Posted on

The Rise of The Hazy New England IPA (NEIPA)

The origins of the New England IPA (or Hazy IPA) are believed to date back to 1994. By 2002, IPAs were the most popular style category in the Great American Beer Festival. In 2018, they finally became a category in their own right.

What is a NEIPA or Hazy IPA?

Before NEIPAs came along, if an IPA was hazy, it was generally a sign that it was badly brewed. That changed in 1994 when brewers began to experiment with making IPAs hazy on purpose.  Heady Topper from The Alchemist brewery is generally recognized as being the first craft beer to have all the characteristics of a Hazy IPA.

The main characteristic of a Hazy IPA is, of course, its haze. This creates a smooth, almost creamy texture which just slides down the mouth. Another noticeable feature of NEIPAs is that they taste of fruit rather than hops. This means that they can still be fresh in the mouth, but it’s the fresh crispness of fruit rather than the sourness of hops.

Are NEIPA’s from New England?

Whether or not New England IPAs are actually from New England is really a matter of opinion. The original idea is believed to have come from Omaha, Nebraska. It was, however, brewers in New England who really ran with it and developed it into a recognizable craft beer style in its own right.

What’s the difference between regular IPAs and New England IPAs?

The original IPAs were created in England in the late 18th century for export to India, which was still a British colony. Increasing the hop content well above what was then normal made it possible for the beer to survive the long journey. It also resulted in a beer with an utterly superb taste.

IPAs have been around ever since. They were, however, given a new lease of life around the mid-1970s when brewers on the West Coast rediscovered them. Today, when people talk about “regular IPAs” what they generally mean is West Coast IPAs.

West Coast IPAs are basically all about showcasing the hops. This means that they are filled with dark, dank, bitter flavours. Where there is fruit, it’s biting citrus, such as lemon or grapefruit. It may even be laced with menthol pine.

Hazy NEIPAs, by contrast, use the hops mainly for the aroma. They’re still detectable in the flavour, but definitely in the background. Mostly it’s all about the sweetness of fresh fruit.

What makes Hazy IPAs so popular?

Hazy IPAs tie in with many of the clear trends for 2020 and beyond. Modern drinkers increasingly want lighter, low-alcohol “session” beers they can enjoy at any time of day and keep a clear head. Hazy IPA brewers have obviously picked up on this and are broadening their range of lower-alcohol Hazy IPAs.

Fruit beers are another major trend, which appears to be only set to grow. This ties in with the desire for “daytime drinks”. It also ties in with the fact that more people are trying beer in general and craft beer in particular. West Coast IPAs might delight beer connoisseurs but they may be a bit too much for the average new beer drinker to handle.

What makes Hazy IPAs juicy?

The main reason Hazy IPAs are juicy is that the hops are added much later. Generally, they are only put into the mixture during the second fermentation process, when there is no heat. This allows the hops to contribute the aroma and flavour without dominating the fruit.

What makes the haze in a New England IPA?

Even though they’re often called Hazy IPAs, the haze in NEIPAs actually came about as a by-product of the distinctive brewing process. There are several factors involved in making it happen. Here is a quick explanation of the key ones.

Water chemistry

Ideally, Hazy IPAs should be made with water which is high in chlorides and relatively low in sulfites. Sulfites accentuate the bitterness of hops, which is what you want to avoid in Hazy IPAs. Interestingly, the water in New England generally meets this profile very well.

Special ingredients

Some brewers use ingredients such as flour, fruit pectin and wheatgerm to enhance the haziness of their products. This practice is, however, not universal. Some brewers avoid it out of concern that it would improve the appearance at the expense of the taste.

High-protein ingredients

These come into a separate category as it’s long been fairly common for brewers to use high-protein ingredients in beer. Hazy IPAs will typically be based around high-protein grains, such as oats, spelt and wheat. They’ll also tend to use high-protein malt and may add other high-protein ingredients such as lactose.

Lactose is interesting as it does not cloud a beer. It does, however, contribute to a beer’s texture. Haze IPAs tend to be smooth even without lactose. When lactose is added, it can make them much creamier, almost like a milk beer.

Choice of yeast

Hazy IPAs are made with medium to low flocculating yeast strains. These stay suspended in the liquid, hence contributing to its cloudiness. Higher flocculating yeast strains clump together and hence can be easily removed after fermentation.

(Double) dry hopping

Dry hopping is the technique of adding hops to the beer during the second fermentation process when there is no heat. It’s far from unique to Haze IPAs. In fact, it’s widely used in the creation of Saisons and sours and it’s not unheard of for it to be used to make pilsners. NEIPAs, however, take it to a whole new level.

The key point to note is that even though NEIPAs taste completely different to West Coast IPAs, they really are still IPAs. This means that they use serious amounts of hops, even if they don’t taste all that hoppy. 

As a minimum, therefore, brewers will add a lot of pelletized hops to the liquid. These days, however, brewers may even add ultra-concentrated hop powders, either instead of or as well as the standard hop pellets.

Obviously adding solids to a liquid makes it cloudier and in the case of Haze IPAs, this is desirable. This means that modern brewers will tend to go easy on the post-fermentation filtering. In fact, some Hazy IPAs might not even be filtered at all.

The decision as to whether or not to filter (and if so by how much) isn’t necessarily based purely on aesthetics. In fact, it might not even be based on aesthetics at all. There is now a school of thought which says that filtering reduces the taste and aroma of the hops. They, therefore, base their decision on how much of this flavour and aroma they wish to retain.

What is a juice wolf?

A juice wolf is just somebody who loves Hazy IPAs. The term was coined back when Hazy IPAs were just gaining recognition but before they achieved respect. It originally sat alongside terms such as “Hazeboi” and “Hazebro” as being something between an insult and a joke.

These days, most of the other semi-insults have disappeared and the term “juice wolf” tends to be used affectionately. NEIPAs have long since moved on from being “just for Instagram” and have proved their standing in the craft beer community.

Recommended Hazy New England IPAs to try

Behemoth 6 foot 5 IPA

Seven Brews Punch Drunk NEIPA

Siren Craft Soundwave

Stone Delicious IPA

Gweilo Hopfensaft Neipa

Carbon Brews Little Rich Lupulins

Author: Jonathan Gillespie