Wednesday May 7th, 2019
"New England IPA is a beer style that can be really tasty when well made, but it can’t even sit on the shelf for two weeks. It has no shelf life at all. It’s the first beer style based around Instagram culture and based around social media” - Garrett Oliver in Morning Advertiser
Lately it seems that the national and veteran brewers in the US are either stating they’ll never make a hazy, juicy, 'New England-style' IPA, or are finally making one. Does this mean they’re jumping on the bandwagon? Or did they take their time because they don’t like the fad and were seeing if it would pass? Avery Brewing put out a whole statement on why their Hazy IPA would remain draft-only because of the logistics of canning and keeping fresh a hazy beer, only to reverse course on that a year later and start canning Hazyish IPA.
"In case you thought the haze craze wasn't real, New England IPAs had over 6.9 million check-ins in 2018, up 68% over last year."
- Untappd (@untappd), January 8, 2019
Maybe there's a third reason. Firestone Walker, with their entry, Mind Haze, is saying they wanted to take the time to get it right and put their own spin on the style, making it both shelf stable and affordable.
Mind Haze is full of passion fruit, lemongrass, and mango aromas with matching creamy fruity flavors. The haze is real, but it is definitely not murky. The creamy mouthfeel and most of the haze are coming from a hefty portion of oats and wheat in the grain bill. "We're not relying on residual yeasts or starches for turbidity," Brewmaster Matt Brynildson said. "The haziness and mouthfeel of Mind Haze are cultivated by more stable means, namely using 40 percent wheat and oats in the grain bill while nailing the timing and interplay of our hop additions.”
Some of the ‘controversy’ surrounding these types of beers has to do with the language used to describe them. The name IPA and even Hazy or Juicy IPA, are so broad that people compare apples to oranges. Is it even fair to compare a double dry-hopped $24 4-pack purchased direct from the brewery with a decidedly also hazy, but not as opaque nationally distributed and shelf-stable version?
Maybe people forgot that hazy IPAs have always been around. Wheat IPAs are hazy and have a lot of citrus hop aroma.
Mind Haze is a wheat-forward hazy, but not muddy IPA, that delivers on the fruitiness even die-hard haze bois will enjoy, which can partially be attributed to the yeast strain used. Firestone even added a new yeast for this beer, reporting that “We now have a 3rd full time yeast in the family who I am happy to report has fit in perfectly and gets along well with staff and cellar. The key was learning how to propagate and ferment with the new strain on the larger system.” This fruity yeast strain in combination with the hopping we’ve come to know and love from Firestone Walker makes a really fruity, soft, delicious beer.
Perhaps a lot of this back and forth is because we’re not using the best descriptor words that we could be. We honestly feel that the new shelf-stable hazy juicy beers are low in bitterness, not clear (though also not murky), have a rich mouthfeel (contributed by oats and wheat), and have a lot of fruity flavors. While I get a ton of peach, apricot, pineapple, and mango aromas from Hazy Little Thing, Sam Adams New England IPA, and Mind Haze, they aren’t quite the all out fruity assault that I think customers expect from an eponymous hazy, juicy IPA.
So why are these more national versions of this still getting so much flak? After all, they’re bringing the once niche style to the masses. Which NEIPA are you seeing at the airport? Which of these hazy juicies can you get in mid-America? If you’re not a wait-in-line-for-beer type, you may not have the reference of what Trillium or Treehouse is like. These ‘big craft’ beers are delicious, accessible, and affordable. But are they really a great example of a ‘true’ Vermont/NE/Hazy IPA? That's an objective question, but one thing is clear: they are delicious and well-made beers.
In addition to being a Certified Cicerone, she is an Introductory Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers. After nearly 10 years of working in craft beer education, she finds that talking to people about what beverages they like and why, and helping them to choose new beers to try (that they will hopefully like) - is her favorite part of the job. Her home base is Chicago, but she's often found in the Boston area, New Orleans, or wherever her passion for good food & drink takes her.
The beer she can't stop thinking about:
New Image Brewing Blackberries & Cream Dyad