By BeachRock Bill
Here at the SoCal Craft Beer Blog, we love our Hazy IPAs. They are juicy, refreshing, flavorful, complex, and with their un-beerlike opacity, very cool looking. So we have decided to proclaim September “Hazy Month,” where (hopefully) each week our Contributing Editors wax poetic on what the style means to them and sample a few that are readily available on store shelves close to home.
Being a homebrewer, I have found Hazy IPAs, aka New England IPAs to be the toughest style to get just right. It’s been a process, but I have painstakingly learned through research and experimentation the extra steps needed when brewing one.
Take water for example. San Diego tap water may be perfect for brewing a bitter West Coast IPA, being naturally high in calcium, sulfates, and PH, but it’s the absolute opposite type of water needed to achieve a pillowy, juicy mouthfeel that New England IPAs are known for.
Hop choice is also critical, as NEIPAs tend toward citrusy, tropical fruit characteristics over piney, floral, dank ones.
Finally, that glorious haze, which in almost every other style would be considered a flaw, is the signature characteristic that gives them the Hazy nickname. Ironically, for brewers, creating a long-lasting moderate to heavy haze in the beer is the style’s biggest challenge, and requires some unique steps that have been developed by the style’s pioneers over the past decade or more.
My personal extra-step checklist when brewing a Hazy looks something like this:
- Purify or filter water, then build it to a low sulfate/low Ph profile.
- Use paler Pilsner malt grains for the base to achieve a more pleasing opaque light straw (0-2 SRM) appearance over a dirty-looking cloudy amber.
- Use high protein adjunct grains like oats and wheat for pillowy mouthfeel and haze contribution
- Add the majority of kettle hops at end of boil and during cool-down to keep bitterness low and flavors high.
- Use a lower flocculating yeast to increase haze even more.
- Dry hop at the beginning and throughout PRIMARY, not just during secondary fermentation.
This last step is the trick to getting a nice long-lasting haze on the beer. The presence of the hops during active fermentation keeps the particles in suspension with a process called bio-transformation.
I call it “magic time.”
So I’ve gotten to the point where I’m able to brew a darn good Hazy IPA at home. I still struggle when making a high alcohol (over 10%) one for Wife Helen. They don’t turn out all that hazy. My guess is there is something about the high alcohol content that messes with the bio-transformation. I’ll keep working on it, and in the meantime, they still taste good so Helen is happy. Enough background–on to the tasting!
Two Ringers and a Wild Card
A quick trip to Whole Foods near my house in San Diego yielded Hazys from two of my favorite breweries in San Diego. Pure Project and Burgeon Beer Company are both known for their Hazy (aka Murky) beers, and to be honest, I have had both these beers on tap at the breweries. The third Hazy I chose, was from a brewery more known for its delicious, dankly hoppy IPAs–Societe Brewing Co. You’d be hard pressed to find three beers from the same brewery as good as Societe’s The Pupil, The Coachman, and The Apprentice. So when I saw a quarterly release Hazy of a rotating series of styles from them, I snapped up their “Glorious Odds” to put against the two ringers.
I came up with a simple 1-5 score sheet (patterned after the one used in my previous “Go-To IPA” post) that ranked what I consider the characteristics I look for most in a Hazy.
- Appearance (nice pale color and a medium to heavy opacity)
- Aroma (I want to be blasted with it)
- Mouthfeel (pillowy or juicy/tart–preferably a nice combination of both)
- Taste (tons of distinct citrus, berry, fruit flavors while avoiding a “schmeer” of too many)
- Finish (pleasant in the back of the throat long after a swallow)
And my most important decider:
- Crave Factor (the beer I’m dying to get another of)
The Survey Says?!
Recruiting Son Carl, Cassie the Exotic Dancer, and her Mom Irina, we embarked on evaluating our three Hazys.
