The India Pale Ale, known simply as IPA, is a staple in breweries across the country. With a few exceptions, it’s one of the few beer styles you can expect to see on every menu. For years, the style was defined by just how bitter and dank it could be. Of course, the best had a robust malt backbone to balance it out, but a bitter hop face was a requirement. All of that changed around 2011 with the introduction of a new, divisive type of IPA, the Hazy IPA.
This new style wasn’t announced with authority and it didn’t hit with an immediate impact felt across the country. Instead, it was subtle, gaining momentum with each can cracked open. It’s widely believed that this movement started in the tiny town of Stowe, Vermont but craft beer fans know it as home to The Alchemist Brewery. The Alchemist is where you find Heady Topper, an American Double IPA. Heady Topper introduced the world to a fruitier, creamier and to the chagrin of many craft beer aficionados’, hazier version of the IPA. A craft beer legend was born and a style debate was launched.
A Hazy IPA isn’t just a traditional IPA with haze. The Hazy IPA is all about the hops and when they are added to the brew. By adding hop varieties that are citrusy or tropical in their aroma and flavor when they do in the brewing process the results are a tropical flavor profile. A profile that also removes the majority of bitterness but does result in haziness in the beer’s appearance. In addition, the malt bill often contains oats or brewers do add in lactose to give the creamy, smooth mouthfeel.
This beer has style has grown, matured and is ready to take its place as a truly American style and the respect that comes with it.
Up and down the East Coast, breweries launched their own hazy, sometimes known as East Coast style, IPAs. Incredibly hoppy, insanely juicy and wonderfully creamy – the term juice bomb found its way to craft beer. The hazier the beer, the better for most like breweries Tree House Brewing, Other Half Brewing and Trillium Brewing.
What’s the debate? The haze. In the world of beer, brewing techniques have history and a hazy IPA meant it wasn’t a “finished” beer. IPAs came with the expectation of clarity. There was just one problem – craft beer drinkers went insane. Long lines and a never-ending drive for the newest and best haze has all but defined the craft beer world for the last couple of years. Haze bros and haze ladies (myself included) are on a mission to try it all and try it fresh at breweries all across the country.
Hazy IPAs, however, weren’t even considered an actual beer style. That all changed in March of 2018 when the Brewers Association accepted the inevitable and rightfully created a style guideline and finally welcomes the Hazy IPA into its loving beer arms. This year at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) there will be hazy beers up for awards for the first time.
We took a deeper dive into the world of Hazy IPAs by talking to the people behind the haze. Just a warning, by the time you get through reading this, you are going to want one. Don’t worry we’re going to tell you where to find them too.
Defining The Perfect Hazy IPA
This isn’t about what the style guideline created with the help of many top Hazy IPA brewers has to say about the style, that will come later. This is all about what the creators, supporters and brewers of this style think when they think of the perfect Hazy IPA.
What makes a perfect hazy IPA? Jake Goodman from WeldWerks Brewing Company told us his view. It’s about the right color, the way the beer pours out and the aroma that immediately grabs you as it exits the can. He was quick to let us know, however, it couldn’t just be the aroma but it needed to be supported in the flavor that followed. It’s tropical and it’s leveled and don’t get it twisted there will be some dank lingering in the background. “I personally prefer a near-moderate level of sweetness to this style (without being in any way cloying), although many would disagree with me there. A smoothly assertive but rounded hop presence would end the taste (reminding me it’s still an IPA), leading into a sustained finish.”
The style might get its name from its appearance but there should be a focus on the experience of it. Max McAvoy, a brewer who spends a lot of time around the kettle brewing Hazy IPAs for 4 Noses Brewing looks for mouthfeel. “For me, I seek bright NEIPA’s that, most importantly, include a thick, luscious mouthfeel completed with a juicy hop finish.” NEIPA stands for New England IPA which is another name for Hazy IPA.
In describing his perfect Hazy IPA Kyle Carbaugh of Wiley Roots Brewing addresses the mouthfeel in a different way. “Pillowy, soft mouthfeel with a slight sweetness that’s balanced by just a hint of bitterness. Huge citrus, stone and tropical fruit overtones dominate the aroma.”
Yes, it was the appearance that caused the uproar and the debate. Even with its official recognition by the Brewers Association it still will cause debate but there is one thing that can’t be argued. It is the mouthfeel inherent to the style that is responsible for bringing people into the world of craft beer. Juicy, fruity and creamy attributes were not prevalent before and they are damn tempting to someone who isn’t a fan of malty, bitter or even sour beers.
