Hazy. Juicy. New England-Style. Vermont-style. This category of IPAs isn’t just hazy in its appearance; it’s been hazy to label and define. But one thing is clear: hazy IPAs are remarkably popular right now.
“In all the trends I’ve seen in this job, this has been the biggest splash,” says Matthew Stock, beer specialist for The Brass Tap, which has 48 franchises across the country with a focus on local craft beer. “We as a company add about 120 brand new beers to our restaurants a week, and almost 15-20 percent of those beers are New England style right now.”
Traditional American IPAs are bitter because of the American hop varieties added to the boil. “It’s one of those palate hurdles that people take a while to get over,” Stock says.
Jason Forgy, owner of Freshcraft in Denver, describes the hazy style as “an unfiltered IPA that’s opaque, has lower bitterness with juicy aroma, and is a bit sweeter than a West Coast IPA.”
This breed of IPA has brought a lot of new people to the category that weren’t traditionally drinking IPAs, says Polly Watts, owner of The Avenue Pub in New Orleans.
Picking the right hazy IPA is difficult, though. “I do think there are still some people selling sub-par beers and then just not filtering it,” Forgy says.
Because they are cloudy, hazy IPAs should be served fresh, which puts a premium on sourcing local beer. In Colorado, Forgy loves several rotating beers by WeldWerks Brewing Company. “They’ve been really consistent, which is hard to do [in this category],” Forgy says. One of his favorite year-round beers is the brand’s Juicy Bits IPA. “It’s easily approachable, smells good, tastes good, and is easy to drink,” he says. Another Colorado favorite is Cerebral Brewing, which makes multiple hazy IPAs including Rare Trait.
The style is widespread, but its commercial origin traces back to The Alchemist’s Heady Topper in Vermont. “When Heady Topper came out, [they] thought they were pushing the boundary,” says Jim Hsieh, manager at Farmhouse Tap & Grill in Burlington, Vermont. “It’s interesting to see how far it’s gone since then.” Hsieh serves Heady Topper and beers by Hill Farmstead Brewery, another hazy pioneer, but their celebrity status has created high demand. Luckily, Hsieh says Vermont is full of great breweries that produce excellent hazy IPAs, such as Ten Bends Beer and Bent Hill Brewery. “We’re pretty spoiled in Vermont as far as beer-producers go,” Hsieh says.
Hazy IPAs are often described as juicy, tropical, or fruity. This is not because of fruit—although that might be added as an adjunct—but from the hops.
“Hazy IPAs often use New Zealand-style hops,” Stock says. “Citra, Mosaic, and Galaxy hops provide fruity, tropical flavors and a lower IBU than American hop varieties like Cascade and Centennial. These flavors quite frankly did not exist in hops 15 to 20 years ago. If you wanted to get guava in your IPA, you needed to literally use guava.”
In Louisiana, Gnarly Barley Brewing Company dry-hops several of its beers with Citra, including Jucifer IPA. At Avenue Pub, Watts rotates most of her draft beers, but she keeps Jucifer IPA on tap. “It has just enough bittering and is easy to drink, but it’s not overly fruity,” Watts says. She likes balanced beers such as Tin Roof Brewing Company’s Voodoo, which shares characteristics with hazy IPAs. It’s slightly cloudy and heavily dry-hopped with tropical Citra hops, making it a juicy American pale ale that borrows from new and old styles. Watts says it’s one of her best-sellers.
Station 26 Brewing Company’s Juicy Banger IPA in Colorado is another beer that balances tradition with the hazy trend. It’s filtered, but it’s also “bright and bittered with juicy aromatics and a maltier backbone than a West Coast IPA,” says Forgy. “It’s our No. 1 selling beer.”
In Vermont, Hsieh likes Focal Banger by The Alchemist for its balance. “Heady Topper is a big, robust double IPA,” Hsieh says, “but Focal Banger is like a slightly pared-back version. It’s lighter and very thirst-quenching.”
Watts says freshness and price points are important factors in sourcing hazy IPAs. The abundant use of hops in hazy IPAs drives up their production costs, making it a pricier pint at the bar.
Some larger breweries can manufacture them for lower price points, but freshness is a logistical concern. Stock says he trusts Sierra Nevada Brewing Company’s Hazy Little Thing IPA because Sierra Nevada is consistent and has dual coast breweries, which helps them move the beer to market quickly. Oskar Blues Brewery also has multiple production facilities and is rolling out a hazy series with different hop profiles.
It’s an expressive category that exhibits a rich range of flavors, colors, and aromas. “Stay open-minded,” Hsieh recommends. And serve it fresh.