Burgeon “Juice Press”
Gorgeous in the glass with an extremely pale orange-ish straw color. Nearly opaque (without looking chalky) this Hazy had tons of grapefruity citrus on the nose, with complementary hints of white grapes and berry. I also detected a subtle earthiness that perfectly grounded it. More juicy than pillowy in the mouth, there was a slight sweetness up front that balanced out the pleasing tart tang bitterness on the back of the throat. The party in my mouth just kept going long after the swallow, interrupted only by an urgent desire for another sip… and another.. and another.
Crave factor HUGE!
Societe “Glorious Odds”
Societe has finally joined the Hazy party with its rotating Hazy series. This latest version looked nearly as impressive as the Juice Press Hazy from Burgeon (being infinitesimally darker with a tad less haze). On the nose, I got a wonderful blast of peachy, bubblegum, and pineapple aromas jumping up from the glass. It was just about this time when Cassie, also sniffing her pour, commented ” I’m getting a little whiff of wet dog.”
“Really? Is that good?” I asked, thinking of the sought-after baby diaper smell some expensive Bordeaux wines have.
“Ew, no, it’s not working for me at all”
Intrigued, Wife Helen (who passed on participating in our tasting so she could enjoy a can of a Pure Project Triple) took a whiff, as did Cassie’s Mom Irina (setting aside her Rombauer Chardonnay), whereupon all three agreed the glass showed a faint proclivity towards wet dog.
In defense of Glorious Odds, now being jokingly renamed by the group as Aqueous Dogs, yours truly found no hint of a soaked canine aroma. If anything, I found there to be subtle notes of dank cannabis (maybe the dog was smoking weed while bathing). Suspecting that Helen, Cassie, and Irina were messing with me, and disagreeing with their assessment, I made an executive decision and proceeded with the tasting on my own with Son Carl.
Moving on……mouthfeel was just OK for the style, seeming a bit more West Coast leaning. The slight juiciness present was overwhelmed by a hoppy heat in the back of the throat. I really enjoyed the flavors in the mouth, however, and on the finish (maybe being an IPA lover helped), I found those flavors melded perfectly with the dank bitterness into a long and pleasing finale. In the end, I deemed the beer a worthy addition to Societe’s line-up.
Crave Factor High.
Pure Project “Formless Reflections”
It’s no secret that I believe Pure Project is one of the best breweries in all of San Diego (which means the world) right now. If you like Hazys (from low abv Singles on up to 15% abv Quints), Barrel Aged Sours, wild ale experiments, and a wide assortment of Imperial Stouts, then Pure is your kind of place.
What also sets Pure apart from the pack for me personally is their commitment to the environment- using sustainably sourced ingredients when brewing, reducing waste wherever possible, and donating 1% of all sales to environmental non-profits.
The cool thing is Pure, now with 5 tasting rooms and two brewing spaces, doesn’t rest on their laurels by simply making the same great beers over and over. Most of their production consists of new beers each month with creative crazy names. It keeps Wife Helen and me regularly going back to see what’s on tap from week to week.
So when I saw a hard-to-find outside the brewery Pure Hazy on the store shelf, I snapped it up knowing it was going the be the beer to beat and the reference for all others to be judged against.
Formless Reflections appearance was very similar to the previous two, in fact, all three of the Hazys scored perfect marks for their appearance. There was a heavy blast of passion fruit and berry coming up from the glass–leaning more tropical like the Glorious Odds. With the first sip, Formless showed it was the softest of the three, with a pillowy mouthfeel complementing an equal amount of juicy-ness.
Taste and Finish? What else is there to say except that a perfect bitter/juicy/body balance lasted forever and left me wanting more. Much, much more.
Crave Factor HUGE!
Okay Kids, Everyone Gets a Trophy!
So who won? Nah, I’m not going there. It was really that close. The Crave Factor on the Pure vs the Burgeon was almost even, and I will definitely be on the lookout for those two beers at the grocery again.
As for Societe’s entry, our wild card made an impressive showing against the ringers. Glorious Odds is a delicious crave-able beer, and I look forward to finding it, and the next iterations of the series, on store shelves in near future.
Don’t forget to swing back in a week for SCCBB’s next post in our collaboration series- creatively named Hazy September (part two).
Until then, Cheers!