Meet The Hazemakers of California
For many years, California and the West Coast were synonymous with India Pale Ale. Pioneer hop-forward brewers such as Sierra Nevada, Russian River, Stone Brewing and Pizza Port Brewing captured the mouths and imaginations of the entire country, if not the world with “West Coast style IPA.” The rest of the country was a little behind on brewing blonde, medium bodied, clear beers with insane citrus-like aromas and sharp lingering bitterness. As an unfortunate side effect of “West Coast IPA mania”, shade was thrown on the rest of the country, in particular the East Coast. Many associated an IPA brewed on the East Coast as a balanced, malty, amber colored beer featuring a subdued piney aroma. Some even threw around the term soapy.
Then one day a small brewery in Vermont named The Alchemist turned the IPA world on its head with a beer named Heady Topper. The beer had the dank aroma one would expect from a West Coast IPA, only instead of a clear body or even a slight haze, this beer was full-on murky. The Alchemist was well aware of this untraditional look and suggested that folks drink it from the can if they found the appearance unappealing. The beer quickly took the world by storm and began a beer craze known as New England Style IPA. I am sure there are those closer to the region that would like to correct me on this tale, but from where I sit here in Southern California, this is pretty much the turning point in IPA history. From there, breweries like Lawson’s Finest Liquids, Tree House Brewing, Trillium Brewing and, later on, Other Half Brewing became the leaders in the haze craze. The more the beer looked and tasted like juice the better. Younger beer drinkers are enamored by the easy-to-drink, juice-like beer and are obsessed with standing in line for four packs, putting pictures of the colorful cans on Instagram around the clock. Being a beer geek has always had some territorial rivalry mixed into the culture, and having a popular beer style to call their own is a big point of pride for those on the east coast.
While east coast beer geeks have lined up outside of industrial parkways with portable camping chairs for the next cartoon labeled four pack of juice, the IPA innovators in California were grumbling with a bit of hate and envy. Thread upon thread on Facebook were denouncing this new style of murky, low bittered juice bombs. But this year, murky mustard yellow turned to dollar bill green. Some of the biggest advocates of properly fined beer dipped their toes into the hazy hop waters. Now, it’s safe to say that not only is California catching up with the trend, they are dead in the middle of it. We’re not going to say who’s doing it better, we’ll let you chime in on that, we’re simply going to introduce you to the new and old California haze makers.
Editor update: Two breweries were left off that are now added. Moonraker Brewing and Mikkeller San Diego.
Abnormal Beer Company – Head Brewer Derek Gallanosa started a lean operation out of The Cork and Craft restaurant in Rancho Bernardo, CA (North County San Diego) brewing to cutting edge trends. Besides making dessert-like adjunct strong stouts, he has dabbled in the New England IPA genre with his New Money series. The few different versions I sampled were very juice-like with almost no bitterness and let zero light through. They do can runs of this, which sell out as quickly as they are put on sale. Of note, Abnormal doesn’t use flashy can art for their IPA releases, opting for a classier, modern look.
Alvarado Street Brewing – A four-year-old brewery in Northern California has quickly made a name for themselves as a new wave of brewers fills out the SF Bay and Napa Valley area of the California map. Alvarado Street has a nice portfolio of beers, but have caught the imagination of the hop heads and the hazebros with their perfectly designed cans of fresh and hazy IPA. They haven’t gone full-on murky juice, but its more than just a slight haze. Much like many other breweries we’ll mention, Alvarado Street still gives a nod to the West Coast style with a slight hop bite, indicating it’s more than just London Ale yeast and whirlpool hops.
Bottle Logic Brewing – Another brewery that is largely known for their adjunct stout program, Bottle Logic has completely embraced the winning formula of “children of the 90’s” branding, four pack 16 oz. cans, online sale of hazy IPA. Bottle Logic struck gold this year with their “Konami Code” series of IPA and double IPA, offering a hazy, hoppy, heavy offering in a very cool package. The branding consists of familiar fonts from Nintendo Power Magazine, the game show Double Dare and other things that evoke pleasant childhood memories. As for the beer itself, it’s the best IPAs Bottle Logic has made to date, and seems like a hybrid of a San Diego Style Double IPA and a New England IPA.
