Hazy days ahead!

Hazy IPAs are enjoying some well-earned time in the sun, which is fitting given their fruity tropical flavours and juicy mouthfeel. Look over any craft beer aisle these days and you’ll note Hazy IPAs have eaten up much of the shelf space previously given over to Pale Ales and bitter West Coast IPAs.

With this recent rise in popularity, it’s not surprising that writers and marketers have quickly labelled this trend the ‘haze craze’. But, while Hazy IPAs can be seen as the new kids on the block, it’s a style that’s been fizzing away in craft beer circles for almost two decades. Its origins can be traced back to a small brewpub in Waterbury, Vermont.


The origins of the ‘haze craze’

In late 2003, John Kimmich and his partner Jen opened the Alchemist Brew Pub. A couple of months later, John created a double IPA he called Heady Topper. Weighing in at 8% ABV, the beer was brewed to celebrate hop flavour and aroma, without the astringency heavily-hopped beers usually take on. Owing to the extent of hopping and that it was neither filtered nor pasteurised, Heady Topper was unique at the time for its unabashed haziness and rich mouthfeel.

Initially only available on tap, and not supported with marketing, it took time for the style to gain traction. Gradually, however, other New England breweries began to incorporate some of the characteristics of Heady Topper into their IPAs and by 2010 a unique beer style had emerged. Originally referred to as New England Indian Pale Ales, the term ‘Hazy’ became popular to add more specificity to the style. In 2018, the Brewers Association officially recognised Hazy or Juicy IPAs as a style.

John Kimmich from the Alchemist Brewery
John Kimmich pictured at home in Vermont. Copyright © 2013 Bear Cieri Photography

So, with pro brewers across the country embracing the haze, we thought we’d take a look at what it takes to brew one yourself, and how your choice of yeast will affect the flavour, mouthfeel and haziness.


Choosing the right hops for your Hazy IPA

Hazy IPAs are designed to show off the characteristics of contemporary, fruit-forward hop varietals, especially those with tropical fruit and citrus character. Less favoured are the dank, piney and resinous varieties that are more at home in West Coast IPAs. Some of the more commonly used are Simcoe, Mosaic, Citra, Amarillo, Mosaic and Galaxy.

Of course, hops selection is only one part of the equation. What you do with them is just as important. Hopping methods should deliver flavour and aroma, without overt bitterness. To achieve this, hopping at the end of the boil and in the whirlpool is favoured. The biggest contribution to hop flavour when brewing a Hazy IPA, however, comes from dry hopping. Often multiple additions are made to achieve a more complex hop character.

Dry hopping is also a major contributor of haze to your Hazy IPA. The addition of large quantities of hops during fermentation causes polyphenols from the hops to bond with protein in the beer and produce what is known as colloidal haze.

Now, heading into more murky territory (fitting given this is an article on hazy beer), we have something called bio-transformation. While this is not well understood on a scientific level, it relates to how the hop aromas and flavours are altered through their interaction with the yeast. According to Bluestone Yeast founder Derek Lacey, biotransformation happens more readily during the first five to seven days of the yeast’s growing phase. Another effect of biotransformation is the creation of additional haze. Derek adds that the use of various yeast strains in the same brew can cause unique interactions between the various strains and the hops.


How to choose and use grains in your Hazy IPA

In regard to flavour, malt plays a supporting role to the hops, which are the undisputed star of the Hazy IPA show. For this reason, neutral base malts make up the bulk of the grain bill. But that’s not to say the choice of grains is not important. The addition of fairly large percentages of unmalted grains, such as flaked wheat and oats, introduces starches and proteins into the beer. These add to the hazy appearance and rich mouthfeel typical of a Hazy IPA.

Derek cautions against adding too much wheat in pursuit of opacity, however, as this can slow down the fermentation as the yeast struggles to chew through all of the complex glycans from the wheat. He adds that if you use 25-30% wheat in your grain bill, you’ll need to start with a bigger yeast pitch. One approach he recommends is to first brew a pale ale to produce a big, healthy yeast cake and use this to ferment your Hazy IPA.


How yeast contributes to the haziness of your Hazy IPA

Heady Topper is brewed with a British ale yeast that John Kimmich’s mentor Greg Noonan gave him. It was gifted under the proviso it was not shared with anyone else. So the strain remains Heady Topper’s secret sauce, so to speak. But in brewing a Hazy IPA at home, choosing a British ale yeast is a good place to start.

Derek from Bluestone says that there’s a bit of a misconception that a Hazy IPA’s haze is the result of yeast not falling out of suspension. He says that while a yeast’s rate of flocculation will have some effect on the turbidity of the beer, the haze is primarily a result of the polyphenols that form when the yeast interacts with hop compounds. He adds that this occurs quite readily with some strains of yeast and almost not at all with others.

Package of Bluestone New England liquid yeast
Bluestone’s New England strain is now available for home brewers

Which Bluestone Live Liquid Yeast to Use?

Derek recommends Bluestone’s New England strain, which he says is great for Hazy IPAs as it imparts plenty of hop aroma and contributes to a rich well-rounded mouthfeel as it doesn’t finish too dry.
He says of the craft breweries using Bluestone’s live liquid yeast, New England is proving most popular when brewing Hazy IPAs.

If you’d like to read more about John Kimmich and his world-famous (in craft beer circles) beer, there’s a good article in LongReads


Image of John Kimmich Copyright © 2013 Bear Cieri Photography


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