For the past few years, one of the most popular beer styles has undoubtedly been the Hazy IPA in its various variations. As the name suggests - Hazy means foggy - it is a cloudy, foggy, extremely aromatic and juicy beer. It is also known as Vermont IPA, New England IPA (NEIPA). The names come from the region in the USA where the first beer in this style was born, i.e. New England, where the state of Vermont is located. This is where the famous brewery The Alchemist comes from, which in 2011 officially brewed the first beer in the Vermont IPA style - Heady Topper.
Since then, the wave of fascination with this beer style has spread all over the world, wherever there are craft breweries. The style ushered in a beer revolution, both in terms of consumer aesthetic tastes as well as hopping and beer fermentation technology. Let's start with what sets New England IPA beers apart at first glance - turbidity. Turbidity so thick that it can be cut with a knife - thanks to which a beer poured into a glass looks like freshly squeezed orange juice with mango. Aesthetically it was a shock! Until now, home brewers have outdone themselves with ideas for achieving perfectly clear beer. Clarity, except in wheat beers, was a highly desirable trait. Now, all of a sudden, they begin to outdo each other with ideas of how to make beer as cloudy as possible. Cloudyness, which was a derivative of the processes used to prepare Vermont IPA, often becomes an end in itself. Keep in mind, however, that it was not the original purpose for which the style was invented. Apart from the visual aspect, its most important feature is an unusually strong aroma of tropical fruits achieved by using new varieties of hops applied at different stages of beer preparation. The hopping processes are what particularly characterize this style of beer in terms of its preparation.
So what should be the key characteristics of the style?
Intense fruity aromas coming from new-wave hop varieties. Dominated by sweet stone fruits like mango, passion fruit. Often distinct notes of white grapes. Fruit profile accentuated by esters from dedicated yeast strains. Aromas of peach, apricot, citrus. Low to moderate maltiness, tending toward dry. No caramel notes, no bread crust. Diacetyl in the form of buttery flavors undesirable.
Dark golden sandy colored beer falling into orange. Opaque, clearly cloudy or slightly hazy. Medium abundant foam, persistent.
Taste follows the aroma. Intensely fruity, fresh, refreshing. Low maltiness with a slightly biscuity aroma, not dominating, complementing the sweetness. Balance towards fruity esters, hoppy aromas with a dry finish.
Low low hop bitterness balanced by a subtle maltiness and especially a sense of sweetness coming from the fruity hop aroma. Short bitterness, not lingering.
A moderately full beer in terms of maltiness, but with a velvety, smooth feel. Dominated by fruity juiciness, delicate sweetness without acidity. Low and medium carbonation.
So what is important to achieve these effects?
As a base mash we usually use Pale Ale or Pilsen malt, wheat malt optional oat malt. For mashing we add wheat flakes, oat flakes. The use of flakes and wheat malt will produce a smooth, velvety beer texture and contribute to the characteristic turbidity. We do not use caramel malts. Single-temperature mashing between 66-68°C.
Boiling and hopping.
The wort is boiled for 60 minutes to evaporate the DMS responsible for the vegetable aromas. The hops are usually added after the boiling is finished, i.e. on the whirlpool, usually when the temperature of the wort drops to 80-70°C. This way we get mainly aromas from the hops with a small amount of bitterness.
Fermentation and hopping.
This stage is particularly characteristic for the Vermont style thanks to multi-stage cold hopping. The first hopping is often done at the stage of turbulent fermentation, about two days after it begins. This is due to the observed phenomenon of hop biotransformation. In short, it consists in binding hop particles with particles from wort under the influence of enzymes contained in yeast. This is why dedicated yeast strains are recommended for the fermentation of Hazy type beers. This phenomenon is supposed to give beer a richer fruit aroma. Is this really the case? Opinions are divided on this subject. One thing is for sure though, hopping at this stage increases the beer's turbidity. Next, we hop during the last 5 days of silent fermentation and often about two days before bottling. The result is a beer with a very strong aroma.
Hazy, Vermont, NEIPA has been the most popular style brewed by craft breweries for several years now. While it would seem to be a so-called "ladies'" beer, i.e. a mild fruity beer, it is one of the most popular for bearded "beer geeks" as well. It is important to remember that this beer ages very quickly and loses its intensive aromatic properties. Therefore, we should drink it as fresh as possible!