Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The haze averse, why is everyone so butthurt?

One side is Tired Hands HopHands, the other is my clone. Juice cocktails the same.
There is a divide in the beer world that has been festering for some time now, it started small but is getting quite heated of late. On one side of that divide you have the New England style IPA fans (for lack of a better term)  who crave a cloudy beer, and on the other side you have the Anti-Haze camp who believe all beer must be bright. The answer has to be somewhere in between, I mean is there no common ground to be found? These two camps have been butting heads ever since the first Heady Topper was poured into a glass, then that D-Bag forgot to recycle. But now with so many breweries brewing and excelling at this style, Hill Farmstead, Tired Hands, Trillium, Treehouse, 2nd Story, Other Half to name a few I like, this debate is raging in a lot of beer circles. Even ending some friendships, actually no I made that part up, but people are swoll.

I will start with the New England IPA fans, of which I clearly am a member so grain of salt and everything. I really don't want to turn this into an East vs. West Coast thing but the delineation of the two "styles" or takes on IPA has been draw using the regions so I will continue with it. I'm not sure who started brewing these Hazy NE IPA's so I shouldn't speak for whoever that (genius) is, but I will anyway. The way these beers are constructed produce a beer with haze that I see as a necessary evil to achieve a certain character, which is fruity/tropical, lowly bitter and supremely drinkable...and yes, Hazy.

Oats for days brah! But wont it be murky? Lets fight!

Most of these beers include quite a bit of adjuncts in the mash, Oats/Wheat specifically, in some cases as high as 20+% of the grain bill. This is to achieve a silky, fuller bodied beer that gives the characteristic of fruit juice but also tend to make beers quite hazy. They are bittered on the very low end of the IPA spectrum to keep them drinkable. The majority of the hops are reserved for late boil/whirlpool additions as well as very high dry hopping rates, in the 2-3 LBs/BBL range. These beers are then finished with fruity, and sometimes low flocculating, English yeast strains that really ties it all together. These beers are then served unfiltered, without finings, and as fresh as you should serve all IPA's

When you combine the high percentages of adjuncts, long whirlpool (causing chill haze), high dry hopping rates, and a low flocculating yeast it's going to be hard to get away from the haze. In my own brewing I have hit these beers with gelatin and even after a month cold in the keg the haze remains. Fining these beers is something I do not like to do because if flocculating yeast cells can strip volatile oils then surely gelatin, or filtering, does as well. We work really hard to get those oils into our beer why then strip them out? But even I, and avid fan of these beers, think that there is a line that shouldn't be crossed. There is a difference between murky and hazy, at home I may pour myself a murky HopHands Clone but if on a commercial level I would likely clean it up a little. The protein, yeast and chill haze in the beer does add to the flavor, for better or worse, so there is a threshold that should be paid attention to.
She's a beaut, or maybe not?

I completely understand the plight of the Haze Averse, these beers can be pretty ugly from a classic beer perspective but some folks seem to be writing them off based on appearance alone. What's More, some are claiming the brewers of said beers are either rushing the product to market or somehow mishandling the fermentation creating a "Yeasty" or "Murky" beer. Now don't get me wrong, I am sure there are examples of this style that are yeasty and there most certainly are some that are very murky. But to make a blanket statement like that about a growing style is both closed minded and against the line of thinking that got craft beer to where it is today. Some of these very brewers put out bright beers sold alongside the hazy ones, so clearly the brewing acumen is there.

It is one thing to not like a style, we all have styles that we don't like or don't "get" (erhmm Black IPA, Black Saison, please stop mmmmkay?) but it seems both sides of this debate are clingy to their proverbial guns. If you go out and try, better yet brew, one of these beers and flat out dont like it, or just really can't get past the hazy appearance then that's totally fine. But lets try to refrain from claiming brewers don't know what they are doing just because you dont like it, the line outside of Tired Hands for can releases that sells out 300+ cases in a few hours seem to prove the market for haze is very demanding...clearly they know what they are doing.

An over the lin murky version of HopWards, this was 4 weeks cold in the keg
even after being hit with gelatin. I assure you that's not yeast.

Opinion rants are something I always said I would never do on this blog, yet here I am. A total sucker for controversy.

17 comments:

  1. Yes! Love this post. I am a fan of both the New England and West Coast style IPAs. I know the difference and I've brewed both of them. Squeegee was brewed with inspiration from your HopWards and one of the best beers I've brewed to date, IMO. Plenty of friends had their go at the beer and loved it as well.

    I think the lesson is just as you state. We all have opinions and favorite styles of beers. Just because I truly don't like brown or red ales, doesn't mean they are brewed incorrectly. It also doesn't mean I have to drink them. Some of the beers may be poorly brewed and yeasty. But the versions from TH, Trillium, Treehouse and more have all been spectacular beers that weren't yeasty in the slightest.

    BTW.... I like dark Saisons hahaha! I'll send you a bottle of mine when it is ready to see what you think! ;)

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    1. I think your are correct. I was firmly in the "beer doesnt need to be hazy and should be bright" camp.... until I tried a few. Ed Nailed what i have been saying since... the haze is a byproduct of getting the juicy mouthfeel. i think some of the problems surrounding these beers and the reason some say they are "improperly handled or rushed and yeasty" is due to lack of SOLID information on how to craft a good one (water profile, WHEN you add dry hops and yeast are all HUGE factors). I read posts on forums where the haze is what people are focusing on NOT the juiciness and full mouth-feel of the beer which is where all the bad beers are coming from. People putting flour in a regular IPA and calling it a NE ipa is all wrong on so many levels. lol

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  2. I am a pretty simple guy, I like beer that tastes good. Really could care less about hazy vs clear, the taste is what matters.

