As a Vermonter and brewer at a Vermont Brewery, it’s nice to see that the industry association is keeping up with the trends. Since Whetstone opened, our flagship beer has been a Vermont Session IPA. We’ve entered the beer in “traditional” categories in the past, knowing full well it didn’t quite fit the style guidelines of either session IPA or IPA (too light for IPA too hazy for either). So it’s great news for us and the hundreds of brewers that are now putting out hazy IPAs that today the new 2018 Brewers Association Beer Style Guidelines that were released include a trio of beer styles identified in the guidelines and Brewers Association competitions as “Juicy or Hazy Pale Ale,” “Juicy or Hazy IPA” and “Juicy or Hazy Double IPA.” These styles represent what some beer geeks and brewers popularly refer to as New England IPAs or Hazy IPAs.
The addition of “Juicy or Hazy” ales are among several other updates to the 2018 Brewers Association’s Beer Style Guidelines. The annual Great American Beer Festival (GABF) 2018 competition in September will be the first national competition which will include the new style guidelines.
The style additions come as the New England-Style IPA continues the popularity of the India Pale Ale or IPA. The so-called New England variation of the American IPA deemphasizes hop bitterness, a key trait of the American version, often showcasing hop flavor and aromas that can be reminiscent of tropical fruit juice. As a group, “juicy or hazy” beers often exhibit relatively low perceived bitterness, high hop aroma and flavor and a softer texture than other types of IPAs. The New England IPA versions often are highlighted by some level of visual cloudiness or haze which is an effect attributed by a multitude of different ingredients and brewing techniques.
As part of my role at the Brewers Association, I often get an up-close look at the labor-intensive work and spirited conversations that go into adding a beer style to BA Beer Style Guidelines. I played an advisory role in the development of these beer styles’ guidelines and wanted to bring you an inside look at how a beer style is born.
A Beer Style is Born
The Brewers Association received input from competition judges as well as brewers recognized for developing the style to help shape the framework for these categories. Each category presents technical specifications and sensory aspects that a judge may use in competition to evaluate entries.
The new styles make their debut at the 2018 Great American Beer Festival competition. (CraftBeer.com)Initially, the Style Guidelines Committee had not considered three separate styles when considering the new style.
“What we discovered and verified was that there was a wide range of alcohol content for what was being perceived in the public as just one style,” explains style guide developer, Charlie Papazian. “After evaluating appearance, aroma, bitterness, hop characters, mouthfeel and overall balance these beers gave a consistent impression that helped frame the Brewers Association’s inaugural guidelines for three styles of Juicy or Hazy ales.”
Getting it Right
The beer style guideline document undergoes robust annual scrutiny and revision; the 2018 edition includes over 900 updates. But the addition of new categories is not done frivolously. Suggestions from judges and brewers are initial steps to explore the creation of a category. A new category that has evolved and enjoyed increasing commercial success presents a challenge to “strive to get it right,” says Chris Swersey, competition manager for the GABF and World Beer Cup; Swersey is part of the Brewers Association’s Style Guideline Committee.
Swersey and the rest of the committee were dedicated to delivering descriptions that accurately identify the style. The committee believed that the time was right to add the style, but fully understanding what these beers represent remained a significant challenge. Choosing the right words to clearly communicate sensory and qualitative outcomes to judges, and which terms accurately establish sideboards that reflect the huge range of beer brands in the marketplace, resulted in the descriptions included in the 2018 update.
“We never could have tackled these challenges without the willingness and eagerness of the brewers who want and need for us to get it right,” Swersey continues. “We could pour over pages of brewer’s analytics and responses about what the beer is and what the beer isn’t. But without knowledgeable brewer input, that goal would not have been possible.”
The beer world will witness the results of the committee’s efforts come September 22 when the opportunity to award bronze, silver and gold in each of the three categories during the Great American Beer Festival award ceremony arrives. Afterwards, the committee will begin their work again, evaluating changes to existing styles and considering new entries.
“Juicy Hazy ales are very complex styles,” says Papazian, “with the potential for continuing innovation and variation within the style. As with any nascent guideline, we expect to receive ample feedback from brewers and judges, which we’ll use to update and clarify the guidelines for the future.”
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