July 24, 2019 by John Garland
Everyone loves a Hazy IPA. They have powerful aromas of tropical citrus. They’re juicy on the palate and pillowy on the finish. A soft and mellow reprieve for drinkers who appreciate hops but are repelled by the bracing bitterness of West Coast IPAs. A canvas for experimentation, pushing craft beer into new realms and generating enthusiasm over new releases.
And yet, everyone hates a Hazy IPA. They’re flabby and imbalanced. A candy-sweet orange juice brew for the Capri Sun generation. An overpriced waste of hops. Anathema to brewers who diligently work to remove haze. An under-attenuated slurry of yeast. A venue for adjunct-addled laziness.
It’s high time for The Growler’s editorial staff to fully confront the most divisive beer style of the decade, the Hazy IPA, known formally as the New England IPA (NEIPA) and alternatively as the Juicy IPA, the bane of brewers, the scion of subreddits, the unfiltered, the unfinished, the breaker of boundaries, and the mother of controversy.
From its idiosyncratic beginnings in Vermont with The Alchemist’s Heady Topper, New England IPAs have rocketed to the top of the nation’s craft beer consciousness. Hazy or Juicy IPA (with 414 entries) was the most-competitive category for judging at the 2018 Great American Beer Festival, ending a 16-year reign for the now-demure American-style IPA as the festival’s most popular.
But who makes a good one around here?
To find out, we enlisted Jeff Merriman, instructor of Dakota County Technical College’s Brewing and Beer Steward Technology program, to help organize a double-blind tasting, in which The Growler’s editorial staff, eight Beer Judge Certification Program judges, and two Certified Cicerones rated 49 Minnesota-brewed Hazy IPAs against the BJCP style guidelines for category 21b. Specialty IPA: New England IPA.
These very same beers were also judged against the same style guidelines by the public at Unlabeled No. 1: Hazy IPA, the first in The Growler’s new series of blind tasting beer festivals, held July 18 in St. Paul (three days after the editorial blind tasting). Hundreds of tasters turned out for the event (we’ve crunched the data and returned their Top 10 favorites; see below.)
Here are the judges’ tasting notes on the top 12:
Advanced to the Best of Show Round
(in alphabetical order)
Urban Growler Brewing Co. Cloudy Sunshine
Our tasting notes on this one were all over the board, from papaya and tangerine to biscuits and toast to leather and diesel. It sparked conversation. It evolved as it warmed. But it was undeniably juicy and supremely well-balanced.