A couple of weeks ago, an executive at a popular South Shore brewery poured me a beer unlike anything I’d ever had before.
“What you get is freaking wild,” Mike Dyer, vice president and co-owner of Scituate’s Untold Brewing, says while explaining the brewing process for “Frozen Fractals,” a beer he classifies as a Cold IPA.
We’ll get to what that beer tastes like in a second, but before that, the definition and origins of the term Cold IPA are worth exploring. Over Christmas this past year, Untold cofounder Matt Elder was visiting family in Seattle when he noticed the unfamiliar style being made all over the place. West Coast breweries like Seattle’s Reuben’s Brews and Georgetown Brewing Co., as well as San Francisco’s Fort Point Beer Co., all make beers they label as Cold IPAs. Elder drank a few while he was there, and brought some home to study.
Then in January, Kevin Davey, the brewmaster at Portland, Ore.’s Wayfinder Beer, penned a blog post explaining his part in the creation of the Cold IPA sometime in 2021. The post is geeky and better absorbed by someone with expansive brewing knowledge, but in short Davey writes that he was trying to create a cross between an IPA and a lager that wasn’t an India Pale Lager, most examples of which he calls “clunky.” A Cold IPA, he writes, “has a magnificent hop aroma, clean assertive bitterness and a bold, clean finish that makes the drinker crave another sip.”
There’s some debate among brewers about whether Cold IPA is a brand-new style or a modification of several others, but it tasted new to me and the branding is fun, so we’ll press on. Untold is on the early end of experimenting with the style in Massachusetts, and thus “Frozen Fractals” was my first chance to try one.
As with any artistic endeavor, Untold’s first go-around with Cold IPA was a little nerve-wracking.
“Two weeks into the process we were trying it like, ‘this is a failed experiment,’” says Dyer. “It smelled weird, it was hazy. But we just kind of kept watching it and kept watching it, and in 72 hours the beer just kind of transformed.”
When Dyer pours me the beer, it appears the color of pale straw in the glass, not a vibrant orange. It’s a tad hazy but mostly clear, and the aroma wafting off it is … interesting.
“The crazy thing about this beer is on the nose you get fruity, funky — it almost smells to me like overripe pineapple,” says Dyer. “And then when you first sip it, it’s smooth — I get almost Starburst fruit chewy type flavors — and then it transforms again into a dry, clean, slightly bitter finish.”
I’ve got to admit the beer is nothing like I thought it would be. And if you’re a super fan of heavily-saturated, OJ-forward IPAs, this probably isn’t for you. But I liked how Frozen Fractals featured some of the fruity aromas I enjoy from the style, how it was mostly clear and effervescent rather than murky, and how I could pick out the piney notes at the end. I’d need a second (or third or fourth) taste of various Cold IPAs to form a coherent opinion on the style, but it’s at least new and interesting.
Beer fans looking to try a Cold IPA sometime soon are in luck. Untold recently brewed another, with friends from Cushwa Brewing of Williamsport, Md., and plans to release it at the end of April.