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  3. Jamil got you wound up...

    :)

    At least he did go on to comment about it being badly fermented, regardless of the turbidity

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  4. To be clear, I think what you are saying, and what is often missed, is that Haze isn't the goal, it's an outcome of brewing choices intended to persist a level of body, hop flavor, and aroma. Methods like changing yeast, or fining or filtering would result in a less hoppy, less silky beer.
    The thing that seems to irk me the most, is that the folks who were at the forefront of west coast style ipa's w/out any crystal, and a bracing bitterness. Who fought tooth and nail to establish that style, are oblivious to this.

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    1. I think that's very often overlooked, and a really important point. Everyone focuses on the fact that it's hazy as if that's the entire point of problem of the beer, missing the real point. I think we're even seeing breweries now releasing unfiltered IPAs just to cater to the perceived demand for hazy IPA, though the unfiltered yeast is the only aspect of the Northeast style they've latched on to, and so they're going to be likely missing all the other qualities of the Northeast IPA that made the demand for it what it is.

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    2. Yea this was a point I had planned to make but never got there, you totally nailed it Aaron. The haze is not a goal but a byproduct resultant of the sum of its parts, but also lends in the overall character of the beer. Specifically the body. But it most certainly can be misunderstood or misused as Derek pointed out.

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    3. This is spot on:

      "though the unfiltered yeast is the only aspect of the Northeast style they've latched on to, and so they're going to be likely missing all the other qualities of the Northeast IPA that made the demand for it what it is."

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  5. “There is a difference between murky and hazy, at home I may pour myself a murky HopHands Clone but if on a commercial level I would likely clean it up a little.”

    “I completely understand the plight of the Haze Averse, these beers can be pretty ugly from a classic beer perspective but some folks seem to be writing them off based on appearance alone.”
    In many ways I think this is the crux of the issue. What exactly distinguishes murky from hazy? Who gets to define what is ugly? Some beer drinkers might define the homebrewed beers that are pictured in this blog as being “ugly” simple because they are not bright in appearance. Why is a Hoof Hearted beer murky/ugly but a Tired Hands beer is not ugly?

    There is an old saying that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. How do you get every individual to have common agreement on ugly vs. beautiful for these types of beers? How can you convince an individual that views a specific beer as being ugly as still being a beer worthy of appreciation despite how that beer is perceived by that individual?

    All beer appreciation is subjective and that applies to hazy/murky hoppy beers as well.

    Cheers!

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    1. Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder.

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    2. Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder.

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  6. I am squarely in the anti-haze camp and don't personally believe it contributes to anything positive in a beer-- I've yet to have a hazy beer that I've enjoyed more than a bright beer of similar style and quality. I also fully believe hype is at least as, if not more, responsible for the success/popularity of a beer as quality.

    With that said, I 100% acknowledge, accept, and appreciate that others don't share my opinion. I would never bash another person for liking something I don't, whether that's a politician, god, or beer.

    I've seen what you're talking about and tend to interpret as more fun-loving jabs, but I've been accused of being a tad too optimistic at times. Either way, as I find myself saying more and more lately, it's just beer.

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    1. Thats totally fair, and I think dependant on the composition of the beer I might agree. But I also dont see the skill in fining beer either, so if its all about aesthetics and does not effect the flavor of the beer I actually prefer the appearance of haze in hoppy beers. But for these NE style hoppy beers, using heavy adjuncts and massive dry hopping rates I do see a difference in fined/filtered vs unfiltered. Purely anecdotal, and maybe its the perception of haze that screams "Ive been so over hopped your gonna love me!" or maybe the proteins/additional hop oils in solution result in a beer that counteracts bracing bitterness with a silky texture. Maybe someone smarter than us should analyze these beers, what the hell do we know anyway?

      When I look at breweries local to me and compare the hoppy beers from say Victory (whos IPAs are brilliantly clear and very good) and Tired Hands (whos IPAs are not even close to clear and also very good) they are so totally different in composition and end product that I dont see how I can even compare the two apples to apples. The Victory IPAs are relatively classic and dont rely so heavily on the adjuncts but are great nevertheless.

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    2. Also, Im gonna make you drink so much hazy beer at NHC you dont even know :)

      Love the discussion from everyone by the way. To each their own.

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    3. 'hazy beer that I've enjoyed more than a bright beer of similar style and quality.' I'd be interested in knowing what beers of the hazy style you've had. I'd also really I'd love to sit down with some folks and have a blindfolded taste test of some of these beers. Because that's pretty much the only way either side will ever shut up. I thing we'll find, that crystal clear pliny, or hazy edward will taste different and great in their own regard. And what folks are looking for (taste) is subjective. I'm so sick of both sides right now, it makes me want to throwup.

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  7. That beer looks horrible! Can you send me one please? :D

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  8. Our most popular beer is a hazy ass oatmeal pale ale, sitting at 5.75% and about 50 ibu. I have been chasing the water profile of Edward with a little less chloride, and as you said the combo of a fruity English ale yeast, heavy handed additions of late and whirlpool hops - no hops are added before 15 minutes, followed by a 30 minute whirlpool - no finings, and two step dryhop, is a truly amazing culmination. Our turnaround from kettle to glass is 3-4 weeks, pellet dryhopped beers are on the longer end due to excessive resin and hop particles coming across a bit too abrasive and needing to be dropped out somewhat.

    Tl;dr - 100% in the haze camp for this style, just please don't do it with a dark beer!

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