DO Haze Me Bro!!
You rarely forget your first time. The excitement. The unexpected rush. The aroma running through your nose while slapping each sensory cell with the power of a hundred pimp hands. Whoa, that last one was a bit much, but nonetheless, I certainly have fond memories of my first swig of this quickly growing style. Which style is this you ask? Well crap, there lies something that will need to be figured out. I imagine that many nights around the campfire, or poker table, have been spent discussing exactly what these little treats should be called. One guy throwing down a bluffed hand is saying ‘Juicy IPA’ describes it best. Another girl leaning back in her camp chair states that the geographical history should be preserved and thus ‘New England IPA’ is appropriate, nay, necessary. Shouts of “Hazy!”, “Northeastern!”, “Cloudy!”, even “Milkshake IPA” gets tossed into the mix. Whatever we end up seeing put down in the BJCP guidelines, and trust me, they will be there, this style definitely has a, well, style all its own.
My first taste of it came from something that was far ahead of its time. The illustrious Heady Topper by The Alchemist in Vermont. Since then, a multitude of breweries have produced similar, and sometimes over the top versions of this style. So, what exactly is this style anyway?
Here at Dark Sky, we seem to prefer the nomenclature of a New England style IPA. So let’s call it that for now. This style of IPA runs a straight beeline opposite of what we saw happen in the “Hop Wars” of the recent past. Instead of trying to blast the bitterness through the roof with the alpha acids contained in the little hop flowers, this beer tries to minimize it. In fact, if you could produce zero IBU’s (the measure of bitterness in a beer; of which I have a glaring issue with. But that is for another article) you could achieve the envy of every mash paddle wielding brewer around. The goal of these IPA’s is to create a platform for the flavor and aroma of the hop to be highlighted and many Arizona brewers are meeting this challenge both head on, and very well!
You achieve this by simply throwing ALL your hops into the boil kettle after you stop boiling. Save those precious oils! Another tool in the NEIPA toolbelt is the dry hop. You will be spending quite a bit of your per-beer budget on this part. Put an irresponsible amount of hops in at the end of fermentation, and you will be gifted with not only a huge hit of aroma from the glass, but also a lot of haze in suspension. This adds to the mouthfeel and taste-bud-slapping character that a lot of patrons love. Speaking of mouthfeel, these things need to be juicy and ‘milkshaky’ as well. By throwing in a large amount of wheat and oats, or even lactose (milk sugar), we are able to haze it up to another level. Think Hefeweizen from a visual perspective. Lastly, the living organism that we all love, the yeast, plays a great role in this NEIPA game. There are people who swear by their own personal strain, but it all comes down to a clean yet “let’s all stick around in suspension” character.
As I sip on our Cirrus NEIPA, I am reminded of just why I love this style. It allows the drinker to experience one of the ingredients of beer in a way that they may never have before. That big blast of the hop is unmistakable. We remember again that this ingredient is in fact a flower. A beautiful showcase of the floral character and perfume that lies in those little yellow glands just inside the hop. Whether you are in Flagstaff, Phoenix, Tucson, or Tombstone, look for one of these glorious treats next time you are perusing the beer board. There may well come along another style that blows us away and shows yet another level of what beer can achieve, but in the meantime… Haze Me Bro!