Hazy, milkshake, salad dressing, juice bombs—the New England-style IPA goes by many different nicknames, but there's no denying it's been the most buzzed-about style of the last couple of years. This week, we asked our Patreon supporters to tell us which NEIPAs they’ve enjoyed, what makes a good one, and even what makes a bad one. The discussion was lively, and proved we still aren’t really sure what even constitutes a beer of this style. So let's dive in and see what the Fervent Few has to say about the beer style that may not even exist.
First, there was the argument over what a NE-style IPA even is.
[Note: Some of our responders have asked us to obscure their real names. Instead, we used their usernames from our Fervent Few Slack channel.]
“Hazy-only, or hazy with low bitterness? The style 'guidelines' are a bit vague. I love the lower bitterness, massive aroma regardless of how clear it is.”
“That's kind of the thing, 'hazy' encompasses a ton. In addition to bitterness, I think mouthfeel is super varied too. I've had anywhere from crazy drinkable to thick and hearty.”
“Even within New England, there are variations of the NEIPA. Hill Farmstead and Maine Beer Co. beers don't have the same flavor, bitterness, or haziness like Trillium does. But Heady Topper does. The Hill Farmstead and Maine beers have a fresher, cleaner taste and mouthfeel.”
“I’ve had beers that I’ve felt are complete packages that have low bitterness, tropical aroma, silky mouthfeel...great NEIPAs. And then I’ve had straight orange juice packaged as a beer. So I think the category is easy for beers to masquerade as NEIPAs, but hard to actually nail.”
Follow-up question: With that out of the way, do we enjoy these beers?
“I love the taste when done well, but brewing these beers results in an abusive use of an ingredient that has become very expensive and difficult to get.”
“I haven't had many NEIPAs, but the one's I've had all taste like hoppy pineapple-orange juice. Not necessarily a bad thing, but not quite what I imagine when I think of IPA.”
Follow up question: A lof of these beers are sold directly to the consumer at the brewery. At best, they're sold in stores locally. A few big breweries have sold unfiltered IPAs nationwide, but nothing that was marketed as NE-style. Will we ever see an always-available nationwide NEIPA?
“I can't see why a brewery couldn't put out a year-round hazy IPA. It seems right now the breweries that do hazy as their core do not mass distribute, but there's nothing stopping Trillium, Tree House, or anyone else from expanding production and selling their beers to more people through more distribution channels.”
“I think it's 100% achievable for someone to put out a year round hazy IPA (depending on hop contracts, that is). I also think it is very very unlikely we will see that from any of the aforementioned breweries.
Newness drives customers to these breweries. And newness = tank space. In addition to the space question, I'm not exactly sure any of them want to have a flagship. Personally, I think Tree House is the closest to that, because they have a smaller rotation of what they put out frequently. But I'm not sure that even with their new brewery they will ever have something that is on all the time.
It does seem like they like a little rotation of their beers.”
“I think a better question will be will any brewer WANT to mass produce a NEIPA. Not only do limited releases create demand, but the nature of IPAs needing to be consumed close to packaging date multiplies that demand. It may just be that it's better financially for a brewery to do occasional releases to keep the hype going.”
While the future of these beers is unclear, a healthy debate rages around them. Whether you think they are a gimmick, delicious, or both, we’ll have to wait to see if this style can sustain the ever-growing breweries that release them. And once again it's Zach Kaiser who leaves us with the final thoughts. Zach reminds us that, regardless of how opaque your beer is, the intent behind what's in our glass really matters.
“I think these IPAs that people are calling 'hazy' and 'NE-style' need to be focused on intent. When brewing an IPA with these qualities, it can be done well with precision, clarity, and integrity, but also can be done in ways that seem messy, instinctive, and lack personality. Some brewers are using tools to get flavors/profiles that they are specifically looking for, IE: oats for creaminess, which can contribute haze, apples in the mash to create what people are calling 'milkshake IPAs' and a pillowy mouthfeel, heavily dry-hopping at certain intervals/specific times, and some people think that leaving the beer unfiltered provides a different hop flavor and aroma.
It is important to think about what the intent is with each of these beers, and why/when you are using these tools. I think what frustrates brewers in the industry and educated-consumers is that some drinkers have not been able to discern the difference between subtle and precise hazy IPAs versus messy and overly robust—often overly sweet—hazy IPAs. When an IPA is brewed without this precision, it bothers me and comes off as a cash-grab to some at this point in the movement.”