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Brewers and Consumers Can’t Seem to Get Enough of Hoppy Beers, No Matter What You Want to Call Them

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Earlier this year, the Brewers Association released its 2018 beer style guidelines, which included a new trio of related styles: juicy or hazy pale ale, juicy or hazy pale ales and juicy or hazy double IPA.  In popular parlance, these are also known as New England IPAs. The juicy moniker comes from a tropical burst of flavor, while hazy refers to a cloudy appearance. Despite a strong hops aroma and flavor, they often have low perceived bitterness.

Local breweries like the Veil Brewing Co. and Triple Crossing Brewing Co. have embraced the hops, so Richmond beer drinkers have an edge when it comes to these brews. But how distinct is one pale ale from another?

The India pale ale came into existence the early 19th century when the British were exporting heavily hopped ales to the colony of India. Besides balancing malty sweetness, hops act as a preservative, which helped the ale withstand the lengthy ocean voyage.

Encouraged by American drinkers, craft brewers in the States pushed the envelope by making an American version more bitter, hoppy and higher in alcohol than the British original.

In 2003, the Alchemist made its debut in Vermont and introduced Heady Topper, a double IPA not meant to be especially strong or bitter. It was designed instead, said the brewer's notes, "to give you wave after wave of hop flavor without any astringent bitterness."

The wildly popular beer became a game changer. Many credit the beginnings of the New England, also called Vermont, IPA style to the Alchemist and its neighbors in the region like Hill Farmstead, Fiddlehead, Tree House and Other Half.

Fast forward to April 2016, when the Veil Brewing Co. opened in Richmond with Matt Tarpey at the helm. Tarpey's résumé includes time at both the Alchemist and Hill Farmstead, and locals and out-of-town visitors alike flocked to the Scott's Addition brewery in hopes of hazy, hoppy pale ales. Tarpey delivered, and has been churning out overwhelmingly popular small batch brews for more than two years.

Brewer Mitch Steele of New Realm Brewing Co. in Atlanta appreciates a well-done hazy, hoppy ale, but he feels they should have an entirely different name.

"They are dry hopped, but that's all they have in common with historical, traditional and more recent craft brewed IPA styles," he posted on Facebook following the annual Craft Brewers Conference. As author of "IPA: Brewing Techniques, Recipes and the Evolution of India Pale Ale" and former brew master at hop-focused Stone Brewing, it's safe to say Steele knows the style.

The ingredients list may also vary from one beer to another. While traditional IPAs focus on malted barley in the grain bill, New England ones may include oats and wheat. Rather than using a high-attenuating yeast and filtering methods to produce a clear finished product, these pale ales may use different yeast strains and skip the filtering.

Do the differences discount the style's right to the IPA moniker? Does it matter?

The Beer Judge certification program's guidelines already embrace several American specialty IPAs: Belgian, black, white, brown, red and rye. Other styles are recognized by brewers and consumers, including West Coast, Pacific Northwest and the most recent creation, the superdry and aromatic brut versions from San Francisco.

On the other hand, is the new style that different? American IPAs differ by degree from English ones: a bit more bitter, slightly higher alcohol and favoring American hops for bittering, aroma and flavor. As defined by the Brewers Association, the new juicy or hazy styles also differ only by degree from American and British IPAs.

Admittedly, many brewers make New England IPAs that fall outside this range, as they do with other styles. Does this signify the need for a new style name, or does it simply reflect willingness to color outside of the lines?

"We don't really specify that our IPAs are New England style. We produce unfiltered, low bitterness, aromatic hoppy beers, the type of hoppy beers that we enjoy most and that I have the most experience with," Tarpey says. "The majority of our inspiration comes from some of the best hoppy producers and originators of that style, but we are located in Virginia, not Vermont, so we tend to try to avoid confusion and do our best to carve our own path in an already crowded market."

To brewers who are entering beer in a competition, official guidelines matter; otherwise the names only serve to communicate with the consumer, and to call a beer an IPA entices hopheads.

Renowned British beer writer Martyn Cornell responded to Steele: "I'm not sure IPA has meant anything meaningful since 1919," when American Prohibition and the British "great gravity drop" stunted beer appreciation for generations of drinkers.

No longer is beer appreciation stunted, so bring on the new styles. S

Haze for Days

Triple Crossing Brewing Co.
Look for Mosaic Triangles, a single-hop Mosaic-focused IPA at 6 percent alcohol, and Best Kept Secret Double IPA, a new 8 percent alcohol Double IPA focusing solely on an Australian cultivar, Vic Secret.

The Veil Brewing Co.
Two to four new hoppy offerings are available every Tuesday, including IPAs and double and triple IPAs.

Final Gravity Brewing Co.
A new hazy IPA is released every week.

Ardent Craft Ales
Brewers regularly create new hazy editions using different hops each time. Look for the next iteration with Mosaic and Galaxy hops.

Kindred Spirit Brewing
Look for Frequency Modulation, a rotating-hop hazy IPA, currently double dry hopped with Citra, Idaho 7 and Bravo hops. More variations to come.

The Answer Brewpub
There's always at least one hazy version on tap plus a variant with fruit from An Bui's Andalls, but be on the lookout for All the Action hazy IPA.

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