After two tortuous years, the Brewers Association has finally added several style categories for what has become one of the most sought-after, most controversial beer styles in the country: New England-style IPAs.
The Boulder-based group released the new 2018 guidelines on Tuesday, March 20, and they included not one, not two, but three categories: Juicy or Hazy Pale Ale, Juicy or Hazy IPA and Juicy or Hazy Double IPA. The organization didn't use the "New England" moniker, as it typically steers clear of geographical designations.
"It's been a long time coming," says Neil Fisher, who owns Greeley's Weldwerks Brewing, which has been an advocate for the style for more than two years. About 75 percent of the brewery's production consists of New England-style IPAs, including its flagship, Juicy Bits. "This shows that the Brewers Association is still relevant and that it supports innovation and forward thinking. It proves that they are not behind the times."
Fisher first proposed a set of style guidelines to the BA after the Great American Beer Festival in 2016, but was rejected — in part, he believes, because he didn't seek out enough support from other breweries. This time around, however, the BA asked for input and samples from Weldwerks and many other breweries around the country so that it could put together a proposal. "It was enough to give them the green light," Fisher says.
"To help inform the creation of the new Juicy and Hazy categories, a wide variety of beers that were thought to represent or approach this style were sought and tasted," the BA said in a statement.
“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,” added Charlie Papazian in a statement. Papazian, the founder and past president of the BA, heads up the style-guideline committee “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 Hazy ales.”
The style, which was pioneered in Massachusetts and Vermont, showcases tropical, citrusy hops aromas and flavors, but without the bitterness that traditional West Coast IPAs are known for. It is controversial, however, because of the look and feel of the beer, which can range from mildly hazy to cloudy to fully turbid. Many brewers, including well-respected producers, have derided the style, saying it is simply the result of lazy brewing. But proponents say that truly well-made New England-style IPAs actually require a huge amount of work.
Popular in New England for several years, they burst onto Colorado's brewing scene in 2016, when breweries like Cerebral, Odd13, Fiction and Weldwerks began making them. The BA, however, which can be conservative when it comes to new styles, decided against adding a category in 2017. This created a somewhat awkward disconnect between the beers being entered and judged and ones being asked about and poured.
Whether the new guidelines will follow the same format at GABF in 2018 isn't clear, but Fisher believes they will be close, and that there could potentially be nine medals handed out (gold, silver and bronze in each of the three categories).
He also points out that the guidelines will help validate the style in light of all the criticism it has taken and provide a way for brewers to discuss technique and parameters going forward. "New England-style IPAs have staying power. They are not a fad," he adds. "They are going to be around for a while."
In addition to the juicy, hazy ales, the BA also made several other updates of note:
Contemporary American-Style Pilsener: The addition of this new category addresses marketplace expansion and provides space for sessionable craft brew lager beers with higher hop aroma than found in pre-prohibition style beers.
Classic Australian-Style Pale Ale and Australian-Style Pale Ale: This split from one to two Australian-Style Pale Ale categories reflects tremendous diversity in the Australian craft beer market and authoritative input from the technical committee of the Independent Brewers Association. Classic Australian-Style Pale Ale can run slightly darker and typically exhibits relatively lower hop aroma. The Australian-Style Pale Ale category provides ample room for a range of somewhat paler, more hop aroma- and flavor-forward beers being produced today by hundreds of breweries in Australia.
Gose and Contemporary Gose: Predominantly technical tweaks were made to create more differentiation between these two categories.
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