Cellarmaker Brewing – Before it was cool to make Hazy IPAs, Cellarmaker was pumping out some of the best unfiltered, cloudy pales, IPAs and double IPAs in California. If you ever go to San Francisco, this should be your first beer stop. If I had to describe their beer, I would say fresh and clean, first and foremost. Besides the very hazy body, these beers lean closer to the West Coast end of the spectrum, but with finesse and dialed back harsh bitterness. They have recently started canning, but have been more low key with their branding and hype, which is fine by me.
Fieldwork Brewing – One of my favorite breweries in the world, not only because of the beer, but because of how impressive their business model appears to be. In a short amount of time, Fieldwork Brewing has opened, hired a crazy talented head brewer (Alex Tweet) and started pumping out a handful of styles of beer people love to drink. They have cut out lots of the young ambitious bullshit like packaging and distribution and simply sell onsite and growlers to go. While they do sell to draft accounts, they run a tight shift that makes for some of the best fresh beer I’ve ever had. It just so happens they have an incredible IPA program, and those IPAs for the most part resemble a New England IPA. They teeter back and forth on the bitterness from recipe to recipe, so whether you like that creamsicle style beer one would get on the East Coast, or something with some hop bite, Fieldwork is brewing it. They play into the haze can craze as well with some insanely beautiful artwork. If you vacation in the Napa Valley or Silicon Valley, make time to stop at one of the several Fieldwork locations.
Mikkeller San Diego – For nearly 20 years, the brew house on Cabot Drive in San Diego created English Ales and hop forward IPAs with a San Diego twist on them. All of that changed when AleSmith Brewing moved out and Mikkeller San Diego moved in. Running a lean and mean operation, Mikkeller San Diego is rapidly pumping out haze bomb after haze bomb, all with Mikkeller’s signature eye catching branding. This program kicked off with some heavy hitting collaborations with the likes of Alpine Beer Co, Arts District Brewing and has been a non-stop power house since. Some of their hazy IPAs have hit draft accounts, but whether it’s onsite or at a local account, these beers go fast.
Modern Times Beer – Modern Times jumped out of the gate strong back in 2013 with slick branding and marketing, as well as some very non-offensive core beers. They quickly changed gears and had their beers match their pizazz and have been killing it with IPAs, stouts and sour ales ever since. Through talent and imagination, they have been creating some pretty unique hoppy beers. They have, of course, embraced the demand for cloudy IPA. Much like other successful hazemakers, Modern Times has been printing pretty cans and filling them with the juice the kids want. Modern Times has opted out of the line around the block in favor of online ticket sales, and has so far been a huge success. As for the beer itself, they have made something for everyone. For those who want a glass of “orange juice”, they have brewed beers like that. For those like myself, who need a bit of hop bite, they have made that too. They have been experimenting with other yeast strains besides London Ale III, and have had some fun and tasty results.
Monkish Brewing – There once was this brewery in Torrance who made Belgian ales, sour ales and saisons. They had a sign in their tasting room that said NO IPAs. Then one day, the mastermind owner / brewer said “fuck all that”, and began pumping out full-on New England style IPAs and began printing money. If you asked Henry which style he’d rather brew, he’d probably tell you it would be a well-crafted mixed fermentation saison, but while the gettin’ is good, he will be pumping out Hazy IPAs with fun hip hop inspired labeling. Every day, whether there is a sale announced or not, people from all over Southern California lineup in anticipation of purchasing a four pack of beer. Like many of the other California Hazemakers I’ve mentioned, sometimes he brews a spot on NEIPA, with soft mouthfeel, low to nonexistent bitterness and the body of a glass of Tampico. Then sometimes he riffs a bit and uses Chico Ale yeast and a little punch of hops before knockout. Monkish Brewing has full-on embraced this phenomenon by traveling all over the country, brewing collabs with other famous hazy IPA brewers on the east coast and the pacific northwest. When you see Henry, he may look exhausted, but that’s the price to pay for cashing in on direct, onsite beer sales that people are going crazy for.
