Understanding the world of craft beers is a daunting task for even the biggest beer nerds. IPAs or the India Pale Ales are perhaps the most popular craft style. IPAs are often described as piney, hoppy, and bitter. But in recent years a breed of IPA has entered the scene with a whole new set of flavors. Behold the hazy IPA.
This relatively-new style of so-called “juicy” or hazy IPA often elicits notes of citrus and tropical fruits and tend to be less bitter than more “traditional” IPAs. Also called a New England India Pale Ale (NEIPA) in a nod to it’s origins, the hazy IPA has proven to be the most popular craft beer style in recent years.
The hazy IPA originated in New England. The style’s flavors find its roots in Vermont, more specifically in The Alchemist Brewing’s “Heady Topper”, which is an unfiltered double IPA. It is the fifth best rated beer in the world according the Beer Advocate and spearheads this new generation of IPA’s. Some estimate that similar beers came to the scene as early as the 1990’s but none were recognized for their brilliance as was the Heady Topper, which sold out to haze crazed fans within only minutes. It is currently sold year round, as of 2013 with about 1800 cases being produced a week, with limits of two cases per customer.
Hazy IPAs, in one word, are “juicy”. It seems all breweries who dare to venture into hazy territory want to keep the hop’s herbal aromas, while limiting their bitterness. Incorporating hops like Simcoe, Mosaic, and Galaxy allow breweries to achieve a flavor that’s fruit-forward but well-balanced. It’s famed murkiness (typically orange and gold) comes from the fact that these beers are unfiltered. This means that the particulates left during the brewing process aren’t strained out, as it typical is with other styles.
Such a revolution in IPA history is not something to be taken lightly. When the NIEPA strolled up to the plate, no one really expected the home run it hit. Enthusiasts line up for hours to buy these juice bombs in scenes that look like an Apple store before a new iPhone goes on sale. Unlike its traditional West Coast IPA (think Sierra Nevada’s main brew) predecessor, the lack of bitterness combined with a crisp, fresh taste facilitates its approachable nature.
The Haze Craze, however, is not without controversy. Some contend that a murky body in an IPA is considered a sign that it is not ready to drink. Other detractors claim brewing the style does not require much talent or experience. This debate seems to split the beer community at times, however it remains clear that this style isn’t just a flash in the pan, but one that’s here to stay.
I have a fondness for this style of IPA, and believe it gets all the recognition it deserves. The original, West Coast IPA will always have a special place in my heart, however as with most beers, there is a time and place for each. For warm, sunny days, a hazy NEIPA is our pick, but on chilly nights I reach for a classic West Coast IPA.
Haven’t tried a hazy IPA yet? Here are a few of our favorites:
There are our favorites, but they can be challenging to find:
Brouwerij west | West Starfish IPA (San Pedro, California)
Double dry-hopped with Chinook and Centennial and oats for smoothness (ABV 6.8%)
Monkish | Enter The Fog Dog (Torrance, California)
Triple IPA w/ Foggy Window dry hopping, using Citra, Nelson, and Galaxy. (ABV 10%)
Treehouse Brewing | King Julius (Monson, Massachusetts)
American Double IPA with American hops, giving a pillowy mouthfeel, and notes such as mango, peach, and citrus.
These are other great NEIPAs that might be easier to find:
Hazy IPA brewed with Denali, Ekuanot, Citra, and Centennial hops with tropical notes of of pineapple and papaya and a round mouthfeel
This one is intense. It’s a triple NEIPA and tastes like thick pineapple juice. A true tropical bomb that weighs in at 10.2% ABV.