| Haze Is The Craze
by Chris Jermize
About 13 years ago, The Alchemist brewery in Waterbury, Vt., released a new IPA called Heady Topper.
Yes, that Heady Topper that people stand in line for hours in hope of getting some. The brewer, John
Kimmich, had decided to neither filter nor pasteurize the beer — both common methods of extending a
commercial beer's shelf life. The result was an IPA thicker with the microscopic compounds and
particulates that add flavor and aroma. Customers noticed and praised the beer as being especially
tasty and one of the best beers available anywhere.
They also noticed the beer's appearance: Heady Topper was unusually murky and opaque, almost like
orange juice. Even though Kimmich says the beer's turbidity was never a concern of his, it became a
point of focus for many of his customers. Other brewers noticed, too, and some began making their own
hazy IPAs. For the next decade, the style remained modestly popular as an East Coast or New England
specialty. It was new and different and more importantly delicious though word of the style was still
focused in a somewhat limited area.
Then, a few months ago, hazy IPAs exploded onto the national beer scene. No one can explain this
sudden explosion, but beers with the appearance of pulpy fruit juice have swept across the country since
then. The phenomenon is now billed the "haze craze." And in the past several months, these so-called
New England IPAs have hit the West Coast like a wild dust storm. Now before we get too far it must be
said that while these versions of the style imitated Heady none reached its standard of excellence. Still,
many had most of the style's essential elements. Newcomers to the style seemed to focus on the unique
haze of the beer as much as its flavor profile.
The haziness in these beers is caused by a variety of techniques that brewers say are primarily aimed at
enhancing aromas and creating a smooth, creamy mouthfeel while also reducing the stinging bitterness
associated with more conventional IPAs. Some brewers, for example, are using certain yeast strains
that leave fruity esters in the beer, as well as suspended particulate matter. Alvarado Street, in Monterey,
Calif., and Amplified Ale Works, in San Diego, recently collaborated on a hazy IPA called Trois
Cabrones — a reference to the special strain of yeast used to ferment the beer, Saccharomyces
bruxellensis Trois. This particular yeast, says Alvarado Street brewer Andrew Rose, leaves a distinct
fruitiness in the beer — along with a pronounced haze so thick that one cannot even see through a
3-ounce sampler of the IPA.
Late addition hopping is another method that brewers use for New England IPAs. This means hops are
added to a beer at the end of the roughly one-hour boiling process, or even after that — rather than
during the boil, a more conventional approach. This amplifies aromas while extracting less of the hops'
alpha acids, which create bitterness. The process can also leave microscopic vegetable matter
suspended in the beer. Filtration has traditionally been used to remove this material. "But if we filtered
our beer we'd also lose some of the flavor," Rose says.
It isn't surprising, then, that some brewers may be intentionally murking up their IPAs to make them more
marketable. Rumors are circulating of IPAs made hazy and viscous by the addition of flour or pectin-thick
applesauce, both of which can create a milky, opaque hue in the beer without any benefits for flavor or
smell. No brewers publicly admit to doing that but Kimmich, at The Alchemist, is convinced that the
rumors are true as are many other serious brewers and fans of the style.
Kimmich, who wouldn't name any of these breweries, says he is amused — and slightly satisfied — to
see brewers across America creating beers that he says he was once rebuked for producing. We spent
10 years trying to convince people that haze is OK, and now some people are looking at our beers and
saying they aren't hazy enough," he says.
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