Back in March of this year, the Brewer's Association released the 2018 Beer Style Guidelines. The most notable change was the addition of the trio of Juicy/Hazy styles: “Juicy or Hazy Pale Ale,” “Juicy or Hazy IPA” and “Juicy or Hazy Double IPA.” Once a Northeast specialty, Hazy ales have clouded the American beer market. The Great American Beer Festival recently released that there were 706 total entries amongst the 3 aforementioned categories, making it the most entered beer style, dethroning the perennial favorite - American-Style IPA (331 entries).
Most folks credit the start of the haze craze to John Kimmich of The Alchemist in Stowe, VT. John brewed Heady Topper, a Double IPA, and decided not to pasteurize or filter the beer - giving it a cloudy appearance and adding a particular juicy flavor and aroma to the beer. The beer gained popularity and other New England breweries began following suit. Thus giving the style the aptly named title of New England-style beers.
The point of Hazy IPAs is to make the most aromatically hoppy beer possible, not necessarily make a cloudy beer. The haze is merely a byproduct from techniques used to enhance aromas and create a smooth, milky mouthfeel that cuts down the bitterness found in traditional American-Style IPAs. Different yeast strains and late hop additions without filtration lead to this goal - producing a beer bursting with hop flavors and looking more like an orange juice.
Traditionally speaking, unfiltered beer isn't anything new. Just look to Germany here: Kellerbiers and Zwickelbier are both unfiltered lagers. However, when looking at American-Style IPAs, cloudiness in the beer has always been a sign of imperfection. Nevertheless, this has all slowly changed over the past decade (even though some beer purist might disagree).
A slight downfall to this style though is their shelf life. They are brewed to be consumed within days of packaging. So, they might taste great at the brewery and then taste a little off when you take a 6-pack home to enjoy. Most breweries have been smart about this though and shipping their beers off with a 'packaging date' and 'best before date' stamped to the labels. This is a wonderful idea that should be on all beers - regardless of style!
I think that Hazy beers are a great addition to the lineup of beer styles. I've always been a big fan of these types of beers, and I'm excited to see where brewers push this beer style going forward now that it is officially recognized.