Why are Hazy IPAs so Popular?
Nowadays, you can't read a beer menu without running across a hazy IPA. In a beer world dominated by light lagers for generations, the growth of India Pale Ale (IPA) from the craft sector is remarkable. And the shining star of IPAs in the last decade is the hazy IPA.
What makes this beer style so popular? How is it made so juicy? And will the Haze Craze always reign? One thing is clear; beer lovers can't get enough fresh, juicy, and hazy IPAs.
Where did Hazy IPAs come from?
Like India Pale Ale's origins, the hazy IPA's meteoric rise is as clear as the beer itself. Many, however, credit The Alchemist's Heady Topper as the archetype of the style. Heady Topper is a Double IPA brewed in Vermont. Its creator, the co-owner of The Alchemist, John Kimmich, is a beer legend, earning numerous awards and recognition from the world's top beer competitions.
Heady Topper had been brewed infrequently until 2011 when The Alchemist built their cannery brewery in Vermont, dedicating production and canning to Heady Topper. Beer fans couldn't get enough. Today, Heady Topper is still a sought-after beer if you can get your hands on it.
Comparatively, Heady Topper is a departure from modern takes on this beer style. Heady Topper is an eight percent Double IPA. The strength of the alcohol and bitterness (70 International Bittering Units (IBUs)) is much more aggressive than the soft, round texture described when tasting a hazy IPA. Compared to other hazy IPAs, you can pick up a fruity yeast character known as esters which is much more common in English-style ales than American pale ales. The beer has a beautiful hop aroma and flavor but is not particularly juice-like—more danky, pine. Heady Topper is a "wicked" hazy beer, however, and is a fantastic beer whatever you call it.
What makes a hazy IPA hazy?
As the name would suggest, hazy IPAs standout with a striking hazy to glowingly opaque appearance. Technically, this haze is called permanent turbidity and is not unique in the beer world. Wheat beer styles are also expected to have a cloudy appearance, resulting in beer yeast that remains in solution from being naturally carbonated and unfiltered. The haze in Hazy IPAs may be residual yeast, but the aggressive dry hopping more likely contributes to the defined appearance of these beers.
Dry hopping is a hopping technique that creates a fresh, hoppy aroma. In brewing, hops are introduced to the brew at different times during the brewing process. The longer hops remain in solution during the boil, the more bitter a beer. If the hops are added to the kettle closer to the end of the boil, the beer will retain the hop aroma and flavor lost during the process.
Hazy IPA vs. IPA: What's the Difference?
India Pale Ales, known as IPAs, are a family of beers known for their heightened alcohol content and intense hop characteristics. IPAs get their bitterness from hops, which are the cone-like flowers of the hop plant. Traditionally, IPAs were brewed with lots of hops throughout the brewing process. This contributed to the beer's increased hop character (bitterness, flavor, and aroma). Hazy IPAs buck the IPA bitterness trend common in West Coast IPAs by focusing hop additions later in the boil to create massive hop aromas and flavor with less bitterness. It is no coincidence that many traditional IPAs have a slight haze due to hop additions during brewing.
Hazy IPA vs. New England IPA
The popularity of Heady Topper has inspired other beers, with other brewers making fantastic examples of hazy IPA, but no replication is exact. Over the years, brewers have placed their marks on the style. We have seen hazy IPAs become increasingly soft from water chemistry adjustments and utilizing adjuncts, like oats, wheat, and lactose sugar, to soften the style further and accentuate tropical hops. Today, Hazy IPA is synonymous with New England IPA and Vermont-style IPAs.
How is a Hazy IPA made?
Hazy IPAs are brewed like similar IPAs and ales. The brewing process consists of a mash, where malted barley is combined with hot water to activate enzymes within the malt that turn starches into fermentable sugars. The ensuing liquid gets separated from the malt solids during the lautering process. The separated liquid transfers to a kettle, boiled, and hops are added.
