The only thing rivaling the hazy IPA in ubiquity nowadays is jokes and complaints about the hazy IPA’s ubiquity. A decade ago, hazies were a welcome change after years of clear, piney IPAs racing up the IBU scale. Their juicy sweetness courted drinkers previously alienated by bracing bitterness, paving the way for a market saturation that has many discerning beer geeks feeling weary. Their main gripe: that hazy IPAs all taste the same.
But, do they? Or is this claim just low-hanging fruit—a way of writing them off and establishing oneself as too beer-savvy to fall for something so—shudder—accessible?
When thousands of breweries feel the pressure to churn out a popular style, it stands to reason that not all hearts will be in it. Plenty of hazies exist for breweries to tick a box, and while there are outliers on both the positive and negative end of the spectrum, that mediocre middle can indeed be a sea of sameness. As Brandon Capps, founder of Colorado’s New Image Brewing, notes, you could try five versions from the 98 percent majority and not find much variation. “We had no idea the hazy IPA was going to explode in popularity and become what it has, and it’s been disheartening to watch so many people halfheartedly produce the style.”
Some specific factors explain the carbon-copy phenomenon. Many brewers rely on yeast for their beer’s haze, even using the same strain as one another. When it comes to hops, plenty more coast on one particular variety’s popularity. “There are a ton of beers made [with] Citra, and therefore tend to have a quite similar flavor profile,” says Andrew Godley, founder of Parish Brewing Co. in Louisiana. “A lot of brewers tend to just try to clone some of the bestsellers instead of branching out into new flavor horizons with innovative hops, hop products or hopping techniques.” On the other hand, too many hops in the dry hop can wash each other out, says Scott Janish, co-founder of Sapwood Cellars in Maryland and author of The New IPA. “Anything over two in there, to me, starts to get this generic hoppiness,” he says. “When you focus more on one or two hops you can distinguish the beer more with that hop profile.” Too many hops can tip past generic qualities into unpleasant ones if there’s too much contact time between those hops and the beer at too high a temperature. If you’ve had hazies with harsh, astringent, vegetal characteristics, you’ve experienced something called hop burn.
There’s hope for the hazy, though. Plenty of breweries don’t see the style as a necessary evil and have instead invested time and money into both innovating and perfecting their own ingredients and methods. Flip through a book like Janish’s The New IPA and you may marvel at the sheer volume of possible decisions to be made during the brewing process, from when to hop, for how long, and at what temperature, to what hops to use and whether to use extracts or oils.
The brewers who create distinct—and, importantly, delicious—hazy IPAs walk a fine line between experimentation and mastering what works. Brewers like Capps and Godley pursue hop-centric science with processes like thiolizing, which, through products like Phantasm and genetically modified yeast strains, helps unlock hops’ aromatically powerful thiols to bring out big, tropical flavors. Meanwhile, Sam Richardson, co-founder of Brooklyn’s Other Half Brewing Co., sees the hazy IPA as pretty settled, with the major avenue for innovation being new hops steadily appearing on the horizon. To him, a good hazy IPA comes down to clean, healthy fermentation and the ability to source high-quality hops. “We’re just trying to make the best beer,” says Richardson, which to him means continuously “improving overall quality, improving fermentation profiles, improving on our selected hops, dialing in recipes old and new.”
If craft beer is flooded with hazies that phone it in, how do you find these shining examples that have the potential to surprise and delight? We bravely sampled our way through a slew of hazies all in the name of highlighting a few we can recommend. Even if you think you have haze fatigue, here are a handful capable of reminding you of what you loved about the style in the first place.
Other Half Brewing Co.: All Citra Everything
Other Half didn’t invent hazy IPAs, but it did make them the crowd-pleasing staple they are today. All Citra Everything was an integral factor. Brewed since October 2016 and the second entry in Other Half’s Everything single-hop series, this one remains a classic. Its citrus aroma is pleasantly balanced by a touch of resin, its sweet tropical flavor and pillowy creaminess by a welcome hint of acidity and bitterness that lingers just long enough. It will be satisfying for fans to hear while maddening for brewers still trying to match this double dry-hopped imperial IPA’s perfection, but the beer’s process is pretty straightforward.
“All Citra Everything is very much about hop selection,” Richardson says. “With this recipe, it’s really about the base ingredients. It’s a fairly simple beer, and it’s about dialing in hop usage rates. More is not always better. It’s still significantly more hops than people used 10 years ago, but it doesn’t have to be over the top to get the effect we want.”
- Price: $20 (four 16-ounce cans)
- ABV: 8.5%
The Veil Brewing Co.: Doom Doom Volume Volume
At 6 percent ABV, Doom Doom Volume Volume exemplifies The Veil Brewing Co.’s knack for balancing big flavors with drinkability. Here, too, it’s just a whisper of resin tempering overripe pineapple, berry, tropical smoothie and Creamsicle notes. There’s just enough bitterness and acidity, with a grapefruit pith finish. Hopped with Citra, Strata, Galaxy and Citra Incognito (a highly concentrated hop-flavor product), Doom Doom doesn’t suffer from too many hops mushing together into an overall blah, proving the brewers’ expertise with when to hop, using which hops and for how long.
- Price: $15.50 (four 16-ounce cans)
- ABV: 6%
Hop Butcher For The World: Reply Hazy, Try Again
Hop Butcher co-founders Jude La Rose and Jeremiah Zimmer established their brewery in 2014, but more recently, their beers, especially hazies, have become a hot commodity beyond their Chicago base. Without a hint of cloying sweetness, Reply Hazy, Try Again boasts melon-y, mimosa and Piña Colada notes. La Rose says they wanted this 7.5 percent double IPA to be “fully plush.” He uses oats and wheat to add to the rich mouthfeel and “yeast that leaves a fuller finishing gravity to elevate the hops and create otherworldly flavors.” Those hops are Citra, Motueka and Simcoe, chosen for citrus, tropical and dank characteristics.
- Price: $6.99
- ABV: 7.5%
New Image Brewing Co.: Phanny Pack
Tropical sweetness? Check. Pop of resin? Check. New Image’s Phanny Pack hits the hallmarks of a good hazy, but pushes forward on flavor, aroma and mouthfeel. It’s pillowy with crisp effervescence. And it’s a great way to get acquainted with Thiolized IPAs. Utilizing Phantasm (made from Marlborough, New Zealand, sauvignon blanc grapes) and Helio Gazer yeast to fuel aromatic thiols, this 7.5 percent IPA indeed radiates overripe tropical fruit notes that play against bright citrus and soft stone fruit from Southern Cross, Citra and Idaho Gem hops, ending with a white grape profile courtesy of Phantasm.
- Price: $13.99 (six 12-ounce cans)
- ABV: 7.5%
Parish Brewing Co.: Dr. Juice
Dr. Juice just might be the archetypal hazy IPA, making it a reliable way to get back in touch with what’s good about the style. It’s juicy, bright and has a soft melon-like sweetness (thank its Citra, Azacca, Cascade and Simcoe hops), with a harmony of bitterness and acidity to offset a pleasant malt backbone. At 6 percent ABV, one could imagine this being the IPA to inspire the descriptor “crushable.” More haze producers would do well to perfect a flagship hazy like this one for themselves.
- Price: $11 (six 12-ounce cans)
- ABV: 6%