Post by Joseph Schumacher

Salutations, readers of The Pizza Press blog! Today’s Beer 201 focuses on the newest and biggest craze in craft beer right now: Hazy IPAs! Also known as Vermont Style and New England Style IPAs, this style’s signature characteristic is its haziness.

What is haze? Good question! “[H]aze is a combination of polyphenol and protein molecules that associate via hydrogen bonding and become visible,” explains the author of How to Brew, John Palmer. Besides the protein-polyphenol haze, suspended yeast can also cause cloudiness.

There are several ways to make a Hazy IPA. Some brewers use certain yeast strains that leave fruity esters and suspended particulate. The yeast most ofter used is a modified British ale strain that eats less sugar (making the beer taste less bitter), produces lots of fruity flavor and sticks around in the finished product as hazy suspended matter.

Late addition hopping is another method that brewers use for Hazy IPAs. When brewers add large amounts of hops to beers late in the brewing process, it packs them with haze-causing polyphenols. When they then choose not to filter the beer completely, these compounds remain suspended in the liquid. This amplifies aromas while extracting less of the hops’ bitter-tasting alpha acids. The process can also leave microscopic vegetable matter suspended in the beer, producing a “hazy” effect. Breweries have also said that they’re using higher-protein malts (like oats and wheat) to achieve a proteinaceous haze while also promoting foam retention.

So now that we’ve explored how Hazy IPAs are made, let’s look at the style’s popularity. How and when did the Haze Craze start?

Well, before the recent surge in popularity Hazy IPAs have been getting poured for almost 15 years in realms farther east. The style seems to have emerged from a brewery in Vermont called The Alchemist, which released a double IPA named Heady Topper in 2003. The brewer, John Kimmich, had decided to neither pasteurize nor filter the beer. The result was an IPA thicker with the microscopic compounds and particulates that add flavor and aroma.

Only in roughly the past year has this style become truly popular. It is currently taking over the Pacific Northwest and Southern California craft beer scenes, and is still growing! More and more local breweries are also starting to experiment in making them. Whether it’s here to stay or soon to fizzle, it’s what everyone is buzzing about!

Randon Borgel, marketing director at Drake’s Brewing, says the turbidity of these IPAs is really just a secondary outcome of brewing techniques whose primary intention is to enhance aroma without increasing bitterness. Some, however say the beer’s visual appeal seems to be the main marketing angle. It’s certainly eye-catching! Due in part to the volatility of the post-boil hop compounds, these beers have a limited shelf life. It is also worth noting that Hazy IPAs aren’t necessarily better than their crystal-clear brethren.

Finally, what are Hazy IPAs actually like? Well, with Hazy IPAs the bitterness is not as important as the hop aroma is. Thus, these beers have less of the bitterness of regular IPAs as well as more aroma. The most common descriptor of this style is “juicy”. These beers are fruity, thick, chewy, creamy and smooth. Tropical flavors are usually present in strong amounts. Their flavor is lingering and they have a very aromatic nose. And as for appearance? They are, of course, hazy. Some even look muddy. In fact, some are so “hazy” they are nearly opaque!

The Pizza Press Blog has a few great examples we recommend if you want to dip your toes in the Hazy IPA. movement. To taste the originators of the style, try out the offerings from Tree House Brewing and Trillium Brewing. Everything Wrong (And Right) IPA by Track 7 in Sacramento and Abnormal Turbidity by Abnormal Beer Company are also standout examples of the style.

Come by any of our locations and you can enjoy some amazing IPAs and delicious pizzas at the same time! If you like tropical flavors we suggest getting the Guava Islander from Coronado Brewing, or if you want a maltier IPA you can get a glass of NxS Red IPA, the California-only collaboration beer from Karl Strauss and Sierra Nevada (it goes great with our BBQ chicken pizza “The Times”).

That’s it for our Hazy IPA Beer 201. We hope this was a helpful rundown of the origins, characteristics and growing popularity of this tasty style of craft beer. See you next time, and cheers!

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