beer books

5 Questions with Josh Bernstein, Author of Complete IPA

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Noted Brooklyn-based beer writer Joshua Bernstein is releasing his 3rd book “Complete IPA” this week and he is in Portland to attend Feast and an author signing, book release, and beer release with Breakside Brewery this Saturday, September 17th from 2-4pm. Josh previously authored “The Complete Beer Course” and “Brewed Awakening” and is a regular contributor to Imbibe Magazine and more.

His new book “Complete IPA” is a breezy guide to IPAs, from their earliest origins to modern off-shoots. The book will bring you up to speed on the history of the style, its popularity and importance, and then brief explanations of all of its iterations and sub-styles right up to fresh hop beers and the New-England-style IPA, followed by writeups on specific beer suggestions that are excellent examples of that style.

“Creating a printed document in the forward-hurtling beer world can be thorny, text dated before the tome touches a shelf,” said Author and NYC resident Josh Bernstein. Continuing, “I tried to read tea leaves, but with IPAs the only foregone certainty is flux. There’s likely some experimental hop, just taking root, filled with flavors we never dreamed possible in a flower, destined to upend the IPA game forever.”


For the author signing and book release in Portland at Breakside’s Woodlawn brewpub this Saturday, Brewmaster Ben Edmunds made a special small batch pilot IPA with suggestions from Joshua Bernstein. That beer, also called “Complete IPA” will be tapped for the party this Saturday 9/17 at 2pm. You can meet Josh, and Breakside’s Ben Edmunds in-person.

Ahead of the author signing, I caught up with Josh for 5 brief questions about beer journalism and the state of the American IPA:


Q: How long have you been writing about beer?

JB: I’ve written about beer for the better part of 15 years. I started off as a young journalist in New York City, hard on the bar beat. After a steady parade of 4 a.m., uh, “research sessions,” I started growing a bit tired with just covering bars. But the beer, the beer was endlessly fascinating. It was the early 2000s, and the third wave of craft beer was just starting to crest. I began covering beer from a people-first perspective. What was hidden inside bottles and kegs was important, sure, but I wanted to tell the story of how it got there, focusing on passion, creativity and struggle—elements of any great story, beer had ’em all.


Q: What is the current state of the IPA? Do you think the styles popularity will wane or that it will continue to be the #1 selling beer?

The IPA is the dominant force of modern American brewing, a key driver of many breweries’ success. Be it our Thai curries, Mexican burritos or tingly Sichuan fare, we’re now a nation that craves flavor, from the dinner plate to the pint. The IPA delivers memorable flavors in spades, a fragrant about-face to the light lagers that do dominated our drinking landscape. You can argue that the signature move of modern breweries is the lavish usage of hops.
And the way we use hops, and the very hops we use, is constantly changing, allowing the style to continually shift and evolve.
Will the IPA wane in popularity? If you look at history, the answers point to yes. After all, porter is no longer a dominant force. But a key thing to note is that we’re still living in a lager world. It may not seem like it, but most folks in America and the world are still crushing easy-drinking lagers. The rise of brewers doing pilsners is no accident.

Q: Everyone is talking about the New England-style hazy IPAs. Do you think that is a style that is here to stay?

A decade back IPAs were all about aggressive bitterness, the IBU chase to the moon. Now brewers are moving away from bitterness, embracing softer profiles and newfangled hop varieties evocative of tropical fruit and ripe citrus. These are flavors that are more appealing to a wider audience; bitterness can attract and divide in equal measure. The New England IPA has pinged on this palate shift, and it’s driving folks deliciously crazy. Is it here to stay, in all its hazy glory? That’s hard to say. Many of these hot breweries sell beers direct to consumer, ensuring peerless freshness. They’re not dying an SKU death on shelves, which is a good thing. No IPA is designed for the long haul, but these beers tend to fade rather quickly.

Q: Will they become recognized by the Brewers Association and the GABF as a style? why or why not?
I guess the better question is: Does it matter? These guidelines serve as benchmarks for judging. Does every beer need to be judged? If people dig them, great! If not, there’s plenty of other beers out there to choose from, that’s for certain.

Q: What is the most interesting trend going on right now in the IPA category and do you have any predictions for the next big twist on the style?

I’ve really been enamored of the dry-hopped sour. When done right, the marriage of a scrunchy sour and these citrusy, tropical hops can be magic. Lately, I’ve also been digging on a number of coffee IPAs using cold brew or cascara, coffee cherries’ dried skin. There’s a lot of synergy between the coffee and beer worlds these days. Additionally, you’re seeing brewers like Omnipollo and Tired Hands focus on mouthfeel, using lactose to create IPAs reminiscent of milkshakes. Add to that the rise of oat IPAs, and you’ve got the makings of a smooth trend.

What excites me most, though, are all the new hops being developed in the Pacific Northwest, Australia, New Zealand, and Germany. Beer is agriculture meets science and ingenuity. The next wave of hops will help dictate the direction of IPAs.

Complete IPA Book & Beer Release Party with Joshua Bernstein and Ben Edmunds

Saturday, September 17th 2 – 4pm
Breakside Brewery (Woodlawn)
820 NE Dekum St, Portland, Oregon 97211


Complete IPA (the Breakside BEER):
Drawing inspiration from some of our favorite IPAs from across the country, we’ve put together a new recipe that combines some of the most innovative techniques and sought-after raw materials in contemporary IPAs. In addition to copious amounts of Citra and Mosaic hops, well-traveled beer lovers may sense a touch of Albuquerque, Vermont, Jackson Hole, Baker City, San Diego, Columbus, and Asheville in this IPA.

Malts: 2 Row, Munich, Aromatic
Hops: Lemondrop, Citra, Mosaic and secrets
ABV: 6% 
IBU: 50ish

Founder of The New School and most frequent contributor Ezra Johnson-Greenough has worked in the craft beer industry for almost 10 years, doing everything from illustrating beer labels to bartending at renowned beer bars and breweries like Belmont Station, Apex, Laurelwood and Upright Brewing. He has also had a hand in creating events like the Portland Fruit Beer Festival, Portland Beer Week, and the Brewing up Cocktails series. He is available for freelance consultation in marketing, events, graphic design and branding. Contact: [email protected]

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