The Craze for Haze: New England-style beers are making the Alberta market cloudy

If you’re a typical, highly non-brand loyal craft beer drinker, it’s pretty clear that the biggest trend amongst new releases is “New England-style.” New England-style is basically code for cloudy beer that explodes with fruit sensations from a buttload (technical term) of hops. It is not necessarily bitter, more reliant on hops for the remarkable flavours. To understand why these beers are cloudy and fruity, a little background on brewing is helpful.

Making beer is basically like making chicken soup. First, you soak and boil stuff for flavour and body. Then, you let it sit so the flavours can come together.

For beer, the soaking of malted grains (typically barley) produces flavour and sugars. There are different kinds of malt, used in differing amounts, to adjust the flavours and colours. Boiling sanitizes and concentrates the “malt-flavoured water” and sugars. Hops are added for bitterness, balancing the sweet liquid and adding other flavours such as fruit and pine. Finally, the concentrated liquid is cooled and yeast is added to convert some of the sugars to alcohol. Sometimes as the beer nears completion, more hops are added, or “dry hopped,” for additional flavours. Voila, beer.

Yeast is super cool. Aside from having a large impact on flavours, yeast is fun to watch. When beer is fermenting, yeast flies around and eats as much sugar as it can creating a whirlwind that can resemble a perpetually shaken snow globe (yeast eats sugar, coverts it to alcohol, and farts CO2 — seriously, it’s like a red-faced little kid in a swimming pool surrounded by bubbles).

But, what if you messed around with the normal method? What if you added most or all of the hops at the end of the boil to reduce bitterness while adding tropical fruit flavour? What if grains were used that were processed in different ways, say flaked (vs. malted) barley, wheat, or oats? What if you dry hopped during fermentation instead of after? Turns out the body of the beer is enhanced, it is opaque from grain and hops that remain in suspension and the beer bursts with fruit flavours, presuming certain hop varieties like Mosiac, Citra, and Galaxy (among others that throw fruity flavours).

Two of the most renowned beers in North America are Heady Topper by The Alchemist Brewery of Vermont and the variations of Julius by Tree House in Massachusetts hence the “New England” moniker.

Luckily, we have two great examples of these beer closer to home:

• Blindman’s New England-style Pale Ale: This is possibly my favourite beer. It is like a beer milkshake, due to unbelievable body that bursts with peach-like flavours. It can be hard to find, but it’s worth the effort.

• Bench Creek’s Apex Predator: This a monster beer with huge hop flavour on top of a light malt bill that nonetheless supports the 8.2% ABV. It is in very limited supply, so grab it when you can.

Jay Nelson is a beer geek, not snob, who has written for a small number of mostly forgotten publications, in a wildly erratic manner, since being named the Editorial Editor of his High School newspaper. He is a non-award winning home brewer and a non-BJCP certified judge, although he aspires to both.