Beer Town: It looks like the haze craze is here to stay

What was once considered a defect has become a way of life for a growing number of younger beer lovers, and as 2018 dawns, it looks like hazy IPA is here to stay.

Call it the haze craze. The origin story goes back to Vermont, and maybe as far back as the 1990s, according to some sources. But whatever its cloudy history, Heady Topper, a double IPA first brewed over a decade ago by the Alchemist in Stowe, is the leader of the cult.

The reason beers like Heady Topper appear cloudy is simple. Unlike clearer beers, they’re not filtered. And while that leaves byproducts of the brewing process suspended in the finished product, those remnants of hops and yeast make the beer taste better, say proponents — imparting the juicy fruit aromas and flavors that are the much sought after essence of contemporary IPAs.

More recent purveyors of so-called New England-style IPAs include Trillium and Tree House. Those breweries have in turn inspired another exponential wave of haze. And even some established breweries have jumped on the juice wagon, too.

Billed as “packed with bright tropical aromas and brilliant citrusy flavors,” New Belgium’s just-released unfiltered IPA, Voodoo Ranger Juicy Haze, is a visually arresting opaque pale orange, and brims with a bubbly off-white head.

Moreover, it’s notable for its mix of ingredients, which include an abundance of Citra hops combined with Cascade, Centennial, Simcoe and Nugget. Malts include wheat and oats. And most interesting of all, it’s fermented with American Hefeweizen yeast, giving it a spicy hint of clove.

In Atlanta, Scofflaw has grown by leaps and bounds in just over a year by featuring a portfolio of juicy beers. Its flagship Basement IPA is described as a “hop-forward, Northeast-style IPA with characteristic unfiltered haze.” And Hooligan is described as “a complex and satisfying unfiltered beer experience unlike any other.”

Even Atlanta’s oldest and most iconic IPA-centered brewery, SweetWater, got hazy-busy with its limited release Fresh Sticky Nugs. It’s a beer with a story that says, “ol’ MacDank blazed straight down to plow some primo Amarillo, Citra and Simcoe, harvesting the funkiest hop buds to cap off this succulent unfiltered 8 percent double IPA.”

Another, not-so-surprising response to the success of unfiltered IPAs that’s surfaced lately is the production of what could be called not too cloudy beers, such as Samuel Adams Rebel Juiced IPA. Its color is described as “golden, slightly veiled,” and its flavor, which includes the addition of mango juice, as “swirling with ripe aromas of mango and tropical fruits.”

Last year, Monday Night released Han Brolo, a very likable unfiltered pale ale that I described as "a beer for our times." Its hazy-juicy formula includes wheat malt and Simcoe, Mosaic and Mandarina Bavaria hops, and at 4.7 percent, it's both fairly low in alcohol and not especially bitter.

Second Self Beer Co. actually describes its brand-new Triforce as a “slightly hazy” IPA. And that’s not a bad thing in my mind. It’s brewed with a malt trio of oats, wheat and barley, and a hop trio of Mosaic, Amarillo and Cascade, resulting in a bright, bubbly pale IPA that’s both easy to drink and easy to pair with food.

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