Different geographical regions of the United States have often pioneered distinctive styles of beer, and in New England that style is the appropriately named New England IPA (NEIPA). NEIPAs are considerably less bitter than many other IPAs, with a thick body and almost creamy juiciness that’s particularly easy on the palate, even when they have higher alcohol by volume (ABV). It’s partially for those reasons that the Brewers Association officially recognizes the style as “Juicy or Hazy India Pale Ale,” although the terms are effectively interchangeable.
Ironically, unless you live in New England, the NEIPAs you’ve been drinking almost certainly came from other parts of the country. Many New England breweries only distribute within the boundaries of New England, and some of the most acclaimed breweries are either self-distributed (meaning they deliver beer to stores, bars, and restaurants themselves, as opposed to going through a distribution company) or have literally no distribution at all, only selling their beer on premises. This means that if you want to taste their true NEIPAs for yourself your only options are to visit in person, try to buy them on the secondary market, or to trade for them online.
A lack of distribution has caused no small amount of frustration for people pining after some of America’s most exclusive beers, and it’s no fun for the breweries either. Famed Vermont brewery Hill Farmstead has a note on its website that reads, with palpable irritation, “If you are located outside of Vermont, please understand that there are no plans to expand distribution beyond existing markets.” Similarly, Vermont brewery The Alchemist notes on its own site, “PLEASE NOTE: We do NOT ship beer.”
While it’s true that a great many excellent breweries across the country have embraced the NEIPA style, and that you can easily find NEIPAs made by breweries like California’s Sierra Nevada and Colorado’s New Belgium Brewery, New England produces some of the best examples of the style you can hope to find, and for that reason it’s worth seeking them out (if you’re up for a road trip). Below are a few selections of the best New England IPAs that are actually brewed, sold, and mostly kept within the region.
Heady Topper isn’t just one of the most famous, elusive beers in the world, it’s also credited as being the first of its kind. First brewed in 2007, it’s a dank, hazy, juicy creation with extremely low bitterness that its creator, brewer John Kimmich, insists must be kept perpetually cold (bring a cooler!) and sipped directly from the can. For these reasons, and because it’s enormously expensive on the secondary market, if you’d like to drink it you’ll probably need to make a pilgrimage to Stowe, Vermont.
Two Roads Brewing is based in Stratford, Connecticut, and its NEDIPA (New England Double India Pale Ale) Two Juicy is one of the few beers of this style that is both actually brewed in New England and that you might have some hope of finding in the wider United States. This beer’s hop load includes Hallertauer Blanc, Citra, and Mandarina Bavaria, giving it not just the telltale notes of citrus and tropical fruit that fans of this style seek out, but also a welcome hint of pine. In line with its style comes higher ABV, so if you’re looking to taste a boozier NEIPA, this is your chance.
Based just outside of Boston in Woburn, Massachusetts, Lord Hobo is one of the largest breweries in New England, and 617 is its love letter to the city of Boston (and its various sports franchises). First released in 2019, this beer gets its name from the city’s area code and is brewed with an ABV to match, but it was originally packaged with the words “617. Title Town” and emblazoned with the words “Hazy Boston I.P.A.” Lord Hobo’s website indicates the can design has since changed and now simply reads “617 Hazy IPA”—probably a good move, given that reminding people of how insufferable Boston sports fans are doesn’t seem like a good marketing strategy. As with most NEIPAs you’ll encounter juicy tropical fruit flavors, and the brewery also notes 617's berry flavors and its finish reminiscent of honey. An intense citrus aroma makes this beer stand out.
Few beers are as coveted by beer connoisseurs as those produced by Tree House, a non-distribution brewery whose gargantuan facility is in Charlton, Massachusetts, a town about 55 miles from Boston. Tree House is one of those breweries where the daily line of customers is perpetually hundreds deep, and where a not insignificant number of people buying beer are doing so with the intention of reselling it illegally on the secondary market (a fact I have personally witnessed). For that reason there actually is a chance you’ll be able to find its world-famous flagship IPA, Julius, outside of New England, but it’s guaranteed to be at an enormous markup if you do. A lot of people would say it’s worth it: Julius is a thick, fragrant juice bomb of a beer that pours a dense yellow-orange (similar in color to its ubiquitous can) and is intensely citrusy, while also carrying notes of both peach and tropical fruits such as mango and passionfruit.
Open since May 2018, Definitive is one of Maine’s newer craft breweries and, at least in my eyes, is also one of its most promising. Its flagship beer, a NEIPA called Definitive Ale, is a melon-y tropical bombshell that’s double dry-hopped with Citra, Simcoe, and Topaz hops and supported by subtle, toasty malt flavors. Definitive Ale is a great example of what the brewery is capable of, and its wider portfolio of beers is also worthy of your time. As an added bonus, the brewery has a slightly wider distribution radius than the others in this list and can be found in several New England states, as well as New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.