Clear vs. Haze: Debating the future of the IPA style

The haze craze is alive and well in nearby Tucson, but is it here to stay, or just another passing phase among craft beer drinkers?

An interesting article about craft beer trends was shared to the New Mexico Lets Talk Craft Beer page on Facebook this morning. It asked if a brewery could be considered a sellout if it goes all-in too heavily on hazy IPAs, putting profit ahead of variety and quality.

Well, leaving out the fact that the entire article is purely regional to the New York City/New England area (save for one quick mention of Monkish Brewing in Torrance, California), it does raise the point of whether or not it is a good thing for breweries to follow the current popular trends. I recall years ago at a Marble Septemberfest (yes, a while ago) when someone told me that saisons/farmhouse ales would supplant IPAs as the most popular beer styles. Then we all heard how sour ales were the future, and would likewise replace IPAs. Now, in essence, we have (hazy) IPAs replacing (clear) IPAs as the new great standard of craft beer.

Are hazy IPAs truly ascendant over their clearer brethren? Well, maybe yes, maybe no. New Mexico craft drinkers are a different breed than those on the East Coast. We have long been a much more hop-forward-loving bunch, and by sales figures alone, we are still an IPA-centric bunch. Other than Marble, where Double White is number one, the other major breweries in New Mexico all still feature IPA as their top selling brand.

Then again, down in Tucson, hazy IPAs are all the rage. Some of that can be attributed to the younger population centered around the University of Arizona, which is larger than UNM and armed with wealthier students more willing to spend on craft. Crooked Tooth Brewing only featured hazy IPAs and pale ales, as did Pueblo Vida Brewing (both had non-IPAs, too, it should be noted). Dragoon Brewing, the largest in Tucson by barrel production, still features a classic West Coast-style IPA that remains its top seller, even in the face of the cloudy competition. Conversations with the customers and staffs at the various breweries showed a clear divide, with a mostly younger, trendier crowd favoring the haze. There were few people who seemed to like both styles.

In that regard, then, one could argue that the hazy IPA trend is not an IPA trend at all. Rather, it is another style, with distinct differences in flavor as well as appearance. The Brewers Association has now created hazy categories for pale ales, IPAs, and double IPAs. It will be interesting to see if the National IPA Challenge creates a separate bracket for haze next year, as those were mixed in with the regular ones this year.

All of this really just comes down to personal preference. It is fun (sometimes) to debate the merits and qualities of various craft beer styles. It is all subjective in the end, and that goes for the hazy IPAs as well as just about every other style that has come across our palates. The Crew has lots of varied opinions about the haze craze, ranging from mild annoyance to downright dislike. We are not trendy types, favoring music that has largely disappeared from the mainstream. As beer writers, though, we are obligated to try everything and give it a fair shot. Sometimes we do like the hazy IPAs, when done well, just like any other beer. Other times we would rather just stick to the originals.

Today (Friday), La Cumbre is releasing Make IPA Clear Again, a collaboration made with the excellent Comrade Brewing of Denver. This comes after La Cumbre released a popular series of hazy, single-hop, double-dry-hopped DIPAs. Whether this all sparks some renewed local debate about the haze-vs.-clear, or people just take it all in stride, we are intrigued to know what do all of you think. Take the poll below and leave a comment as to why you feel the way you do.

See you all at La Cumbre.


— Stoutmeister

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Terry Tetreault says:

    A good business model is to have selection variety. I like hazy IPAs, but even in New England no brewery has gone “all in.” Learn to appreciate all beers (except sours, of course! ;-))

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s