The Session #126: Hazy, Cloudy, Juicy: IPA’s strange twist

The SessionThis month’s topic for The Session (Beer Blogging Friday) is hosted by Gail Ann Williams of Beer by BART, who is asking us to consider hazy, cloudy, juicy New England IPAs:

On August 4th, 2017, the topic will be a still-emerging – though no longer new – unofficial beer style. This kind of beer has gotten so much buzz (and some mocking) in the last decade and a half that it’s surprising it has not come up on The Session yet. New England, Vermont-inspired, Northeastern, Hazy, Juicy or whatever you like to call these low-bitterness, hop flavorful beers, they are being made everywhere now and people are definitely buying them.

So fire up your keyboard – let’s hear about your own encounters with these strange IPAs.

As it happens I just recently wrote a print article on the New England IPAs being brewed here in Bend, Oregon. Even for that, I’m not totally sold on them; I simply don’t see (or taste) what making a beer intentionally hazy does for it, other than possibly giving it an odd (gritty) mouthfeel.

To be 100% fair, I haven’t had any of the actual New England beers that inspired this style, either, so I don’t have an actual point of reference for the source of these beers. Honestly? It’s just not that important to me. I’ve been drinking good beer for a long time and I know at some point I’ll drink Heady Topper and the like. More to the point, I’ve enjoyed beer styles through a number of iterations over many years and all of them can boil down to something simple: some work, and some don’t.

I’ve had such a small sample of NEIPAs that I’m not even going to pretend to say if it’s a good or bad trend. If the market is there for the beers, then more power to them. Of the ones I had, I didn’t hate them, and Sunriver Brewing‘s are tasty, but I still don’t really “get” why it has to be cloudy, because I’ve had equally delicious IPAs that were crystal clear. (To this point, I recently read a comment—possibly from Breakside Brewery’s Ben Edmunds—that these beers should perhaps be classified as hoppy wheat ales instead of IPAs because of the high content of wheat and other non-barley adjuncts. If that’s the case, then haze away!)

But even if overall I fall into the negative side of the column, so what? There are beer styles I don’t prefer for various reasons (despite the fact that I’m always open to trying a new beer, regardless of style) and my opinion is hardly going to make or break the trend. (I’d say there is about a 0.0000001% percent chance of that!)

What I can tell you is, if you’re in Central Oregon at some point and seeking out some of these NEIPAs, check out Sunriver Brewing and RiverBend Brewing, and maybe others depending on the week. Head brewer Brett Thomas at Sunriver has more or less dedicated himself to having a New England-style IPA on tap all the time, and RiverBend has a rotating lineup of fruit-infused “Milkshake IPA” series in the same vein. I’ll leave it up to you to judge their quality, and if you do get a chance to taste them, let me know!

RiverBend Brewing Milkshake IPA