Reviewed: New Belgium Voodoo Ranger Juicy Haze IPA
Product description: This medium bodied, unfiltered IPA is packed with tropical aromas and big citrus flavors from a delicious blend of Citra hops combined with Cascade, Centennial, Simcoe and Nugget.
New Belgium Brewing – New Belgium Voodoo Ranger Juicy Haze IPA – 12 oz. bottle poured into specialty glassware – 7.5% abv.
I sampled this from a 12 oz bottle with a best before date of 22 April 2018. Now Voodoo Ranger I thought was New Belgium’s most popular IPA and perhaps now it has pivoted over to a hazy IPA? It turns out that there are at least eight different beers sharing the Voodoo Ranger name now as it has been appropriated to nearly all the hoppy beers in New Belgium’s portfolio. Check out the current Voodoo Ranger lineup:
Voodoo Ranger IPA
Voodoo Ranger Imperial IPA
Voodoo Ranger 8 Hop Pale Ale
Voodoo Ranger Red IPA
Voodoo Ranger Juicy Mandarina IPA
Voodoo Ranger Passion Fruit Imperial IPA
Voodoo Ranger Atomic Pumpkin
…and Voodoo Ranger Juicy Haze IPA
The Juicy Haze addition is a murky, opaque golden color like unfiltered pineapple juice in the glass. Head formation is impressive with great retention. It certainly looks the part. The nose begins with fresh and zesty white grapefruit spritzer. But spend more time with the beer and it switches over to green banana, unripe papaya, and something like honey mint cough drops. It’s all over the place.
The flavor begins rough and there is really no distinction between front, mid, and back palate. This makes it un-beer-like as you miss out on complexities and interplay in the mouth. That rough character manifests itself as Tums tablets, concrete, talcum powder, and other over-the-top gritty and chalky flavors. The palate is the complete opposite of what hazy IPAs are famous for with their super soft, pillowy body and fruit juice like drinkability. Really, there is hardly anything even beer-like at this point. The mouthfeel is closer to mineral water with baby powder added.
I’m sure everyone will go wild for this beer as it is the trendy thing these days, but this is not up to par with the competition. It’s my opinion that this recipe needs significant reworking. I checked out the recipe on New Belgium’s website and this is made with hefeweizen yeast as well as oats and wheat. Now the latter two grain additions are not uncommon in hazy IPAs, but this is the first time I’ve seen hefeweizen yeast used. Perhaps that is what is making everything go awry. But perhaps the simplest explanation is that these hazy IPAs do reintroduce a lot of yeast sediment back into solution to create that intense hazy effect. I know that wheat and oats can also produce similar haze, but the intensely gritty and chalky flavors remind me of yeast dregs. Those off-flavors from the yeast plague every single hazy IPA out there. It really is just a matter of recipe tweaking and taste testing to get it to a level that is acceptable rather than overpowering I think.
Even though it seems like I’m singling out this beer, the truth is that so many out there are just as flawed since the style itself calls for a dangerous readdition of yeast sediment. The difference is that New Belgium is one of the few breweries out there right now widely distributing a beer of this style to the masses. Sierra Nevada has done something similar recently with Hazy Little Thing, which I have reviewed for comparison. I definitely give the edge to Sierra Nevada right now, though neither are perfect examples of the style.