The allure of West Coast IPA is fading, clear definition lost in the continuous polishing and reinvention of the “style”.

Hazy IPA has peaked. It seems.

What’s next?

A few IPA iterations have put up their hands in recent years: notably Brut and White but they never made it out of their niche, as nice as they are.

Cold IPA has some traction and while I personally love the style and think it’s a great name, it’s hard to explain to anyone but the craft-embedded — and explaining it someone who just wants and actual “cold” IPA might make it too arcane to gain a proper popularity toehold (but hopefully brewers keep making them!).

Brett IPA. Intriguing but too much inertia to overcome.

Red, hangs around like a good dog, and who doesn’t love a good dog?

Black. There’s still a black market but it’s small.

So, what’s the game-changer IPA — the one that has cross-over to the mainstream market.

Parrotdog are betting big on Bright IPA.

The team in Lyall Bay have released a few Bright IPAs, most recently in their limited-edition series (three of them in 11 releases, including a Double Bright IPA) and earlier for their 10th birthday.

Pacific Coast have done one, Scarab. Martinborough Brewery got in the New World Beer & Cider Awards Top 30 last year with their Bright IPA. Shining Peak produced Detained & Fabulous, their LGBQT+ beer. And Alibi Brewing also had one … but google “what is Bright IPA?” and not much comes up?

By far the most results in my search related to Parrotdog.

Now they’re adding a Bright IPA to their core range with Thunderbird.

bright ipa

Its arrival this month begs the question, google aside, what is a Bright IPA?

Most obviously, says Parrotdog brewing director Matt Warner, it’s “a useful catch-all descriptor for a non-hazy IPA” so — yes — it’s clear, filtered and bright, with a colour anywhere from “super pale to deep gold”.

Warner says the hops can be from anywhere but the spin is towards modern American hops.

Bright IPA is typically lower in bitterness than a true West Coast or American IPA.

“Our requirement for Bright IPA is that it must be clear, filtered and bright. We want people to be able to confidently purchase an IPA knowing that there’s no chance that it might be hazy. The terms ‘IPA’ and ‘hazy’ seem at risk of becoming more and more interchangeable.

“Not to take anything away from hazy beers but this is just giving a leg up to those who desire clear, filtered, bright beers.”

Fellow Parrotdog founder Matt Kristofski sees Bright IPA as surfing off the apex of the hazy wave, which they’ve ridden so expertly with Birdseye, a beer that accounts for half their annual production.

“Birdseye defines our brand but we’re starting to see a trend back towards clear beers. For us, it’s a way of pre-empting that shift in preference for clear IPAs. But we wanted to capture a modern interpretation of that style – so we’ve used modern hops that have similar flavours as you’d find in hazy IPAs.”

That description is a lot like the one Firestone Walker’s Matt Brynildson gave when talking about their release of Hopnosis last year:

“Brewers have been using a lot of tricks learned through hazy IPA, such as omitting cara-specialty malts, cooling down the whirlpool, lowering hop bitterness, and loading up on new-school hops to showcase a soft tropical fruit character.”

Kristofski feels they’ve got that hop character.

“When you open a can it hits you in the face.”

And there’s also a need to distance this modern IPA from West Coast IPA.

“When people hear West Coast IPA they instantly think of it being a heavy beer, but we wanted this to be light bright and easy-drinking — like Birdseye, we want it to be a volume beer,” Kristofski says.

“I think ‘Bright’ works really well to describe this new era of modern IPA which carries over those characteristics from hazies.”

Hitting an ABV of 5.8% is also key with a core range, as opposed to the earlier iterations of Bright IPA in one-off 440ml cans which clocked in a much bigger ABVs.

“That 5.8% is a sweet spot for ABV because Kiwis do took to ABV and work out how much they’re spending to get it.”

The question is whether this new beer might cut across Bitter Bitch? 

“We’ve thought about this a lot. Bitter Bitch is still our No 2 SKU and it’s still growing after 13 years, but it’s a unique beer in the core range format and it has a very loyal following —because of its cult status people stick with it and love it.”

Thunderbird is more likely to impact Birdseye, but in that instance, it might also be a case of cashing in on shifting preferences as beer drinkers look to a brighter future.