The latest news is that the latest craze in craft beer – the Hazy/Juicy/North East IPA now outsells the pilsner style – taking 2% of all dollars spent on craft beer. This year the Hazy IPA has officially migrated from a one off oddity “novelty style” to an officially recognized craft beer style. The style is now listed in the Brewers Association’s official style guide, and judged as a category in the Great American Beer Festival and the World Beer Cup.
And this one beer style is now looked at as the “savior” of the craft beer movement, as craft brewers want distraction from news of the slowing growth in the industry.
These beers can be darn good in my view, while purist brewers and some fellow beer snobs roll their eyes at the “turbid” unfiltered body and juicy sweetness. What makes these IPA’s different from other IPA’s is that they are generally not bitter, and while very hoppy – that hoppiness is expressed in the aroma and citrusy flavor notes.
While some brewers do put fruit juice in the Hazy IPA’s – in most cases it’s just the combination of high protein malts (like adding Oats and Wheat) and massive late hop additions that create the juicy sweet flavor.
The lore is that this style was invented at the infamous Alchemist Brewery in Vermont (the hop-headed folks that brought you “Heady Topper”) and perpetuated by other brewers in Maine, Vermont (Lawson’s Liquors, HlIl Farmstead) and Massachusetts (Tree House, Trillium). So the “New England IPA” name certainly works.
Some brewers have (not surprisingly) taken the concept to extremes – Ardmore Pa.’s Tired Hands has created “Milkshake IPA’s” with additions of lactose sugar to add even extra sweetness. Others like the new “Imprint Brewing” in Hatfield added blue sugar syrup to create a hazy blue IPA and beer geeks lined up around the block just to try it.
Now the craft beer big boys have waded into the “turbid waters” of juicy IPA’s with “Little Hazy Thing” from Sierra Nevada and “New England IPA” from Sam Adams – both of which are pretty good interpretations of the style in my opinion.
What I particularly like is that these beers can be a great new “gateway” beer for those craft beer newbie’s that haven’t really embraced bitter hoppiness – but are interested. I have handed them a hazy IPA and watched them eye it suspiciously at first and then say – “Hey that’s actually good”.
In Manhattan last week I was fortunate enough to go to one of my favorite casual beer bars “the Ginger Man” and immediately pursued the dozen or so IPA”s on tap. When I asked the server which ones were “hazy” she replied “It’s easier if I just tell you what is NOT hazy”.
The most popular by her recollection was a truly muddy IPA that clocked in at 6.5% and was an absolute milkshake of a beer – packed with juicy sweetness – almost an “orangesicle” in a glass. A bit sweeter than I could handle (I noted as I finished it off). The “Hawkbill” by the North Carolina brewery “Burial” on the other hand was more up my alley – cloudy but pleasant with a soft mouthfeel, plenty of hop flavor – but a bit more dry and not so sugary sweet. I concluded the New England tour was beer called a “Little Juicy” which I loved – only 4.5 ABV but all that hazy IPA’s offer in flavor. That’s what I’m talking about.
But, like almost everything today it seems that people line up to really like something or really don’t – and hazy IPA is another one of those things. When I asked a brewer I know about their feeling on Hazy IPA’s he told me: “Hazy IPA’s are my least favorite style – I don’t like the added lactose – I don’t like sweet beer. But (he added) if it brings in people to try that and then other beers – as a gateway, that’s great”.
Whether you are a self admitted beer geek, curious craft new comer or just an IPA fan, why not take a visit to the New England IPA’s – especially now in the Hazy days of summer.