When a Vermont brewery released its Heady Topper IPA in 2011, beer geeks wondered why it came with a recommendation to “Drink from the can!” Perhaps, some speculated, the brewers feared drinkers would be turned off if they poured the beer into a glass and saw how hazy it was, a look normally associated with unfiltered wheat beers.
In fact, this new style, dubbed New England IPA (NEIPA), took off, thanks to its low bitterness, gentle mouthfeel and tropical fruit notes. Now haze is the rage, and Jersey breweries are on board.
“It’s so popular, it’s changed the landscape of what I consider an IPA,” says Eli Facchinei, co-founder of Tonewood Brewing in Oaklyn, which launched its Fuego NEIPA in 2016. It comprises about 60 percent of Tonewood’s production.
There are many ways to haze a beer, and NEIPA brewers use them all. For example, they add yeast strains that tend to stay in suspension rather than sink to the bottom of the fermenter. And they add hops after fermentation, allowing the polyphenols in the hops to combine with proteins in the beer to create haze.
Purists decry the NEIPA style. True IPAs, they argue, should be bitter and clear and filtered. They shouldn’t be “juice bombs” mimicking citrus flavors, and shouldn’t be sweetened with things like lactose milk sugars. The purists are correct, but off point—NEIPA makers aren’t trying to make true IPAs.
Fairfield’s Magnify Brewing makes a line of hazy “breakfast IPAs” sweetened with lactose and adjunct ingredients like oats and cinnamon. “We’re known to stretch the style,” says founder Eric Ruta.
Cindy De Rama, co-owner of Twin Elephant Brewing in Chatham, sells a hazy saison. She sees drinkers becoming more adventurous. “I don’t think people question [lack of] clarity anymore unless it’s a pilsner or something crystal clear,” she says. “A fun part of this trend is opening brewers to stepping away from tradition.”
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