When Laughing Bones founder John Morawski first read about Mountain IPA he decided to explore. Little did he know that within a few years the style would become his flagship and that his north Auckland brewery would become the country’s leading producer of the hybrid style.
Mountain IPA is a rather romantic way of describing a beer that falls somewhere between two extremes (geographically and stylistically).
It lies between the clarity and bitterness associated with West Coast IPA and the fuzz and fruit of a Hazy (ie East Coast) IPA.
Those two styles are named for the respective coasts in American where they arose, and somewhere in between, geographically, is Colorado where Oskar Blues produced Dale’s Pale Ale (a sweet and piney 6.5% pale ale) and Odell created Mountain Standard, a juicy-fruity beer with some haze and a hint of late bitterness. These beers drove a regional style associated with the mountainous area where they were made.
A handful of Kiwi breweries have played with Mountain IPA including Deep Creek and Ground Up, but no-one has owned the style like Laughing Bones, who have produced a series of beers with juicy texture, fruity flavour, a little haze and a bitter finish.
And to celebrate 10 years of brewing, their 10th Mountain IPA release is a special version of their signature with a whopping 10 different hop varieties: Warrior, Cryo Columbus, Strata, Chinook, Amarillo, Cryo Chinook, Simcoe, Sequoia, Cryo Pop and Zamba.
Morawski, from Minnesota originally, came to New Zealand from Massachusetts. He started the short-lived Brewery Britomart in downtown Auckland with Laurence van Dam, who went on to start the Beer Spot. Morawski says the concept of a bistro-style brewpub in the city was “ahead of its time”.
He then launched Laughing Bones as a sideline when he was the brewer at Brothers Beer when that brewery was at the City Works Depot site. He’s now set up in Silverdale, in the same neighbourhood as Deep Creek.
Morawski said he tries to keep an eye on what’s happening in the American scene and when Mountain IPA popped on to his radar he was immediately “attracted to the style”.
“When we brewed the first one, it was a bit whimsical, but the style hits a sweet spot in the market.”
What he likes about it is the open stylebook. A brew can lean in one direction or another, playing in the space between the two extremes. “The playing field is very broad, you can keep the beer very clear, or lean to the east and make it more hazy and juicy up front. But what attracted me was at the back end you have that bitterness associated with the West Coast style.”
The underlying promise of Mountain IPA is to deliver fruit-forward hop aromas and flavour but marry them to that cleansing bitterness. “It doesn’t have the mouthfeel that many people associate with a hazy, that’s not the style — it’s a relatively clean finish, not cloying.”
Morawski now wants more people to understand the style and hopes the 10th birthday release that resonate with fans of both haze and bitterness.