At a certain point researching this column, Instagram’s algorithms turned my search screen into a wall of milkshake-beer photos. Some beers were dull. Some glowed. Some were pulpy, and possibly grapefruit juice, save for the foam. They’re being made by many of beer geekdom’s hottest breweries, as well as by some of the country’s newest. And—let me emphasize this—hazy IPAs are at least so, so much better than that recent column’s worth of hard soda. They are also among the most overtly visual beer trends we’ve encountered in some time. (I won’t veer too cynically, other than to note many trends boil down to conspicuous consumption.)
Chill haze, hop haze, etc., aren’t anything new in beer. But the proliferation of a distinctly and intentionally hazed IPA category has been significant over the past year. Note that hazy IPAs go back well past a decade. Most origin stories head back to The Alchemist’s Heady Topper, which in turn leads to The Alchemist’s John Kimmich’s time brewing with Greg Noonan at Vermont Pub & Brewery (which was reportedly doing hazy IPA as far back as the mid-1990s). Many of the newest breweries pouring examples at this year’s Great American Beer Festival cited Trillium Brewing Co. and/or Tree House Brewing Co. as inspiration. Fittingly, these beers are also referred to as “Vermont-style IPAs” or “New-England-style IPAs.” A lot of folks are digging this creative space—and I took a broader view with the examples sampled, ranging from session up to imperial.
Some brewers get haze from yeast strains that don’t readily flocculate/fall out of suspension, leaving a ghostly aura. Other breweries have indicated that they’re using higher-protein malt bills (oats, wheat, etc.—the same stuff that promotes foam retention) plus late hop additions, in some wizardlike fashion that keeps hop polyphenols in suspension. Many folks mention flour, though the reliable Tired Hands Brewing Co. seems to be the main player there via its Milkshake series. (There are at least as many methods as there are potential category names … My wife’s taken to calling them fuzzy IPAs.) Nearly everyone seems to be aiming for greater juiciness, which certainly mirrors the recent ascendance of fruit IPA that we dug into earlier in 2016.
There’s no lack of people who find the hazier-IPA trend off-putting, gritty and in some other way antithetical to something an IPA should be. They are not without good technical and/or historical reasons. But the likelihood of anyone accusing me of being a purist is pretty low. I enjoyed these and other recent examples I’ve tried. They’re smooth, packed with juicy hop character and orchestrated in a fashion that I wouldn’t at all mind revisiting. (Even the Also Tasted beers were engaging, earnest.) While concerns of decreased shelf life (especially with the yeasty examples) and occasional gritty textures are warranted, there’s also genuine creative progress here. People are looking for hop juice. Brewers are looking to bring it.
Some additional nuances: Haze is ultimately fighting gravity—and it tends to eventually lose, such that a couple of these were already clearing up when I sampled them. Also: Even those brewers who’ve succumbed to hazing IPAs can disagree over how much haze is appropriate (and I’d be shocked were it any other way). It’ll be interesting to see what becomes the main method for invoking said haze. Yeast choice? High-protein mash? Hops aplenty will help.
In the words of Instagram’s @fatboysour: “My life now has some meaning again. Juicy DIPA by The Ram Restaurant has revived this spent shell of an oaf and reanimated me to rejoice and be happy.” While I wouldn’t go quite that far—this hazy stuff certainly hasn’t hurt.
More Noteworthy Releases: In addition to the folks mentioned above, you’ll find the hazy IPA at breweries like Monkish Brewing Co., Bissell Brothers, Other Half Brewing Co., Cerebral Brewing and The Virginia Beer Co. The lattermost is doing a series of yeast-hazy IPAs in its taproom, with plans to can. Aslin Beer Co., Block 15 Brewing Co. (for years now), Alvarado Street Brewery, Fiddlehead Brewing and Fieldwork Brewing Co. are offering hazy IPAs. Prison City Pub and Brewery in Auburn, New York, makes its Mass Riot with oats, wheat and the same yeast as Trillium. Yak & Yeti uses no oats but loads of dry-hopping for the tasty Sun Temple IPA. Even Boston Beer Co., maker of Samuel Adams Boston Lager, seems poised to join the haze parade, with its new Rebel Juiced IPA.
New Glory Take 5
Lost Nation Mosaic IPA
Great Notion Juice, Jr.
New Glory Astro Haze
Track 7 Azekuanot
Track 7 Sukahop
The Veil Crucial Crucial Taunt Taunt
Great Notion Juice Box