The New England-style IPA, beyond being craft beer’s cultural icon for several years, has been a Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) Provisional Style for two rounds of the National Homebrew Competition. While Belgian IPA and the very similar white IPA have taken gold in the specialty IPA category for two years running, thus far, the number of medals given for the NEIPA style has not matched up to the widespread enthusiasm for all things hazy.
Is 2020 the year the haze craze finally collects the top prize? We asked top hazy IPA brewers around the country to clue us in on how they’re nailing their hazies. With insights from Other Half, Night Shift, WeldWerks, Angel City, and Karl Strauss breweries, the code to homebrewing an award-winning hazy IPA is all about ingredients and intention.
As a heads up, we use NEIPA and hazy IPA interchangeably in this article.
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Why So Hazy?
The lore of New England IPA has always contained whispers about brewers adding flour or fruit pectin to fermenters to obtain the characteristic opacity of the hazy IPA style. (Admittedly, many of the rumors were prompted by Tired Hands’ Jean Broillet IV admitting to using both in that brewery’s signature milkshake IPAs.) However, professional brewers agree that well-made hazy IPAs’ opacity results from raw materials and the interaction of grains, yeast, and hops, rather than brewers’ artistic intention.
Every brewer who went on record for this article mentioned using flaked or rolled oats in the grain bill for their NEIPAs. Several also use high proportions of flaked wheat. These high-protein adjuncts create the cloudy appearance in classic styles like Belgian witbier and German hefeweizen, too.
These ingredients are chosen not to create a hazy, but a “silky and creamy mouthfeel, and to help round out some of the hop bitterness,” Sam Richardson, co-founder and brewmaster at Other Half Brewing in Brooklyn, says. Other Half’s Green Diamonds double IPA is an example of this effect — the label is listed as a commercial example of a New England IPA in the BJCP provisional style guidelines.
That said, a high proportion of potentially gummy oats and wheat can create lautering issues for homebrewers. When going for a first attempt at the style, Paul Segura, brewmaster at Karl Strauss Brewing, suggests using “lots of rice hulls if you can,” to avoid getting a stuck mash.
High-Ester Yeast Strains
To provide the characteristic fruity, peach, and pome-fruit aromas and flavors of juicy and hazy IPAs, professional brewers opt for a high-ester yeast strain. WeldWerks Brewing of Greeley, Colo., Karl Strauss Brewing of San Diego, and Angel City Brewery of Los Angeles all suggest homebrewing hazy IPA using Wyeast London Ale III. This yeast strain helps boost fruit notes missing from the standard American IPA yeast, which has a neutral yeast character.
While many descriptions of the NEIPA style mention using a low-flocculating yeast strain (meaning a strain that doesn’t naturally clarify the beer by clumping together and falling out of solution), London Ale III, like most English yeast strains, is highly flocculent. Any haze created by this yeast strain is likely not yeast particles, but instead a result of a separate reaction with other ingredients.
(Dry) Hop Additions
This will come as no surprise to anyone who has tasted or heard of Other Half’s IPAs, but Richardson pinpoints the most pivotal factor: “Getting the right quality of hops. Quality of hops is huuuuugely important. At high dry-hopping ratios, you can’t hide bad hops.”
When planning hop additions for a NEIPA, scaling back or altogether eliminating hot-side bittering hop additions is a common practice. Although this doesn’t directly augment the beer’s appearance, it is a major driver of the “restrained perceived bitterness balance,” as the BJCP guidelines describe.
The “cold side,” a term used to describe the period in the brewing process after wort has been chilled, is where the nuances of NEIPAs come to life. Massive dry-hop additions in the fermenter contribute tons of polyphenols — chemicals that have long been considered a culprit of chill haze.
Eric Bachli, former brewmaster and VP of operations at Sixpoint Brewery, and former head brewer at Trillium Brewing, doesn’t completely skip hot-side hop additions, but he does suggest “adding whirlpool additions at [about] 170 degrees Fahrenheit to limit isomerization of alpha acids, thereby limiting bitterness and volatility of hop compounds.”
By focusing on dry-hopping during active fermentation, brewers are able to “take advantage of bio-transformation and late-stage flavor contributions,” Bachli says. Biotransformation is a relatively new and unstudied phenomenon involving a reaction between yeast and hop compounds creating new, aromatic compounds that are characteristic of NEIPA. (Richardson specifically mentions hop glycosides.)
The Taste You Can’t See
Another major component setting NEIPA apart from West Coast IPA is water chemistry. Night Shift brewer Craig Kennison recommends reading “Water” by John Palmer. “It’s a daunting amount of information, but is a good primer for water chemistry,” he says. Kennison says a chloride-rich water profile is the element homebrewers are most likely to miss. While sulfate additions are traditional for enhancing hop sharpness and crisp bitterness in IPAs, the NEIPA style needs to suggest “juiciness.”
“Water rich in chloride contributes to the perceived softness in the mouthfeel associated with the style,” Derek Gold, lead brewer at WeldWerks Brewing, says. “Homebrewers should be targeting a three-to-one ratio of chloride to sulfate.”
More (Hazy) Than the Sum of Its Parts
Once again, when brewing a NEIPA, opacity isn’t the goal. Each ingredient should contribute to the haze, not create it. It is the reaction between these three elements — protein-rich grains, yeast activity, and hefty (mostly cold-side) hop additions — that chemically create the glass-of-orange-juice look you recognize from your Instagram feed.
Surprisingly, brewers actually filter their beers while maintaining their signature opacity. “Protein and polyphenols in the presence of these specific yeast strains will combine to form bonds that will give a stable haze in your beer,” Layton Cutler, head brewer at Angel City Brewing, says.
Cutler uses a coarse filter to preserve the appearance of the beer, while removing hop matter and flocculated yeast. (Competitive homebrewers might adopt this trick, as the BJCP specifically states the style is “hazy, often opaque,” yet “should not be cloudy or murky. … Any visible floating particulates (hop matter, yeast clumps, etc.) are a fault.”
The opacity you’re left with is determined by your recipe. “When these components [protein and polyphenol] bind to one another, there is an increased degree of haze generally proportional to the amount of the constituents added to the beer,” he says.
Purge the Oxygen
A common concern with any style of homebrew, oxidation can be especially damaging to the ingredients in NEIPA. “With the massive hop content in these beers, any oxygen will cause immediate browning and flavor degradation,” Arne Garlick, director of brewing operations at WeldWerks, says. He suggests using carbon dioxide to purge the headspace of your fermenter when dry-hopping, as well as the empty keg before you fill it for serving.
(Because of the oxygen contact and the time it takes to carbonate, the NEIPA style doesn’t do well as a bottle-conditioned beer.)