If you’ve come looking for a cut and dry definition of what makes a hazy beer hazy, then you’re out of luck. This is because no such definition exists (sort of like with most styles of beer).
But you’ve heard of hazy IPAs. You might have jumped on the haze train, too. You might be Haze Boi. You might live for the haze and die for the haze. Or maybe you think hazy beers are gross.
Regardless of your level of fascin-HAZE-tion, this is a trend that, like all trends, is going to get bigger and bigger until it crumbles under the weight of its own size. After the dust settles, we’ll only have the best of the haze left.
Until that happens, let’s explore how some breweries make that haze.
4 Ways to Make a Hazy IPA
The secret to making a hazy IPA is that…there is more than one way to make a hazy IPA. Here are some common (albeit not all great) ways to make a hazy IPA hazy.
1. Unfiltered hazy IPA
There’s a lot of stuff that goes into making beer – well, only four “stuffs,” at the minimum. Even still, this stuff comes with…stuff.
Let’s look at yeast, for example. When brewing ales, all that yeast is going to get mixed up in the beer. Now that brewing is uber-sophisticated, brewers are able to remove the flocculated (clumped together) yeast.
But what happens when you don’t filter that yeast out? Well, those tiny yeast particles can keep floating around. Hop compounds will then attach directly to the yeast, resulting in a cloudier beer appearance – and potentially even a purer hop flavor. This is what we call an unfiltered IPA.
What about the flocculated yeast? Well, it’s there…and sometimes it stays there.
Sometimes it even ends up in a can of an expensive hazy IPA you bought, so when you pour the last bit into a glass a nice, juicy clump of yeast plops in, ruining your appetite.
2. Use the right hazy IPA hops
I don’t know if you pay attention to the hops in your beers that often, but many breweries will list the hop variety used – particularly for pale ales and IPAs, since the flavor is largely depending on the hop.
Next time you’re slamming a haze, you might notice that your beer has Citra hops, or maybe Amarillo, Simcoe, Mosaic or, if you’re in luck, Galaxy. That’s because these are juicier hops to start, unlike hops like Centennial (which can also be used for hazy IPAs, but I digress).
Interestingly enough, hazy IPAs depend on strong hop flavor, just without a lot of the bitterness that you might find in your West Coast style. A lot of that depends on the hop used.
The type of hop used also matters. And by type, I mean using dry-hopping. Dry-hopping is essentially adding little hop-pellets to the haze after the beer already started fermenting. This thickens things up and adds tons of hop flavor.
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3. High-protein beer malts
If you use high-protein malts, you’re gonna get hazier beer.
Protein and hop polyphenols like each other, so they cling together and hold on for dear life. The result is a beer that’s hazier, longer.
The type of protein matters, too. One protein popularly used in hazy beers is lactose – yes, the milk stuff, sort of. Not only does lactose create a milky-haze, but it adds a unique flavor. In the biz, these hazy IPAs are usually referred to as milkshake IPAs.
Side note: if you add a ton of protein, you can get swole drinking beer.
4. Add flour to an IPA to make it hazy
Just a side note: I don’t care for this type of hazy style because I find it too heavy, which is basically a gripe because it’s hard to have more than one at a time.
How do some brewers make that haze? By adding flour, of course! Flour thickens things up nicely, and it’s the most important (and pretty much only) ingredient of crackers, in case you didn’t know.
A brewer (or you!) can get a hazier beer by adding flour to the boil. Does this change the beer in any significant way? Not really. But it does make that beer look hazy, and when you’re drinking hazy beer that’s all that matters, right? Right?
Before I start to ramble on and list 20 different ways to make it haze, there are tons of other ways brewers make hazy IPAs, and some are unwilling to share their secrets.
Haze Isn’t Just a Style of Beer…
Haze isn’t just some style of beer; it’s a style of life.
But actually, just think about how arbitrary the term “hazy” is. What makes a beer hazy? Opaqueness? I can hardly see through my barrel-aged barleywine and I wouldn’t call it hazy for a moment.
Is it cloudiness? Well, I’ve had milkshake IPAs that were certainly cloudy, but I’ll attribute that more to ingredients like lactose. I also don’t count milkshake IPAs as hazy IPAs because a guy has to draw the line somewhere.
If some brewers are adding flour to make haze while others are brewing a juicy IPA where hazy happens to be a result, then it really becomes impossible to determine what exactly makes a hazy beer hazy.
In my opinion, haze is a philosophy, a mantra. You’re a Haze Boi or you aren’t. #HazeBois