With any new style, there can be misconceptions. We asked the people behind there beer if there was one myth about Hazy IPAs that would like to debunk what would it be? It wasn’t a surprise that there was a theme to the responses.
Hazy IPAs are not lazy IPAs. Goodman breaks it down.
“Knowing the history of IPA, I can actually completely understand why someone might possibly have this perspective, it’s just incredibly off-the-mark. Executing a well-made New England IPA takes every bit the skill and attention to detail as making nearly any other type of beer, and so, as would be expected if that was the case, there is a vast difference between exemplary examples and poor examples of the style.”
McAvoy echoes the same sentiment when it comes to terms he wants to remove from the vocabulary around this style. “The perfect hazy IPA is an art, and it takes a lot of work to perfect the hop bill. It’s easy to make a beer ‘hazy’ but stable haze takes work, and we’re proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish.”
The Hazy IPA did not fit into any sort of pre-conceived notions when it came to IPAs as a result it received the lazy tagline. It’s time for that to end once and for all, Carbaugh explains.“The most important factor in brewing this style is EVERY FACTOR: yeast selection, water chemistry, grist bill, hop selection and timing of hop additions all play a vital role in nailing the style.”
Lee Cleghorn Outer Range Brewing took another angle when it came to one myth he would like to debunk. “The myth about hazy IPAs that I would like to debunk is that they are still radical. They’ve been around for so long at this point that people around the world have recognized them as the first true style of beer that America has created.”
There is something distinct and fitting about that idea. Now that it’s official the Hazy IPA should be considered our first true style and what makes it special is that it wasn’t without healthy debate.
Judging The Haze
According to the Brewers Association, there were an amazing 414 entries in the Juicy or Hazy IPA category with another 161 in the Juicy or Hazy Double IPA category. For the first time in over 15 years, the American Style IPA category did not have the highest number of entries, coming in at only (we use that term loosely) 313 entries for 2018 at GABF.
With that many entrants, it’s important to know what the judges are looking for in each beer. For the clarity aspect, the beer should be “low to a very high degree of cloudiness is typical of these beers. Starch, yeast, hop, protein and/or other compounds contribute to a wide range of hazy appearance within this category.” Under the expectation for the body of the beer, it should be “medium-low to medium-high. Perceived silky or full mouthfeel may contribute to the overall flavor profile.” Under additional notes on the official style guide, it says, “Grist may include a small amount of oat, wheat or other adjuncts to promote haziness. Descriptors such as “juicy” are often used to describe the taste and aroma hop-derived attributes present in these beers.” The full style guidelines can be found here.
Now you know what to expect officially but we wanted to know what the brewers were hoping the judges would emphasize. The respect for the Brewers Association and the judges is evident but that didn’t mean there weren’t opinions.
Brian O’Connell of Renegade Brewing who has just gotten into brewing the style had this to say. It shouldn’t just be about first impressions but the full experience of the beer. Cleghorn went down a similar path in his response. “Color, specific fruit flavors and the actual amount of haze are subservient to the real nature of the Hazy IPA. The Hazy IPA is a phenomenon because it amplifies the best part of hops and esters, the rest of the attributes, to include haze, are only byproducts.”
Neil Fisher of WeldWerks Brewing Company who played an integral role advocating for this style and assisted in the creation of the style guide had this to say.
“We worked closely with the Brewers Association and several other breweries across the country to make sure the guidelines honed in on the flavor, aroma, and mouthfeel characteristics that make the style so unique from American IPA, not just the aesthetic differences. This category, in particular, will prompt some interesting discussions during the competition, but I’m confident given the level of experience and professionalism of the GABF judges that even those that may not personally enjoy the style will be able to impartially evaluate the entries based on their technical merit and execution.”
If we are going, to be honest, this is one category we would love to observe the judges for the reasons listed above. Haze, debate and beers showing of the best possible execution of style make this exciting. Or maybe we would just like to help them drink the entries.
Finding Hazy IPAs
You know what to expect from a great Hazy IPA. You even know what the judges are going to be looking for this year at GABF when they judge this style for the first time. So, let’s answer the most important question in your mind right now. Where can you find the best haze Denver and all of Colorado has to offer?
In Denver, the joke is that you can’t walk more than a few blocks without tripping and falling into a brewery. Lucky for us that sentiment also works for Hazy IPAs at those breweries. Jagged Mountain, Black Shirt Brewing and Renegade Brewing have Hazy IPAs worth stopping in for but they don’t dominate their menus.
