Every year, trends in beer change. Five years ago, every brewery had to have a black IPA. Then came the white IPA, the session IPA, then the ultra-basic fruited IPA. For 2016, it’s clear this is the year of haze, with the rise of the Vermont-style IPA.
What is a Vermont-style IPA? Imagine regular West-coast IPA is Mr. Clean. He’s piney, abrasive, and squeaky clean. Vermont-style IPA is sort of like the Stay-Puft marshmallow man: soft around the edges, cuddly, and approachable. Visually, a VIPA can range anywhere from a cloudy golden Hefeweizen to the white turbidity of Italian dressing at a local Sizzler salad bar. But looks aren’t everything, these beers can be stunning when executed properly.
Ingredient-wise, VIPA’s are similar to any other IPA, containing water, malt, yeast, and lots of hops. Protein-heavy malts such as oats and wheat are added, which add haze and body to the beer. These beers are (mostly) fermented with a special yeast strain known for its ability to enhance the fruitiness of hop compounds, and its ability to hang out in the final product.
“These beers are extremely stressful for me to brew,” says Henry Nguyen of Monkish Brewing in Torrance. “We probably take the most detailed notes of any beer we do. With our Belgian-style beers, we take around three pages of notes and mostly shoot from the hip. With these IPA’s, it’s very intentional. Our logs go up to six pages of detailed notes. We’re always trying to figure it out.” Monkish usually has a line of people forming at 2 a.m. for a 10 a.m. release every week, selling out by noon.
Recently, Bottle Logic, Chapman Crafted, Noble Ale Works, and even The Bruery have created hazy IPA/Pale Ales, and the people that trade for popular East Coast versions are clamoring that these are just as good as the originals…different, but good.
“There’s as much variation in what they’re doing out there as what we’re doing out here with our West Coast IPA, ” says Ryan Graham from Track 7 Brewing after a recent trip to New England.
Alpine Beer Company in San Diego is no stranger to the haze, having brewed Nelson IPA for years. Bursting with hops, Nelson ranges from murky to a hazy shade of winter. Perhaps well ahead of the game, it’s proof this trend is here to stay for a while. As a fan of clear beer, I welcome this new trend, as there’ll be more beer for me!
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