t One inspired by Jay-Z and Tricky inspired by Run DMC (One of you all out there asked me when we’d see Run DMC, the answer is soon!). Further details on the beers will be forthcoming, but Jason assured me that these are their two best beers in the style that they’ve ever made. They’re “Outrageously awesome.”
Hip-Hop Battle Home Brew Competition
In the near future Listermann will be holding a NE IPA home brew competition dubbed Hip-Hop Battles in which the winner will get to brew their beer side by side with Listermann and see it canned along with a Listermann beer. Entries must be a NE style IPA, session or double IPA. The best from each category will go head to head in the finals. I jokingly suggested if there were a tie that they should hold a rap battle…Jason thought the idea was awesome. If you’re a home brewer now is the time to start working!
If you plan on home brewing your own NE IPA for the competition Kevin reached out on Twitter with the question: What kind of water treatments for Cincinnati water are needed for the style? Jared, Listermann’s head brewer says you have to watch the chloride and sulfate levels. Cincinnati water is slightly higher in sulfates so you can use calcium chloride to balance the levels out. It will let you have a stable mash and allow you to make the best NE IPA that you possibly can.
What Does the Future Hold?
Jason says right now these IPAs are font and center with their current plans. 5 of their 7 tanks are currently full of it. You saw the release of Shamrock Shake this past week and you’ll see the barrel aged version hit on St. Patricks Day. They’re also working on a wood aged stout brewed with cherries that you should be seeing very soon. Other than that they’re currently playing it by ear. They have a schedule, but as you know in the brewing world everything is subject to change. I, for one, can’t wait to see more NE IPAs hitting the shelves around the city so if Listermann wants to keep rocking them out I’ll be there to buy them.
I want to extend a thank you to Jason and Jared for letting me steal a little bit of their time to talk. Keep on making awesome beer guys. Cincinnati is thirsty for it!