If you are looking for breweries who focus on more on Hazy IPAs we suggest Fiction Beer Company if HAL is on top it’s a must have followed by Logic is Relative. Just down the street, you will find our other suggestion Cerebral Brewing. Rare Trait is a staple on the menu and a great example of the style.
Depending on which way you want to drive out of the city haze can be found in many directions. River North Brewery often celebrates haze on Sundays, the perfect excuse for a weekend visit. Ursula Brewery is also gaining a reputation for haze on the East side on town into Aurora, look for Lazy Brewer among others. Just to the North is New Image Brewing, East Coast Transplant is always worth the visit.
If you will travel for haze and trust us you should here is a list of must-visit breweries. Go north and spend the day in Greeley with WeldWerks Brewing Company, Juicy Bits is in some ways the OG of the Hazy IPA in Colorado. Just minutes, literally like two minutes away is Wiley Roots Brewing who has its own impressive haze series — plus they have recently released a milkshake sour Hazy IPA. If you don’t want to go that far, head over to 4 Noses Brewing in Broomfield, Whimsy is our favorite offering.
Down to the south, the way south, in Colorado Springs is Cerberus Brewing a must stop for any haze fan. New Terrain in Golden has also been gaining a reputation for crushable haze with a wonderful view.
If you have a day if you don’t have a day find one and go to Frisco. In Frisco, you will find Outer Ranger Brewing Company who is slinging some of the best Hazy IPAs not just in the state but beyond in our opinion. We live in a state that is blessed with all the haze. Even the big boys like New Belgium brewing and its Voodoo Ranger Juicy Haze IPA and Odell Brewing with Cloud Catcher have started to dabble in the style so you only have to travel to your local liquor store.
For those of you attending GABF 2018 and in need of a haze fix we have got you covered. Here are our top five brewery booths you should visit to sip on haze as you wander around 500,000 square feet of beer Utopia. WeldWerks Brewing Company, they helped get the style recognized and Juicy Bits will be flowing. Great Notion Brewing out of Portland is also sure to have haze available along with Wren House Brewing from Phoenix who has shown us stellar haze in recent months. Modern Times out of San Diego will be there featuring the Dankness Dojo and we recently sipped on haze from fellow San Diego brewery Pure Project and immediately added them to our GABF list.
What’s The Next Haze Evolution?
Now that the Hazy IPA is an officially recognized style we couldn’t help but wonder what was the next step in the IPA progression? The two most prominent subcategories have all but exploded onto the scene in 2018. The sour Hazy IPA and Milkshake IPA are leading the way with the Brut style IPA announcing itself loudly in recent months. In our talk, O’Connell even hinted at this becoming its own GABF category in the future.
This made us wonder, knowing that the world of craft beer is all about collaboration and innovation what we could see next? Even though it was a bit like asking them to give away their secrets we learned we could be even more excited about the future.
Cleghorn believes that some aspects of the style are just being discovered. “The hazy IPA isn’t just fruit juice. That’s the easiest and most obvious interpretation of it, but there are some really exciting dank corners of the style that have just begun to be explored.”
The dank corners that Cleghorn mentions are only emphasized by Carbaugh.
“I think there will also be contributions from new hop varieties as well. With regard to how the style and brewing techniques have gained legs into other categories (kettle sours, lactose laden hazy’s, etc.). I think we’ll continue to see other categories influenced by the techniques, especially in the milkshake sour IPA arena. We’re seeing this with Hudson Valley Brewery’s program, and we’ve recently experimented with kettle sours having spice, lactose, fruit and hop additions that shouldn’t make sense on paper by somehow play well together.”
Yes, that’s right spice, sour, milkshake, hops somehow it all comes together. Fisher also mentioned Hudson Valley and the sour subcategory.
“It’s really hard to guess how or if the style will continue to evolve more than it already has, but I think we’ll see more breweries playing within the Milkshake subcategory originally introduced by Tired Hands and Omnipollo. Or even just adjunct/fruit variations of the style (without lactose). But I really hope to see more breweries venture into the sour subcategory, especially if they can execute it as well as Hudson Valley. Their beers were my first experience with a Sour New England-style IPA and everything I have had from Hudson Valley has been extremely well executed. I think even within an innovative style like New England-style IPA there’s a lot of room for brewers to push boundaries and experiment even more, and that’s something I look forward to!”
If you haven’t had a sour Hazy IPA – try one. Even if you aren’t a sour fan, find one that’s a sour milkshake, the lactose cuts the sour and when done right they are delightful palette rockers.
The Hazy IPA in its nature is all about experimentation and pushing the boundaries and limits of what a style of beer can be. One thing is for, the future is going to be fun and we have learned to expect everything because nothing is off limits.