A few weeks ago, an executive from a popular South Shore brewery served me a beer like I had never had before.
“What you get is crazy,” says Mike Dyer, vice president and co-owner of Scituate’s Untold Brewing, while explaining the brewing process for “Frozen Fractals,” a beer he classifies as a Cold IPA.
We’ll get to what this beer tastes like in a second, but before that, the definition and origins of the term Cold IPA are worth exploring. Last Christmas, Untold co-founder Matt Elder was visiting family in Seattle when he noticed the unfamiliar style was everywhere. 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 that they label as Cold IPA. Elder drank a little while there and brought some home to study.
Then, in January, Kevin Davey, the brewmaster of Wayfinder Beer in Portland, Oregon, wrote a blog post explaining his role in creating the Cold IPA in 2021. The post is geeky and best absorbed by someone with extensive brewing knowledge, but in short Davey writes that he was trying to create a cross between an IPA and a lager that was not an India Pale Lager, of which he calls most examples “clunky”. A Cold IPA, he writes, “has a gorgeous hop aroma, a clean, assertive bitterness, and a bold, clean finish that makes the drinker want to have another sip.”
There is some debate among brewers whether Cold IPA is an all-new style or a modification of several others, but this tasted new to me and the brand is fun, so we’ll continue. Untold is about to start experimenting with the style in Massachusetts, and so “Frozen Fractals” was my first chance to try one.
As with any artistic endeavor, Untold’s first run 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 foggy. But we just kept watching and watching it, and in 72 hours, the beer 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 bit hazy but mostly clear, and the aroma that emanates from it is… interesting.
“What’s crazy about this beer is that on the nose you get a fruity, funky – it almost smells like overripe pineapple to me,” Dyer says. “And then when you first sip it, it’s smooth – I almost get Starburst fruit chew type flavors – then it turns into a dry, clean, slightly bitter finish again.”
I have to admit the beer has nothing to do with what I thought. And if you’re a super fan of heavily saturated, forward-thinking IPAs, this probably isn’t for you. But I liked how Frozen Fractals featured some of the fruity flavors I enjoy from the style, how it was mostly clear and effervescent rather than cloudy, and how I could make out the pine notes at the end. I would need a second (or third or fourth) taste of various Cold IPAs to form a cohesive opinion on the style, but this is at least new and interesting.
Beer lovers looking to try a Cold IPA soon are in luck. Untold recently brewed another, with friends at Cushwa Brewing in Williamsport, Maryland, and plans to release it in early May.
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