When Green Cheek Beer Company opened in June of last year, Head Brewer Evan Price had a plan. He would produce an extensive lineup of high-quality West Coast-style IPAs, just as he did at his previous stint as head brewer at nearby Noble Ale Works where he helped bring the growing Orange County beer scene into the national spotlight.
A little over a year later, Price hasn’t exactly stuck to his original vision. “Trends in the beer industry are changing so fast,” Price says with a laugh. “You can’t quite keep up with what people want.”
Right now, people want haze and brewers such as Price are happy to oblige. Hazy or New England-style IPAs have been soaring in popularity amongst craft beer insiders over the past few years. Vermont’s The Alchemist, Lawson’s, and Hill Farmstead, Massachusetts-based Trillium and Tree House (collectively the founding fathers of the genre) along with their West Coast counterparts Weldwerks and Monkish continue to draw masses of fans to their brewery-only hazy releases which often result in near-instant sell outs. Breweries around the world continue to capitalize on the phenomenon and recently heavy-hitters such as Sam Adams and Sierra Nevada have joined the party, ensuring hazy IPAs are accessible to mainstream consumers at retailers across the country.
Unlike their drier, more assertive West Coast cousins, hazy IPAs are smoother and sweeter with a less aggressive hop bite. “It’s a very different animal,” says Price. The secret sauce, according to him, is the use of specialized flavorful yeast strains which help provide the beer’s signature “juicy” flavor and appearance. “The cloudiness comes in by using some of these yeast strains and a lot of hops to dry-hop with,” he says. “It grows that cloudiness and that haze.”
The actual beer is only part of the equation when it comes to the breakout of success of hazy IPAs. Releases are predominately named after pop culture references (hip-hop lyrics are a popular option) and sold in 16-oz. cans emblazoned with flashy artwork. The total package is perfect Instagram fodder—cue the endless string of fire emojis.
While hazy IPAs are often brewed with simple additions such as oats for a silkier, fuller mouthfeel, and wheat, which helps amp up the cloudiness, its freakish spawn, the milkshake IPA, takes things to whole other level. It was only a matter of time before a brewery (in this case Ardmore, PA’s Tired Hands) played Dr. Moreau to fuse the haze craze with the public’s growing thirst for adjunct-heavy pastry-inspired beers.
The “milk” in the milkshake IPA comes courtesy of a hefty dose of lactose milk sugar which provides sweetness and creaminess with vanilla and assorted fruit often added to the mix. Price, who has brewed a variety of milkshake IPAs including coconut and pistachio versions, managed to take things a step further when it came to Green Cheek’s strawberry vanilla milkshake IPA collaboration with Brooklyn’s Other Half, bringing lactobacillus (the bacteria found in Greek yogurt) into the fold. “The IPA line is becoming more and more blurry and weird,” he admits.
While the hazy hype train isn’t slowing down anytime soon, another IPA trend is picking up steam and despite being born out of San Francisco, it ain’t cloudy. Often billed as the “anti-hazy IPA” the remarkably dry brut IPA has quickly become a favorite amongst brewers—think of it as the Steven Wright of beers.
The key is the use of an amylase enzyme which is added during fermentation resulting in a beer with no residual sugar. Providing a champagne-like effervescent mouthfeel and prominent hop presence, it’s no wonder the brut IPA is poised to become the breakout beer style of 2018.
For fans who still crave that classic West Coast IPA, all hope is not lost. Russian River is still cranking out Pliny the Elder and Blind Pig while Beachwood Brewing’s Melrose and Citraholic are as sublime as ever even as production continues to increase.
“I love making West Coast IPA,” says Price who hasn’t stopped brewing his favorite beer style. In fact, you can find one on the board at Green Cheek right now: West Coast IPA Is Dead. The name is tongue in cheek—probably.
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