What Is a Cold IPA?

Man enjoying his first cold IPA drink

Craft beer fans are always on the lookout for the next big thing, and Cold IPA (India Pale Ale) is quickly becoming a favorite. This intriguing new style stands out for its unique brewing process and refreshing taste.

So, what is a Cold IPA, and how does it differ from other IPAs? Let’s dive in and discover what makes this beer so special!

Key Takeaways

  • Cold IPAs are brewed with lager yeast at cooler temperatures, creating a crisp, clean, and hop-forward beer.
  • The unique brewing process of Cold IPAs involves lighter malts, cooler fermentation, and dry-hopping to enhance hop aroma and flavor.
  • Cold IPAs offer a refreshing alternative to traditional IPAs, with a balance of hop intensity and a clean, crisp finish.
  • Cold IPAs aim for an attenuation similar to IPA, making for a relatively dry beer in the alcohol range of a standard IPA.

What is a Cold IPA?

A Cold IPA is an innovative twist on the traditional IPA, brewed with lager yeast at cooler temperatures to create a unique beer experience. Unlike the usual IPAs that use ale yeast, Cold IPAs benefit from the clean, crisp characteristics of lager yeast, resulting in a refreshing and hop-forward beer.

Key characteristics

Cold IPAs are known for their crisp, clean, and highly drinkable profile. They offer a pronounced hop aroma and flavor, often showcasing tropical fruit, citrus, and pine notes. The use of lager yeast ensures a lighter, more refreshing body compared to traditional IPAs.

Brewing process

The brewing process for Cold IPAs involves several distinct steps:

  • Lager yeast: Instead of the typical ale yeast, Cold IPAs are brewed with lager yeast, which ferments at cooler temperatures. This yeast selection helps create a clean and smooth finish, allowing the hop flavors to shine.
  • Cooler fermentation: Fermenting at cooler temperatures than standard IPAs, Cold IPAs achieve a crisp and clear profile. This process avoids the fruity esters often produced by ale yeast, maintaining the beer’s refreshing qualities.
  • Dry-hopping: To enhance the hop aroma and flavor, Cold IPAs are often dry-hopped at the end of fermentation. This technique involves adding hops after the boil, which intensifies the hop characteristics without adding bitterness.

This innovative approach combines the best of both worlds: the hop intensity of an IPA and the crisp, clean finish of a lager.

Pioneered by Kevin Davey, the former brewmaster at Wayfinder Beer, the Cold IPA style combines the best of both worlds: the hop intensity of an IPA and the crisp, clean finish of a lager. This innovative approach is gaining traction, making Cold IPAs a must-try for craft beer enthusiasts.

Brewing Process of Cold IPA

The brewing process of a Cold IPA is what sets it apart from other beer styles, combining the elements of both lagers and IPAs to create a refreshing, hop-forward brew. Let’s look at the entire process.


To create the light and crisp body characteristic of Cold IPAs, brewers use lighter malts such as Pilsner malt, rice, or corn. These ingredients contribute to a lighter malt profile, which allows the hop flavors to take center stage. The hops selected for Cold IPAs often favor fruity and tropical flavors, adding a burst of aroma and taste that beer enthusiasts love.

Fermentation process

A defining feature of Cold IPAs is the use of lager yeast, which is typically associated with lagers rather than ales. This yeast is fermented at warmer temperatures than usual for lagers but cooler than for ales.

The unique fermentation temperature creates a clean and smooth flavor profile, avoiding the fruity esters that ale yeast can produce. Compared to traditional ale and lager fermentation temperatures, this approach strikes a balance, offering the crisp finish of a lager with the bold hop presence of an IPA.


Dry-hopping plays a crucial role in enhancing the hop aromas and flavors in Cold IPAs. This technique involves adding hops at the end of fermentation, allowing the hops to infuse the beer with their essential oils without adding bitterness.

The timing and method of dry-hopping are specific to Cold IPAs, focusing on maximizing hop aroma and creating a vibrant, hop-forward experience. This step ensures that the final product is bursting with fresh, aromatic hops, making it incredibly refreshing and flavorful.

Differences Between Cold IPA and Other Styles

Different types of IPA beers

When you learn about the distinctions between a Cold IPA and other beer styles, you can appreciate what makes this brew unique. Let’s compare the Cold IPA to traditional IPA, India Pale Lager (IPL), and the dry-hopped lager.

Cold IPA vs. traditional IPA

One of the primary differences between Cold IPAs and traditional IPAs is the type of yeast used. Traditional IPAs are brewed with ale yeast, which ferments at warmer temperatures and often produces fruity esters that contribute to the beer’s flavor profile.

