Last Week, Fox River Brewing introduced Independence Haze, the brewery’s first New England-style IPA.
It looks about right: lemon-yellow and appropriately hazy. The aroma is intense, a plume of tangerine, pineapple, and kiwi. Those same juicy-fruit notes rule the palate, with a dab of cracker-like malt running in the background. My only quibble is the mouthfeel. I would have liked a creamier texture. The finish is dry, clean, and bright with a gentle smear of bitterness. At 6% ABV, it’s not too imposing. If you don’t think of yourself as being into IPA, this might be the beer to revisit your assumptions with.
The Back Story
The New England IPA (NEIPA) came to prominence on the east coast; the first iterations being brewed in Vermont in 2010. In recent years, the style has become a national phenomenon. But not without controversy. These beers tend to be exceedingly hazy, a consequence of the process used to create them. That cloudy appearance and lack of bitterness doesn’t sit well with some fans of American IPA. Yet its that soft bitterness coupled with lush hop flavor that makes converts of those who, in the past, steered clear of conventional IPAs.
In Oshkosh, the first commercial brewery to take on this style was HighHolder Brewing. Earlier this year, HighHolder released EWECO, a NEIPA, as a one-off for the Fox Valley Winter Beer Festival. Fox River’s Independence Haze is the first NEIPA produced in Oshkosh that’s been released to the general public.
Fox River assistant brewer Cullen Dunn brewed Independence Haze on July 4, 2018. “We had an opening in the schedule we didn’t think we’d have,” Dunn says. “And we had a decent amount of really good hops on hand, so…”
It wasn’t all happenstance. Dunn’s been workshopping the beer for about a year. “It’s loosely based on a beer I’ve been brewing at home, but I wanted something that would also seem familiar to customers at Fox River,” he says. “I didn’t want to go completely off the reservation.”
Part of what makes NEIPAs so different is the hopping regimen. Most of the hops are applied in bursts while the wort is cooling and again when the beer is in the fermentor. For Independence Haze, Fox River used Amarillo, Citra, and Mosaic hops.
“There’s no original bittering addition on this,” Dunn says. “We did two separate whirlpool additions, then a dry hop at yeast pitch, and then another when fermentation was underway, and another at day two of fermentation.” In all, 32 pounds of hops went into the 10-barrel batch of beer. “It’s insane,” Dunn says.
He’s happy with the results. “I’d like to reduce the bitterness even more and make the haze even more significant, but I like it. It helps that it’s so fresh.”
The 29-year-old Dunn has been at Fox River since 2015. This was his first recipe produced by the brewery and probably his last. In August, Dunn begins work as a brewer at Karben4 Brewing in Madison.
Independence Haze is currently available on draft in the taproom at Fox River Brewing in Oshkosh.