Hazy, Cloudy, Juicy

THE SESSION #126— BEER BLOGGING FRIDAY The Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts the Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry. 

This month's theme is Hazy, Cloudy, Juicy: IPA’s Strange Twist and is hosted by Gail Ann Williams at Beer By BART. The question posted by Gail Ann is regarding thoughts on what has been called the New England IPA. 

The topic will be a still-emerging – though no longer new – unofficial beer style. This kind of beer has gotten so much buzz (and some mocking) in the last decade and a half that it’s surprising it has not come up on The Session yet.  New England, Vermont-inspired, Northeastern, Hazy, Juicy or whatever you like to call these low-bitterness, hop flavorful beers, they are being made everywhere now and people are definitely buying them. 
— Gail Ann Williams — Beer By Bart

My first encounter with a New England IPA was a gift from a friend. It was like a drug deal from the back of a mini van, only it was broad daylight and in the parking lot of a family diner. That was my first Heady Topper by The Alchemist. I thought it was interesting that its instructions were to drink it from the can. Now, I preach that you should always pour beer into a proper glass before enjoying, so I thought this a bit strange. I have to admit, I've since had several Heady Toppers since then plus other NE IPAs and have yet to drink it from the can. It's just me, call me crazy!

I have my theory on why The Alchemist directs drinkers to enjoy from the can, which I share with other beer buddies. I think its because this style is so different from other IPAs, being cloudy with bits of yeast floating about, that they feared people weren't ready for the visual effects. Using the power of suggestion, they have wanted to mask the haze rather than risk the surprise. It's a theory.

I work at a very good wine and craft beer shop and have met some interesting folks along the way. I've stated that liquor stores (and bars probably too) attract both interesting and troubled people, but that's a story for another day. One evening a guy walks into the liquor store (as many jokes begin) and as often happens a discussion about beer arises. He travels a lot and seeks out the best IPAs. He told me he had some IPAs he wanted to share with me if I was interested and that they wouldn't be wasted on me. Of course, I was interested. Later in the week, I came into the shop with the announcement that some guy had dropped off some beer for me and that they were in the cooler. I peaked into the insulated cooler bag to discover a Heady Topper, Crusher (both by The Alchemist) some Trillium from Boston and other very good IPAs some of which I'd had before.

Knowing that these were special beers and this was a gift from the beer gods, it was not for me to imbibe alone but to enjoy with some special friends. A few times a year I open my back deck and beer fridge to a group of friends. We enjoy what they bring plus some of my special selections I've collected. I was going to stage a tasting of these NE IPAs with a select few that would thoroughly enjoy them and understand what was before them. As the Bible states about pearls among swine, not everyone understands the value of a thing.

The evening was wonderful! It's particularly good to taste beer back-to-back to best appreciate the nuances of one compared to another. As we made our way through these beers, it I really came to a better understanding of how good a beer Heady Topper is. They all were great, it was the best.

Jumping On

Have you noticed when a particular beer is released that catches the markets fancy how other breweries soon follow. Some recent examples include grapefruit IPAs, gose (and old style recently reinvigorated), and shandy. New England IPA has become a sub-style of its own. And why not, breweries such as The Alchemist, Trillium, and Treehouse have stirred the imagination and have become destinations of their own.

I was recently traveling through Massachusetts and thought this would be an excellent opportunity to visit Tree House in Monson, MA to test some of their magic. It was Thursday at noon and I hoped my timing would be lucky. When calling to find out their opening for the day I soon learned that they wouldn't open until 5 pm, and... "unless the lines were too long, then we might open at 4". And, who wouldn't want a piece of that magic? Just locally here in Maryland I've noticed tributes to this style — Heavy Seas The Alpha Effect Hazy IPA and Flying Dog's New England By Way Of Maryland IPA are just two.

Final Thoughts

I love the way the beer scene has meandered. First traditional European beers, industrial beer (I don't love that), IPAs, and hybrids (mixing of styles). So, New England IPAs is another joyful iteration in the crazy world of brewing beer. It is a wonderful time to be a beer drinker!

Sessions Roundup

If you'd like to read other excellent writing on this subject, plus learn what other beer writers from around the USA and the world have on their minds, please visit the Sessions Roundup