The spirited debate about cloudy/hazy IPAs have nowhere near died down, while the popularity of this beer continues to rise. As of this writing, more and more brewers (on the smaller side) have been able to capitalize on a very simple format. Brewers are making a beer that looks like a Hefeweizen (to put it nicely), tastes like fruit juice, smells like weed, with almost all the hops going in at the end or after the boil. This beer is being stuffed into 16oz cans, bound in four packs, and sold at roughly $0.31 an ounce, or $20 a four pack. Often times, these cans have stickers for labels, and sell out as quickly as the brewery can take a line of people’s money. The best part about this for the brewer is they have cut out the distributor and the retailer, taking a bigger portion of the profit. It’s been told that one of the more popular haze-makers in Southern California is making between $30,000 and $40,000 on a single run of hazy IPA cans. That, my friends, is no chump change.
So as a quick recap, a new wave of craft beer fans are happy and small brewers are doing great business selling directly to their customers, yet all I read is hate, jealousy and venom from brewers and long-time beer enthusiasts. I’ve been following this discussion long enough, and I can fill you in with 10 reasons why brewers and drinkers seemingly hate hazy/cloudy, New England Style IPA.
- It goes against everything a classically trained brewer was taught about brewing high quality craft beer. Pick up any brewing book worth it’s grain of malt, and you’ll see that clarity, fining and head retention are important fundamentals in brewing. Keep in mind, by the standards of a classically trained brewer, unfiltered beers and chill haze are acceptable in certain styles. A beer that looks like egg drop soup, with visible chunks of hop and yeast matter, and has little-to-no head goes against this long-followed philosophy.
- Less talented brewers are getting much more fame. This isn’t always the case, as there are some very talented brewers dipping their toe in the butterscotch pudding beer realm, but at this point in the trend, there are some startups and small-time brewers that had no recognition or decent reputation who are now getting high marks on Untappd from the group of cloudy IPA fans known as the “Haze Bros.” You can tell this is digging away at some of the veteran brewers.
- Unable to land that trade or have a hard time dealing with value issues. From personal experience, I have learned that the street value of Tree House Brewing canned IPA is worth slightly more than gold as of this writing. Expensive, rare, labor-intensive barrel aged stouts and sours pale in comparison to two cans of Tree House’s Julius. While I have passed on trading for Tree House or Trillium beers because of what I perceive to be an incorrect valuation on a can of IPA, there are people that take it a step further and badmouth the brewery, badmouth the beer and badmouth the style and haze craze.
- Hatred towards the line. There are those who will do anything to get in line for the next hazy IPA sale, there are those who can never get off work or out of family duty to get in line for the next hazy IPA sale, and there are those who have the time to get in line, and find it foolish. The latter two have taken out their feelings toward line culture on the beer. You will hear statements about how the beer isn’t worth it, or hazy IPA is stupid and not worth lining up for.
- Stuck in the middle of a glass contract. It wasn’t too long ago that 22oz bottles, known as bombers, were the preferred package of beer drinkers. Five to six years ago, many brewers starting up would have to decide what direction they were going to go, and watching successful operations like Stone Brewing, Southern Tier and Avery Brewing, it was an easy choice to procure the brown 22oz bottle. For those who chose that route, they are kicking themselves as these young, nimble breweries are printing money with a small or rented canning line. I have found some of the keyboard warrior brewers beating the haze hate drum are those without the feasible option of churning out four packs of 16oz cans. This is just an observation with a hunch, perhaps I am incorrect.
- The appearance. This might be the most valid point made by those in the cloud-shaming camp. There is beauty in a “perfectly” made clear beer, and there is, often times, something not right about these hazy IPAs. There are some beautiful bright yellow beers being made in the New England style, but some look like a trub cake, or egg drop soup. Those not executing the style well have a good deal of visible floaties, and that is to be expected when you have suspended grain, yeast and hop particulates in your brew. Personally I’m split, as I think some are beautiful while some look like hell. Those against this style use every opportunity to shame the murky beer.
- Not everyone is making them well. For every Monkish or Tree House, there are those who don’t get how to make the style 100%. I am not a brewer and I don’t play one on TV, but I can tell you that hops are bitter and that hoppy ales shouldn’t have the consistency of a protein shake. Unfortunately, these beers sell well no matter who is making them, so some are passing off bitter, vegetal and ungodly thick beers because the end results consists of a line of people and pictures on Instagram of the haze.
- Not bitter enough or IPA-like enough. The term India Pale Ale has evolved quite a bit over the past 20 years and has taken on a life of its own. Moving away from what was known over in Great Britain, IPA has typically meant a very hop forward, strong pale ale, taken further by the trend of the West Coast IPA. In the last 10 years or so, IPA and West Coast IPA signified the beer you were buying and drinking was hop forward in terms of bitterness, fruitiness and aroma. These New England Style beers have great hop aroma, but when brewed as intended, have much less bitterness than the very popular West Coast Style IPA. Some have even started with experimenting by doing no kettle hopping and only dry hopping. I love hop bitterness and I can understand why those are completely turned off by this new style.
- Fear of the unknown/shelf rot. There has been a meme that has been floated around since the rise in popularity of hazy IPA coming from veteran brewers. The theory goes that this style of beer would never last on the shelf in the retail world because the beer never had a chance to finish and clear up. Vivid pictures have been painted that the beer will be a disgusting, oxidized mess, and even worse, all that suspended matter (hop particulate, yeast and grist) will be sitting at the bottom of the can and it will no longer be a hazy IPA at that point. While this may be true, this scenario has not played out in real life yet, and if it has, nobody is copping to it. The beer goes from fermenter, to can, to FedEx box, to the other side of the country, to Instagram in two to four weeks, tops. Still, when you hear a home brewer or pro brewer hating on this style, they will always mention stability in their argument.
- The abundance of incorrect vocabulary and brewing information. This article might be a great example, as there is so much chatter as to what makes these beers hazy and fruity. Is it the yeast strain? Is it the hop bill? Is it the use of oats and wheat in the grain bill? Oh, the brewer dumped flour in the beer. Fans of these beers all like to guess these types of things, and the brewers that hate these styles like to throw out these theories as well, especially the jab about Tired Hands using flour in one of their experimental beers. If you want to know how the brewer arrived at what looks like a glass of orange juice, the best thing to do is ask them. Speaking of juice, the terms juice and hazy are thrown around to the point of being silly. Just because the beer looks like juice, doesn’t necessarily mean that the beer tastes like juice. If the beer looks like a solid glass of French’s Mustard, that certainly isn’t hazy, bro. Now it sounds like I’m hating on the haze bros, I’ll save that for another article.