Renowned beer expert (and Witchdoctor’s new beer columnist) NEIL MILLER on the lazy, hazy hoptastic drinking days of summer.
It is a bold move to start my new beer column here on Witchdoctor with an admission – I initially belittled a beer style that has gone on to become one of the most popular beers on the New Zealand craft scene and is now a personal favourite too.
Back in the day, I dismissed Hazy IPA (then known as New England India Pale Ale – NEIPA – or Easy Coast Pale Ale) as a stunt, an act of regional rivalry between the US West and East Coasts reminiscent of the rap wars. West Coast breweries in California and Washington were rightly world famous for their sparkling, fruity, strong, and bitter pale ales. I was a huge fan. I had the t-shirt and everything.
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So, when upstart breweries in New York and New England decided to put their own spin on the style by making basically the same beer with similar hops but it would be hazy, I was unconvinced. My local publican at the excellent Featherston Tavern, Geordie, shared my skepticism, saying his first impression was that brewers were looking to charge $2 a glass more for not doing filtering, the last stage of the brewing process.
However, when I finally swallowed my pride and actually swallowed a Hazy IPA, I was enamored. Instantly, I became a fawning, awkward teenage suitor again. The haziness had a certain visual appeal, giving the beer an artisanal and natural look, the hops I love were in there, the beer had more mouthfeel from the yeast floating around, and the bitterness seemed a little more piquant. Geordie now sells a lot of Hazy IPAs, many of them to me.
These days, I tend to alternate between Hazy IPAs and the West Coast IPA classics Epic Armageddon and Epic Hop Zombie. Here are brief tasting notes on two NEIPAs I tried recently.
Epic Talusman, Hazy IPA, Auckland, 6.3%
Luke Nicholas, the Impish Brewer, was a pioneer of American hops in New Zealand brewing and the man most responsible for introducing the West Coast style to Kiwis. I for one thank him for that. He is also adaptive and creative, and this is a hazy pale ale made with a brand-new hop called Talus. That is why the name is spelled funny. There is also a shed load of Mosaic hops in there too.
It is delightfully murky, delivering what it says on the can. There are notes of grapefruit, lemon rind, and pine needles. Talusman has a long but gentle finish, more of a caress than a punch. It lives up to the billing of “easy drinking”.
McLeod’s 802 #28, Unfiltered IPA, Waipa, 6.6%
One of a rotating range of hazy IPAs from this brilliant brewery. To my shame, I have only tried #24, #25, #26, #27 and #28. Obviously, it is hazy, but brighter in colour (not clarity) than the Epic. The beer has Centennial and Ekuanot hops which provide a smooth citrus body with hints of orange, peach, and lime.
For the record, the handsome beast on the can is a Highland Cattle, known as a Hairy Coo in the Highland dialect. McLeod’s is also my mother’s clan but that has not influenced my review. It is a great beer from a brilliant brewery run by some of the nicest guys you will ever meet.