Josh Bernstein on IPAs, His New Book and a Brooklyn Brewery Release Party

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Brooklynite Joshua M. Bernstein’s latest book, Complete IPA: The Guide to Your Favorite Craft Beer, explores one of craft beer’s most popular styles in recent years. In anticipation of the release party at Brooklyn Brewery on September 20, we emailed some questions to the local writer:

On why he wanted to write this book

“The IPA has never been more omnipresent. And more confusing. Those three letters are shorthand for a universe of unique flavors and aromas, no two IPAs quite the same. I wanted to give drinkers the tools to decode the dizzying variety of variants and offshoots. This is like a map through the brewing world’s fantastically pungent, hop-filled forest.”

Oh how many IPAs he estimates he drank while writing this book

“Heavens, that type of research started 15 years ago… I was already familiar with a number of the IPAs in the book, just because I’ve been writing about beer for so many years. But unique, never-before-tasted IPAs, it had to have been in the hundreds. Traveling to festivals and to places like Belgium and Ireland, I was able to taste so many. So many! And no, I’m not sick of IPA.”

On why he thinks the IPA is so popular

“It’s like the Silly Putty of beer. IPA has been twisted and pulled in every which direction, a riot of booze and bitterness, spritzed with blood orange, milkshake-smooth with an aroma of mangos and papayas. Be it our cocktails, dinner or beer, we’re in a world that demands flavor. And IPAs deliver, down to the last drop.”

On if he thinks thinks the IPA’s reign will end anytime soon

“With all the new hop varieties being developed every year, there’s no end to its dominance or the variety of IPAs.”

On his most influential IPAs

“Bell’s Two Hearted Ale, a grapefruit-scented rite of passage for everyone that grew up in the Midwest. And Avery’s IPA, that was my bitter after I was dropped off in the Rocky Mountains after a road trip gone awry.”

On New York City’s IPA scene

“It’s never been stronger or more dynamic. Other Half has set a high bar for hugely hopped beers, which trickles down to every other brewery working hard to make sure their IPAs are as finely tuned as Ferraris. From Finback to Greenpoint Beer & Ale, Threes to Gun Hill, LIC Beer Project to newcomers such as Kings County and Interboro, the city is awash with crazy fragrant, lavishly hopped, hardly bitter IPAs that embrace the best of today’s techniques. Better still, most of these brews are canned fresh and fast, meaning another IPA is always just days away.”

In a subsequent email, Bernstein gave us his favorite locally brewed IPAs at the moment.

Other Half Brewing Co., Simcoe IPA
ABV: 7.0%
Pro tip: Swing by Other Half’s can releases in the afternoon, and the line will have died off. Yeah, the double IPAs may be gone, but you may stumble across a single-hopped gem like Simcoe IPA. Sometimes the hop can come across as overly dank and piney, but this IPA really ratcheted up this unexpected, appealingly fruity character. My last four-pack disappeared on the double.

Finback Brewery, Oscillation #3
ABV: 8.4%
I’ve known founders Kevin Stafford and Basil Lee since they were homebrewers, regularly appearing on my homebrew tour. They’ve quietly been killing it with their IPAs out in Glendale, Queens, especially their revolving Oscillation series. The latest is a tropical masterpiece that drinks like a hazy, heavenly trip to the Caribbean.

Rockaway Brewing Co., Muscle Beach
ABV: 7.3%
I just spent the Labor Day weekend in the Rockaways. Riptides closed the beaches, but Rockaway Brewing’s new beachy outpost was rocking. I crushed so many pints of Muscle Beach, the cheekily named “double session IPA” that’s the super-sized, supremely aromatic and smooth version of Da Beach session IPA. It tastes like drinking in a summer sunset.

Threes Brewing, SFY
ABV: 9.4%
Sometimes you just want a sticky, tropical shot to the dome; the senses-overwhelming double IPA formerly known as Superf*ckingyawn delivers in spades.

Kings County Brewers Collective, Dangerous Precedent
ABV: 6.6%
I’m so psyched to see my friends at KCBC go pro. I’ve also known them since their homebrew days, and there was no doubt in my mind that they’d knock it out with their brewery. Just open a couple weeks, it’s already crushing things with IPAs like Dangerous Precedent. It’s just as juicy as they come, like a mango-grapefruit gift wrapped with a resinous bow. Yum.

Katherine Hernandez

Katherine Hernandez is an Afro-Latina chef and multimedia journalist. Her work has been published on NPR Food, PRI's The World, Edible Manhattan, Feet in 2 Worlds, Gothamist and more.

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