Again, this liquid will be cooled and transferred to fermentation vessels, where it is introduced to yeast that consumes the sugars, thereby creating alcohol and carbonation as a byproduct of the fermentation process.
As fermentation subsides, hazy IPA brewers will often incorporate additions of hops during this time. By dry hopping the beer, it accumulates fresh hop aroma and flavor that is indicative of the style. The dry hopping process may occur several times to provide the beer with the brewer's intended hop intensity. Later, the beer will be conditioned and sent to serving tanks or added to packaging like glass bottles or aluminum cans.
While the brewing process of a hazy IPA may not vary significantly from brewing a typical IPA or beer in general, it is essential to recognize that the ingredients' purpose and where they fit in the brewing process are critical to making a hazy IPA.
Hops for Hazy IPAs
Hops are a critical component of many beers, lending bitterness, flavor, aroma, and even preservative qualities to beer. Traditional IPAs leaned heavily on hops to balance the malty sweetens of the beer with the plant's bitterness. This bitterness in hops is derived from isomerized alpha acids available at differing levels depending on hop species. Hazy IPAs, however, look to exploit the essential oils of the chop cone by adding hops later in the brewing process. By limiting or removing the bittering hop addition altogether, hazy IPAs have a softer textured taste experience, known as mouthfeel, while hop additions towards the end and even during fermentation and conditioning play up the aroma and flavor of hops.
Hops are the featured ingredient in hazy IPAs, and IPAs in general. Hop character is a product of growing regions, with New World Hops from the United States, New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa showcasing the fruit-forward, tropical, and juicy flavors and aromas sought-after in the hazy IPA.
Hops such as Mosaic, Citra, Galaxy, and El Dorado are hops developed in these countries that exhibit intense tropical and juicy aromas and flavors. Don't be surprised to see these hop types promoted with the hazy IPAs you purchase, though many other hops will work.
Adjuncts in Hazy IPAs
Brewers also create the softer mouthfeel associated with hazy IPAs by adding adjuncts to the mash and malted barley. Adjunct is a term used for brewing grains in addition to the primary malted barley. Adjuncts adjust the character of the beer. For instance, American brewers have traditionally used corn or rice to lighten the mouthfeel or American light lagers.
In the case of IPAs, wheat, oats, and lactose (milk sugar) are added to hazy IPAs to accentuate the creamy, soft mouthfeel described in these styles. Grains such as wheat and oats have high protein levels, which add a creaminess to the body of beers like Belgian Wits and Oatmeal Stouts and help to add to this -along with the potential of haze – to hazy IPAs.
Lactose is a sugar that standard brewing yeast can't ferment. The Sweet Stout or Milk Stout traditionally gets a coffee-and-cream sweetness from lactose and roasted grains. Still, for the most part, the adjunct should contribute just body and haze, stopping short of making the Hazy IPAs any sweeter than they might already appear.
Yeast for Hazy IPAs
Without yeast, no beer would exist. No beer, wine, chocolate, bread, or coffee would exist. Throughout history, scientists, bakers, and brewers have selected specific species of yeast that help them create different characteristics in their foods. In brewing, brewers choose different yeasts to make different beers. This is most obvious with the yeast used to make ales and lagers, but yeast selection goes deeper than that.
A brewer may choose a particular type of yeast for fermentation speed or flocculation qualities (its ability to fall out of solution to create a clear beer). In the case of Hazy IPAs, brewers look for yeasts that lend the beer yeast flavors that accent the hops. Yeasts for hazy IPAs produce esters which are fruit aromas that remain in the finished beer. Look for yeasts that offer subtle beery and stone fruit flavors. Of course, there is less need for yeast to drop out to make clear beer.
