Get Hazy with the New England IPA

There’s no disputing how trendy the IPA is. As the country’s obsession with craft beer continues, frat boys have traded watered-down light beer for this all-American pale ale. If something is this good, and this popular, should anyone be messing with it?

Apparently, the answer is yes – and it comes in the form of “North Eastern IPA” or New England IPA” (NEIPA). This new brew focuses on showing off fruity hop flavors without bitterness, and brewmasters are making this happen without filtering the beer. So, the pint you’re drinking might look more like foggy apple cider than clarified juice. Because of this element, NEIPAs have also been dubbed “juicy” or “hazy” IPA.

New England IPAs are purposely cloudy, giving the beer a smooth, creamy mouthfeel – unlike West Coast IPAs, which are typically light and dry with a bitter finish. A NEIPA should have a tropical, juicy sweetness with almost no hop bitterness at the end. The first hazy IPA was created 13 years ago when The Alchemist brewery in Waterbury, VT released its Heady Topper IPA, a murky unfiltered, unpasteurized beer. Fellow Vermont beer makers embraced this new IPA, and it’s now starting to spread across the country.

Many want the hazy IPA to become a separate category of IPA, but the trend has caused controversy among both breweries and craft beer connoisseurs. The main point of contention? Defining “haze.” NEIPAs range from opaque to murky, and some simply look unappetizing. Apart from beverage aesthetic, the haziness can cause flavor instability and a short shelf life – the latter being part of the reason why it’s taken so long for this juicy beer to make its way across the country. The yeast and proteins that create the signature haze can drop out of suspension, and these are living beers that change from one week to the next and should be enjoyed as fresh as possible.

Some are wondering whether or not hazy IPA really is an IPA, since it lacks so many of the traditional elements of its predecessor. Ken Weaver of All About Beer says that beer style is an “artifact, a product of culturally-specific moment or collection of moments in time. Beer style is not so much in flux as it is in a constant state of evolution.” So, NEIPA is just an evolved version of an IPA, and we won’t be surprised if it continues to evolve.

As a New Englander who happens to be a big fan of Downeast Cider (a hard cider that I would call “hazy,” since it’s thick and juicy, unlike, say, Angry Orchard), I am pretty interested in this NEIPA idea. My years of shopping at Whole Foods and browsing produce at farmers markets makes me believe that anything that’s unfiltered and unpasteurized is purer and better for my body – so this philosophy applied to beer is pretty appealing.

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