New Beer Alert: Craze for the “Haze”

Conversation about New England doesn’t immediately bring out positive subjects — overpriced Astros tickets when the Red Sox are in town, Tom Freaking Brady and Bill Freaking Belichick, and “More Than a Feeling (More Than a Feeeeeling)” but not all is lost. After all, Boston gave us Aerosmith, The Pixies and New England IPA, or NEIPA for short.

Well, that’s not entirely true either. The first brewery to popularize the style was The Alchemist in Vermont and plenty of other Northeast breweries jumped onboard, like Massachusetts’s Tree House Brewery and Boston’s Trillium Brewery. That sparked the craft beer community to call the style a Vermont IPA or Northeast IPA. (The term IPA stands for India Pale Ale, historically brewed with a hefty addition of hops to ensure it still tasted fresh during the six month journey by boat from Great Britain to its soldiers stationed in India.)

Traditional IPAs are dominated by floral, hoppy, piney and bitter notes, but NEIPA reigns the bitterness in, instead characterized by strong aromatics, fruity flavor and a hazy appearance. Marcus Wunderle of Baa Baa Brewhouse says that the style is very hard to explain but describes it as “fruity and citrusy with a nose that is more pronounced as the beer warms and a creamy mouthfeel that leaves the back of your tongue very curious.” Brewmaster Garrison Mathis of SpindleTap Brewery says it’s Houston Haze NEIPA is a “double dry hopped, juicy, easy drinking IPA that goes down smooth without sacrificing anything.”

It’s easy to assume that the hazy appearance of NEIPA is the result of poor brewing practices, but rest assured the appearance is due to the resulting beer not being filtered or pasteurized. The haze is so desirable that some brewers artificially create it by adding flour to the kettle for a cloudy appearance. Austin’s Jester King Brewery has used pre-processed flaked oats which have a different starch structure to achieve it.

SpindleTap’s Houston Haze NEIPA is being released this weekend. Photo courtesy of SpindleTap Brewery.

Many brewers agree that the style is difficult to get correct. According to SpindleTap, several small batches were brewed before it was able to achieve the desired taste and appearance. Other local breweries attempted the style but ended up either abandoning or changing the project.

Here’s the release schedule for Houston area NEIPAs:

There’s also more to come! Ingenious Brewing Company is building its new brewery in Humble and Larry Koestler of Houston Beer Guide reports that he’s already sampled four of it’s NEIPA styles that he likes. Ingenious also previewed its beers at Humble’s own craft beer haven The Hop Stop, prompting owner Rick Tyler to call one of the brews, BA Ice Cream Sundae, a “life-changer.”

 Josh Armendariz is Houston Food Finder’s lead freelance beer and cocktail writer. He can often be found on a stool at your favorite bar, sipping a hoppy craft beer and talking about the Astros with anyone who’ll lend an ear. Follow him on Instagram at @drinkwithjosh.

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