Moonraker Brewing – Originally, left off of this list (by mistake) was Moonraker Brewing of Auburn, CA. The first time I heard of Moonraker was last winter when their triple IPA Extremis bested Pliny the Elder in The Bistro in Haywards Double IPA festival
While I have not been lucky enough to try their beers yet, a quick glance at their ratings and beer descriptions will fill you in on the fact they have mastered hops in a very short amount of time. Whether it be a full on NEIPA, a hybrid of West Coast and NEIPA or a clear West Coast IPA, this is a brewery to check out when you are in Northern California.
Mumford Brewing – Over the last five years or so, Los Angeles has gone from a beer wasteland to a beer destination. There are many young breweries that have just opened up in the last two or three years, quadrupling the amount of craft breweries in the humongous L.A. County. A young chap named Peter Mumford opened up a small brewery and tasting room near the Arts District of Downtown. That’s fancy for skid row, unfortunately, and we wondered how the now two-year-old brewery would fare. When Mumford started, they had some pretty standard core beers, with the idea of appealing to a wide audience. They had a cream ale, a kolsch-style ale and black IPA that was met with a lukewarm reaction. Then Peter and Co. observed what the current market is buying and turned into a full-on haze factory. Using the successful formula of one-off New England Style IPAs packaged in cool looking 16 oz. four packs, Mumford began drawing a crowd, which has helped their onsite sales tremendously. They are completely nailing the style to perfection, and these beers stand tall next to the best brewed over on the East Coast. At first, Mumford was relying on draft accounts, he might soon be in the same boat as Monkish, where his bread and butter will come from sales at his tasting room dock.
Noble Ale Works – Over a year ago, Noble Ale Works was winning medals for their clean and clear pale ales and IPAs, which is a difficult task due to how many breweries enter in those popular categories. Fast forward to spring of 2017, and Noble has full on embraced the haze. They already had a fun and lively twist on their branding before the haze craze, they have taken it to new heights with their canned IPA initiative. Noble has gone the online ticket sales route, but have been quickly selling out premiumly priced IPAs and Double IPAs that tick all those boxes. Hazy juice bombs. Check. Crazy can art. Check. 4 pack for $20 +. Check. All the beers I’ve tried have been great, and have some resemblance to their hoppy hits of yesteryear in terms of enjoyment and drinkability.
Offshoot Brewing – Much like Monkish Brewing, The Bruery had a no IPA edict. They had a very awesome India Pale Lager called Humulus Lager, so people knew The Bruery had the chops to slay an IPA, but they refused to bend on their stance. That is until 2017, where many breweries struck gold with canned IPAs at $5 a pint. The Bruery launched a third brand, omitting the Familie Rue or Bruery branding and named it Offshoot Beer Co. on April Fool’s Day. At first people thought it was a joke, but it was not. After getting the kinks out of their brand new IPA program, Offshoot is doing quite well, offering new beers monthly via online newsletter. The beers haven’t been full on New England style, but lean in that direction, for now. Here’s to hoping the retired Humulus Lager returns under the new Offshoot umbrella.
Pure Project – Another fairly new brewery out of San Diego has embraced the haze. Pure Project is one of over 120 breweries in the highly saturated, highly competitive county. They have taken notice of what today’s beer drinkers are after, and have successfully delivered on that. They brew a legit portfolio, but the line out of their tasting room are those looking for those four packs of juice. Pure’s hazy IPAs lean towards the soft and juicy side of things, but they can make a killer West Coast style beer as well. It’s our hope that the haze craze will benefit many of these young breweries for the future.
Not listed, but worth mentioning is State Brewing out of Gardena, CA. They are pumping out the juice bombs, but as of right now, they are in the middle of opening their tap room and will hopefully begin canning. We also know that both Burning Beard and Burgeon out of San Diego are doing great things, we just need to get down to San Diego to sample some.
Who did we miss? Flame us in the comment section.