In contrast, Cold IPAs are brewed with lager yeast, which ferments at cooler temperatures. The cold IPA taste has a cleaner, crisper finish with hop flavors that stand out more prominently without the interference of ale yeast esters.

Cold IPA vs. India Pale Lager (IPL)

While Cold IPAs and India Pale Lagers (IPLs) both use lager yeast, the key differences lie in their fermentation temperatures and yeast characteristics. IPLs are fermented at traditional lager temperatures, which can produce sulfur compounds that sometimes give off undesirable flavors.

The cold IPA style, however, ferments the beer at slightly warmer temperatures, reducing the production of these sulfur compounds and resulting in a cleaner taste.

Additionally, Cold IPAs aim for a higher attenuation, meaning more of the sugars are converted to alcohol, creating a drier finish compared to IPLs.

Cold IPA vs. dry-hopped lager

Both Cold IPAs and dry-hopped lagers emphasize hop aromas and flavors, but there are notable differences in their brewing techniques and flavor profiles. Dry-hopped lagers are typically brewed using traditional lager methods but with the addition of dry hopping to enhance hop character.

Cold IPAs, on the other hand, blend the brewing techniques of both IPAs and lagers. Lager yeast and cooler fermentation temperatures combined with aggressive dry hopping creates a unique beer that is hop-forward like an IPA but clean and crisp like a lager. This combination offers a balanced and refreshing profile that sets Cold IPAs apart from dry-hopped lagers.

Flavor Profile of Cold IPAs

Woman drinking a beer outdoors

Cold IPAs offer a distinct flavor profile that sets them apart from other beer styles. Let’s review the taste, aroma, and mouthfeel that define this refreshing brew.

Taste and aroma

Cold IPAs are celebrated for their hop-forward flavors, with a strong emphasis on citrus, tropical fruit, and pine notes. The selection of hops often includes those that contribute to these vibrant flavors.

The malt backbone is intentionally light and crisp, typically using Pilsner malt or similar lighter malts, which allows the hop characteristics to shine without being overshadowed by malt sweetness.

The balance ensures that the hop aromas and flavors take center stage, providing a fresh and invigorating experience with each sip.


The mouthfeel of a Cold IPA is another standout feature. These beers have a clean and refreshing finish, thanks to the use of lager yeast and cooler fermentation temperatures.

Higher attenuation during fermentation leads to a drier beer, meaning more of the sugars are converted into alcohol, resulting in a crisp, light body. This dryness, combined with the clean fermentation profile, enhances the beer’s drinkability, making Cold IPAs a perfect choice for those seeking a refreshing and flavorful beer that isn’t too heavy or filling.

The unique combination of hop-forward taste, light malt backbone, and clean mouthfeel makes Cold IPAs a delightful and innovative addition to the craft beer scene. Whether you’re a fan of traditional IPAs or looking for something new, the flavor profile of Cold IPAs is sure to impress and refresh.

Try a Cold IPA Today!

Ready to experience the refreshing and unique flavor of a Cold IPA? Try one from New Trail Brewing Co. to get a firsthand taste of this innovative style. Visit our Tasting Room, or check out our selection online for a Cold IPA recipe (and more!) that showcases the perfect balance of hop intensity and clean, crisp finish.

Don’t miss out on the chance to enjoy this exciting new addition to the craft beer scene. Cheers to finding your new favorite brew!

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a cold IPA mean?

A Cold IPA is an innovative beer style that combines the hop-forward characteristics of an IPA with the clean, crisp finish of a lager. It is brewed with lager yeast at cooler temperatures, which differentiates it from traditional IPAs that use ale yeast.

Is a cold IPA an IPL?

No, a Cold IPA is not an IPL (India Pale Lager). While both use lager yeast, Cold IPAs are fermented at slightly warmer temperatures than traditional lagers, resulting in a cleaner taste with fewer sulfur compounds. Cold IPAs also emphasize a higher attenuation for a drier finish.

What is the flavor of cold IPA?

Cold IPAs are known for their hop-forward flavors, with strong notes of citrus, tropical fruit, and pine. They have a light and crisp malt backbone that allows the hop characteristics to shine, providing a fresh and invigorating taste.

What is the difference between a cold and hazy IPA?

The primary difference between a Cold IPA and a Hazy IPA lies in their brewing processes and flavor profiles. Cold IPAs use lager yeast and are fermented at cooler temperatures, resulting in a clean and crisp finish.

Hazy IPAs, on the other hand, are brewed with ale yeast and are characterized by their cloudy appearance and juicy, fruit-forward flavors. Hazy IPAs tend to have a softer mouthfeel and a less bitter finish compared to Cold IPAs.

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