The Haze Craze

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  • By Nick Larson
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The Haze Craze

Craft beer has never been as popular as it was in 2017, with enthusiasts eager to sample the latest offerings from the hot breweries. But one style originating in the east seemed to dominate our customer's interest, the hazy IPA.

So here we are, starting a new year we’re calling 2018.

 

What does that mean for beer? What new trend will emerge? What new beer will everybody be searching to find?

 

2017 saw the emergence of one particular style: the hazy IPA. It was such a foreign thing at first, people don't even know what to call it. For a while it was the Vermont-IPA, as The Alchemist’s Heady Topper is supposedly the first in the style. Then they labeled as a “NE IPA”, but people weren’t sure if that North East, or (the correct term) New England IPA.

 

The style has truly dominated the beer world in 2017. Breweries like TreeHouse, Trillium, Hill-Farmstead, and Other Half emblazoned the hazy scene, creating a cult of followers who love the juicy, almost fruity style that looks like orange juice and smells like marijuana.

 

As with anything, everyone across the nation sees a trend and tries to copy it. Locally, Monkish and Brouwerij West have been two Southern California pioneers.

 

Monkish began as a place that only brewed Belgian-style beers, hence the name. However, they were quick to jump on the haze train and had talented enough brewers to do it. It’s incredible to fathom that they’re making a cheaper-to-make product, throwing it into cheaper 16-ounce cans, slapping a small sticker on the can, and selling it in-house for $20 a four-pack. That’s insane! And the more incredible part is nearly every single release sells out that day, and lines are hundreds of people long, even after a year of these such releases. (Rumor is they rake in around $40k per release.. good Lord!)

 

So what’s my point here? I’m really not sure. Many brewers and beer purists hate the style. Any classically trained brewer is taught that clear beer is proper beer, but this style totally refutes all of that. A huge part of me hates how this trend just keeps going, because for every Monkish there’s another, less talented brewery trying to emulate the style - often times poorly.

 

But on the other hand, do I drink these beers? Hell yes. I still prefer sitting at Beachwood drinking a few pints of Amalgamator or Citraholic (hell, I have Amalgamator on tap at my house right now) but do I love going to Monkish for a few glasses of juice, or even sitting at Beachwood trying one of their new hazy beers like Merkury Rising or the 11th Anniversary hazy DIPA? Definitely. And does Greg (the manager of Beachwood’s Seal Beach location) give me shit every time my beer is hazy? Absolutely.

 

Beer traders have also turned that market upside-down. A couple cans of Monkish can land you a huge barrel-aged stout or sour these days, something that would get you laughed out of a room a few years ago.

 

Also, it’s helped propel the opening of numerous new breweries who primarily only make this style. I was in New Orleans two months ago and was referred to Courtyard Brewing by an industry friend. Their guest tap list was phenomenal, and their own was loaded with Monkish style hazy DIPA’s and TIPA’s that made the place seems like the best kept secret in the world.

 

My thesis for this article is non-existent, as my feelings towards this style is so confused. I’m not trying to convince you to drink or not drink these beers. When done well, they’re damn tasty. But let’s remember that just because a beer is hazy doesn’t mean it’s good.

 

Going back to whether or not this trend will last, I honestly think it will. I think this is now going to be a style many people make for years to come. Do I think it will have the same market impact that it had this year? Not a chance. I think as with anything, many places will continue to be extremely successful (a la Monkish, TreeHouse, etc) but only because the quality is so high. I view it as I do sours, and then barrel-aged things before that, and west-coast hop bombs before that. Things go in waves, and while we’re currently riding and enjoying this wave, I believe this too will crash, but will be a lasting and delicious beer style for a long time to come.

 

What’s next?

 

I have no clue.

 

In the last few months I’ve seen Milkshake DIPA’s and an Imperial Salty Milk Stout with Caviar and Champagne yeast (both of them surprisingly good) but I’m not sold it’ll be a trend like the haze craze. If I knew what it was going to be, I’d quit my job here and start making them myself. Until then, I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

 

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