Water for Hazy IPAs
Though more than 90 percent of beer's makeup, water is often overlooked when considering beer characteristics. However, the water chemistry of a beer styles homeland is imperative when brewing classic styles. Look at the difference between a Czech Pilsener and a German Pilsner. As the popularity of hazy IPA has grown, more emphasis has been placed on treating the brewing liquor (water) used to make the style. The adjustment of brewing water chemistry is made to create a softer beer. Brewers may add minerals like Calcium Carbonate to accentuate hop flavor and bitterness or Calcium Chloride to enhance a roundness in beer. Either addition could help a hop-forward beer such as a Hazy IPA, but the latter has become most prevalent with IPA brewers.
Malt for Hazy IPAs
Malt is an irreplaceable ingredient in traditional beers but does not get the attention that hops do when it comes to hazy IPAs. Malt provides flavor, body, color, and fermentable sugars in beer. In hazy IPAs, the malt flavor should be clear, providing a blank canvas for the hops to shine. While some cracker-like malt flavors may support the beer, malt should never detract from the hops.
Malt color is an important aspect of hazy IPAs. A brewer wants the malt they use to be light enough as it does not allow the haze to shine. Darker hazy IPAs also can be a clue that the beer is oxidized. Expect a hazy IPA to be pale straw to light gold. The recipe should include enough malt to hit the brewer's gravity targets. The Gravity of the beer is increased with the amount of malt introduced. This Gravity will translate to the alcoholic strength, which should meet the beer's style guidelines or the brewer's preference.
Original Gravity (°Plato) 1.060-1.070 (14.7-17.1 °Plato)
Alcohol by Weight (Volume) 5.0%-6.0% (6.3%-7.5%)
What does a Hazy IPA taste like?
A hazy IPA should celebrate New World hop aroma and flavor. Flavors like mango, papaya, orange, lemon, and berry can be displayed when drinking a hazy IPA. Other hop characteristics can add to the hoppy complexity, but the citrus juiciness should be focal. Hazy IPA also is perceived as less bitter. This may be a product of less or no hop additions added to the kettle or from water character adjustments that create a softer texture on the palate. The beer should not taste slick or overly sweet.
The beer's malt character should be clean and cracker-like and exist to provide a blank canvas for the hops to shine. Depending on the base style (pale ale, IPA, Double IPA, etc.), alcohol warmth and character should appear less than it usually would in a non-hazy IPA. For instance, if you drink a traditional American IPA, you could expect to notice alcohol warmth and flavor, but not in the hazy versions of IPAs. This is true with bitterness, as well. Do not be surprised if your palate does not identify any bitterness from a hazy pale ale.
Who Makes a Great Hazy IPA?
With more than 9,000 breweries in the United States and breweries across the Globe, there are ample opportunities for a beer fan to enjoy these beers. But who makes the best? Where would anyone even start?
The best place to start is to find breweries in your area. The popularity of the style right now makes it incredibly likely that the breweries near you have a version. Finding them all can take effort and time, but BreweryDB® is a tool savvy beer lovers use to find breweries.
BreweryDB allows users to find, filter, search, and route their way to breweries in the neighborhood and worldwide. Whether driving the main highway or biking the local trail, BreweryDB builds meaningful pathways between fans of craft and the brewery experience.
Are you planning a trip to seek out the best hazy IPA? Whether you're looking in your backyard or throughout the country, BreweryDB's brewery map can make your search effortless.
With so many options, you can afford to be choosey. That's why the ability to filter your brewery results is a lifesaver. Hungry? Got the kids with you? Want to support indie breweries? With BrewerDB's filter feature, you don't have to guess.
If you're truly after the best of the best, use BreweryDB to seek out the best hazy IPAs. Search up the winners of the GABF in the Juicy or Hazy IPA category, then type them directly into the search field. You'll be on your way to haze-vana in no time.
By far, the best feature of BreweryDB! Create a custom route to the breweries you want to visit. Whether it's an afternoon in your neighborhood or a multi-week trip across the US, BreweryDB is your guide to the best beers in the world.
Hazy IPA has taken the beer world by storm, and breweries near and far are continuing to up their brewing game to vie for the attention of beer lovers. If you can't get enough of these beautiful IPAs, now is the time to get out and discover your next favorite hazy IPA.