There was a time when IPAs were transparent and bitter. The West Coast ruled the IPA game and there seemed to be an arms race to see who could make the most palate-wrecking, bitter beer. Now, things are trending in the opposite direction. IPAs are opaque, juicy as hell and almost void of any bitter after burn. They’re hazy and easy to drink. It’s a trend that started in the Northeast several years ago, but has filtered through the scene throughout the country.
If you want some of the best hazy IPAs in the South, get thee to The Veil Brewing, in Richmond. They’re putting out some of the most interesting IPAs on the East Coast right now. Some of their beers look like straight up orange juice.
But The Veil has a relatively limited production scale and doesn’t distribute much further than their own parking lot. That’s why I got excited when two of the largest craft breweries in the country jumped onto the hazy IPA trend. Within the last couple of months, both New Belgium and Sierra Nevada introduced unfiltered, hazy IPAs to their lineup. And that means finally, just about everybody in the country has access to a good hazy IPA. We don’t have to drive 300 miles and stand in line to get a taste of what all the neck beards are raving about.
Sure, you could argue that the adoption of a trend by “the powers that be” signals the death of that trend. Sort of like when your parents started wearing Crocs. But Sierra Nevada and New Belgium aren’t your parents. Yes, they’re massive companies that don’t have the street-savvy cache of a startup brew house that operates out of the alley behind your grandma’s house, and only uses ingredients scavenged from that alley to brew beer (try their Grandma’s Leftover Chicken n Rice Saison, it’s transcendent). But both these breweries are still very much “in the game,” still innovating and still putting out some of the best, most consistent beers in the country. If anything, the fact that Sierra Nevada and New Belgium have produced hazy IPAs means the trend is here to stay.
Personally, I’m psyched. I still prefer the traditionally bitter, West Coast style of IPA; I was raised Catholic, so if something doesn’t hurt at least a little bit, it’s not worth your time. But I appreciate the variety that these new IPAs offer. They’re particularly useful for getting non-IPA drinkers into the IPA game. Sierra Nevada’s Hazy Little Thing is particularly easy to drink. It has a soft, almost pillowy mouthfeel and the finish is so smooth, it basically just disappears. In the middle, there’s nothing but sweet notes reminiscent of a fruit cup. And who doesn’t love a good 6.7% ABV fruit cup?