Joining the Haze Craze
The popularity of hazy beers, specifically hazy IPAs, has skyrocketed within the past few years. The hazy IPA craze started on the East Coast with the original innovative New England IPA producers like The Alchemist, famous for Heady Topper and Hill Farmstead who shared a similar yeast and coined the term Juicy.
These breweries produced beers with an explosive tropical juicy hop aroma and flavor… and they happened to be hazy as well. The style has obviously been gaining some momentum for some time now. Like a lot of innovation for us, it starts with tasting beers while we are traveling. We certainly have run into a lot of Hazy/Juicy IPA over the years and watched as the style developed and brewers became better and better at brewing them. Let’s face it, we are a California brewery who is very successful with the West Coast IPA.
We allow a lot of influences to seep into our brewing and never stop tweaking and perfecting what we do. We certainly have introduced a lot of the new hop varieties into beers like Luponic Distortion and incorporated a lot of juicy flavor notes there. We also have a history of not necessarily jumping on the band wagon as soon as we realize a new beer trend has blasted off. We like to get to know a beer style and learn the details of what makes it good before we launch a new beer. Brewmaster Matt Brynildson admits he wasn’t an early adopter of the style…
He’s always loved Heady Topper and came to love a lot of the other NEIPAs coming out of that part of the world, but wasn’t convinced right away that it was something that Firestone Walker should do. Mainly because the generally accepted rule was that these beers didn’t have a very good shelf life, needed to be consumed within days or a few weeks of packaging and that they were best suited for small artisanal brewers with a direct to the consumer distribution model. The more he looked into these beers, the more he realized that when made well, there really wasn’t any good reason that they shouldn’t hold up as well as any other IPA. Once this was established, his newfound love for the style took over and we started work on formulating a Hazy IPA.
“I think that these beers are here to stay and more importantly, the spirit behind the flavor of these beers, is here to stay,” adds Matt. ” I think the biggest reason for the popularity of these beers has nothing to do with the appearance. People are drawn to these beers because they offer up all of the big fruit, juicy delicious flavors that can be squeezed out of a hop without extreme bitterness.”
Bitterness is polarizing and it’s is a big flavor attribute of classic IPAs especially West Coast IPA. Back to visual hazy, when John Kimmich first launched Heady Topper in a can, he told folks to drink from the can and not pour it in a glass. He didn’t want people to be thrown off by the appearance of the beer and focus on the flavors.
Now we live in the Instagram era and pictures tell us a story about what we drink and eat. People drink with their eyes and hazy IPAs stand out in a crowd of clear and bright classic beers. Unfortunately, that can become a focus and now folks will get upset when their IPA isn’t hazy enough.
— Brewmaster Matt Brynildson
I love the challenge of developing all the aspects of a beer both visually and flavor-wise. I’m thrilled that this style has taken off and that so many beer lovers are excited about it and seek these beers out, not just here in the United States, but all around the world.
A year of testing
Mind Haze is a hazy IPA done the Firestone way, created after a full year of experimentation at our Propagator R&D brewhouse in Venice, California. This is a beer that breaks the mold with explosive hop aromas, a luscious texture and unsurpassed shelf freshness for a hazy IPA.
A lot of trial and error, a lot of different yeast strain trials and a lot of hop combinations were tested prior to us getting to the point that we were happy with the beer. We are so fortunate to have the Propagator as a tool for working out beers like this. We realized early on that we couldn’t make a beer like this with our house ale strain (the yeast we make Union Jack and DBA with) it just didn’t provide the “juice” we were looking for.
The pilot brewery was especially useful in working through a number of different yeasts quickly and efficiently to find the right one. Bringing in a new yeast strain is like adopting a child into the family. It’s a real commitment that requires a lot of patience, time and love to do right. Once we figured out the yeast that was going to work best, we brewed a number of different beers with a host of different hop combinations looking for that perfect tropical, juicy character.
Formulating a beer is always about imagining the flavors, textures and the visual experience first. Then you work with the raw materials you have to paint that picture the best way possible. We spend a lot of time focused on hops and experimenting with hops. Luponic Distortion has been an amazing vehicle for hop exploration and learning. We apply everything we have learned to each new beer and that starts with articulating the beer we want to make and tweaking the recipe and process until we have the perfect beer… which never happens if you are an honest brewer. Mind Haze will continue to be an ever-evolving process of making a better beer, just like the rest of our family of beers.
Introducing Mind Haze. A hazy IPA to let your mind wander.
Mind Haze is available anywhere Firestone beers are sold. 6.2% ABV