Everything You Need to Know About the IPA Haze Craze

By Chris Foste, November 28, 2018

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201804/foste.pngThat's columnist Chris Foste is a bearded beer fanatic whose frothy pint glass of knowledge flows over with wisdom on the wetting of one's whistle. 

Harder. Better. Faster. Stronger. Improving is the master plan of the human race. Evolution and adaptation kept our species existing for thousands of years. Throughout those thousands of years, humans have been continuously perfecting the brewing process. While there are age-old techniques still in practice today, the craft beer craze is all about tweaking these methods, seeking out new ingredients, and locally sourced organic flannels. What’s a brewer without plaid? 

Craft beer is all about experimentation, pushing the limits on existing styles of beer. Tweaking different styles is quite common, but most of the time these modified varieties are not declared new styles. However, when demand in the craft community reaches a tipping point, a new style is born. As of 2018, the Great American Beer Festival announced it would finally be accepting entries for a new, juicy style of bitter beer, the hazy IPA.

Hazy IPA is hazy. Who would have thunk it? IPAs are generally lauded for their fine bitterness and crystal-clear golden hue. Hazy IPAs on the other hand, make a better door than window. They possess a bright orange or yellow opaqueness that might as well be a tangerine stuck in a glass. From the first sip of hazy IPA, the general bar denizen can tell this isn’t your average beer. While IPAs, and beer in general, have some form of a caramel, roasted, nutty or bready flavor that is derived from the malt, hazy IPAs have none of that. The hazies grab the hop flavors by the cones and squeeze every last gram of fruity tropical goodness into the glass. Hazy IPAs, or as some like to call them, milkshake IPAs, are designed to be so thick and hoppy you can drink it with a straw.  

(PSA: Please, don’t drink your beer with a straw. We are decent human beings, god damn it.)

To produce an IPA of Nicki Minaj-level thickness, there needs to be a perfect harmony between hops, yeast and malt. First off, beer needs the sugars from the malts that will ferment into that dank alcohol. Heat that up with the water and get a batch of syrupy wort. Then we boil it with some hops to add bitterness and flavor to it. However, this is where the normal beer brewing process ends, and the thickness begins.

Let that wort cool down to a smooth "Truffle Butter." Then we add our special "No Frauds" yeast, using that "Good Form" for hazy IPA cultivation. While the "Night Is Still Young," we add some hops in the fermenting tank to "Va Va Voom" the dry-hopping process. Like "Beez in the Trap," the yeast is "Right By My Side" of the hops, then they get together and make so much "Rich Sex" to generate those thick, juicy flavors. In a Moment 4 Life, the yeast is pulled out, but the hop sediment and leftover proteins are left in the beer. Brewers ain’t no "Stupid Hoes" and usually filter this part, but some funky brewer dudes straight "Pound The Alarm" and decided to leave all that juicy goodness in the beer. After a few more "Good Form" trials, the Harajuku Barbie IPA, er uh, hazy IPA was born.

Nicki Minaj songs aside, there is more than one way to thicken an IPA. Some say use additives like flour to thicken it, but this is beer, not gravy. By using a combination of the yeast’s special fermentation qualities and the freshly added hops, the sum of the parts becomes greater than the whole, producing a genuine juice bomb flavor. The sediment left in the beer from the yeast, dry-hopped hops and other proteins are what give this beer its thick, opaque and juicy qualities. Finally, the yeast is removed before it can ferment all of the sugars, leaving a bit of residual sweetness. This leaves the brewer with a drunken starburst, loaded with sweet tropically fruity flavors that are characteristic to hazy IPAs.  

Located in the North Eastern part of the USA, Alchemist Brewery is generally credited for the creation of the hazy IPA with their Heady Topper IPA. The brewers decided they wanted a beer with a more hop-centric taste, thus via beer experimentation, they left the hops in the beer so it would maintain that fruitiness. Slowly but surely this trend caught on, and then before the Bourbon County Stout had time to age, the USA had just created its first sub-style of beer, the New England (hazy) IPA.

The original IPA is still the most popular IPA in the world, but there are hazy truthers out there who will debate you, pint for pint. The hazy style is starting to build momentum in China as well with local Chinese demanding juice bombs as often as they demand freshly squeezed juice.  Unfortunately, there is one downside to hazy IPAs: shelf life. Due to all the sediment, proteins and yeast floating around in that bottle, hazy IPAs lose their taste quicker than most beers and should be drunk as fresh as possible. This is why you don’t see many imported hazy IPAs, as their Chinese ‘expiration date’ will up be before most the kegs hit the market.  

For hazy IPAs to become more prominent in China, the local guys must start brewing them up. There are already a few out there, so check out your local taprooms, like Nobibi or Daga Brewpub, who are at the forefront of local Chinese craft beer, to see what new hazy IPAs are rotating through their taps.

Read more of Foste's columns

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