Once upon a time, an IPA was only as good as the bitter punch it delivered to the back of your throat. Brewers were in a race to create the most bitter, hop-forward brew. The West Coast IPA was king until the New England-style IPA stole the crown. This new style, which hit the market about five years ago and was defined by its more restrained bitterness, uses hops to deliver fruity flavors instead of bitter ones. It swept the nation faster than you could say “juicy brew.”
“The hazy New England style comes on the scene and ditches most of the bitterness to focus on new hop varietals that are throwing out some crazy aromas and flavors,” says Adam Denny Golab, head brewer, and director of quality at Bent Water Brewing Company. “I think that shift opened the IPA door for a lot of drinkers who were never huge fans of the west coast style, and new craft drinkers that this was their first experience with craft beer.”
With rapid popularity comes problems. These unfiltered IPAs, with their creamy texture and cloudy appearance, rely on the skill of the brewer as well as the freshness of the beer to give the drinker an enjoyable drinking experience. There are a lot of ways a hazy IPA can go wrong, due to the heavy hop addition. If you’ve ever had a beer that pours like oatmeal or that tastes like lawnmower clippings, chances are the beer was old or brewed improperly.
“The style is the antithesis of balance, but it does need some bitterness to create a semblance of balance for all the sweetness,” Danny Connors, innovation brewer at Rogue Ales. “Hazy IPAs can go wrong when there are too many hops. People can fall into a trap of thinking the more hops the better, but there is a point where some more potent hop varieties start to over-saturate the beer and taste like garlic and onions.”
When done right, a hazy IPA is a beautiful thing that transcended the beer-drinking experience. It can taste like a fresh smoothie or like biting into a ripe peach. To help you find the brands that are doing it right, we've narrowed down our favorites to come up with a solid list of the best hazy IPAs on the market today.
Best Overall: Lawson's Sip of Sunshine
Region: Vermont | ABV: 8% | Tasting Notes: Orange, Pine, Bitter hops
One of the original juicy brews lives up to its name with bright citrus flavors and a bitter finish. Originating in Vermont but now brewed at Two Roads Brewing in Connecticut, Lawson’s Sip of Sunshine pours less hazy than more turbid offerings, but still with the trademark golden-orange color and creamy foam that clings to the side of your glass. This is the beer equivalent of biting into an orange on a summer day. Close your eyes and bask in the sunshine.
Best Session: Five Boroughs Tiny Juicy IPA
Region: New York | ABV: 4.2% | Tasting Notes: Pineapple, Pine, Bitter hops
Drinkability was the name of the game when New York’s Five Boroughs decided to brew Tiny Juicy IPA. While most New England-style IPAs’ higher alcohol content means you can only drink one, Tiny Juicy IPA’s 4.2% ABV lets you pop open another can. Big orange and lemon flavors give this juicy brew a bit of tartness to go with its bitter backbone.
Related: The Best IPAs
Best Local: Dogfish Head Slightly Mighty
Region: Delaware | ABV: 4% | Tasting Notes: Malt, Hops, Pineapple
In addition to their big flavor, hazy IPAs often pack a lot of calories, thanks to the higher sugar content, which balances out the bitterness. Recently, brewers have leveled the scales, by experimenting with low-cal hazy IPAs. Dogfish Head’s Slightly Mighty is loaded with tropical fruit flavors but uses monk fruit for an added low-calorie sweetness. “Over the summer I got into low-cal IPAs. They’re great on the beach. Dogfish Head’s is one of the best, with great aroma and good body for being only 4% ABV,” Golab says.
Best Imperial: Toppling Goliath King Sue
Region: Iowa | ABV: 7.8% | Tasting Notes: Hops, Orange juice, Grass
All hail the king. King Sue, named after the famous T. Rex in Chicago’s Field Museum, sets the gold standard for double IPAs. Starting with its creamy golden color, this beer is like sipping a creamsicle. Iowa’s Toppling Goliath relies on citra hops to bring a citrus flavor and aroma to this beer, without losing that earthy and bitter hop quality. Overall, King Sue is a complex beastnthat delivers fresh flavors with each sip.
Best Juicy: Threes Brewing Logical Conclusion
Region: New York | ABV: 7% | Tasting Notes: Wheat, Peach, Hops
New York’s Threes Brewing claims that its hoppy IPA, Logical Conclusions, tastes like Gushers. It’s an apt description for an IPA loaded with three different types of fruit-forward hops (citra, simcoe, and mosaic) as well as plenty of flaked wheat to give the beer a creamy mouthfeel.
“A silky, thicker body carries more tropical fruit character than almost any haze can I've ever had,” says Joe Wells, head brewer at Fair State Brewing Coop. “One of those beers that’s awesome for a hazy IPA, but also just straight awesome as a beer.”
Related: The Best Beers
Best New England: Zero Gravity Conehead
Region: Vermont | ABV: 5.7% | Tasting Notes: Malt, Mango, Citrus
Vermont’s Zero Gravity is a rapidly expanding brewery that deserves a spot in your regular rotation. Whether it’s Little Wolf pale ale or Green State lager, the brewery with the hummingbird logo knows how to brew a solid beer. Its Conehead IPA, a juicy brew starring citra hops, is no exception.
“Normally, I grab their lager when I’m at the store, but if I’m looking for something hazy this is one of my go-to's,” Golab says. “It always has a great aroma and the flavor has you going back for another sip.”
Best Midwest: Fair State Party Forward
Region: Minnesota | ABV: 6% | Tasting Notes: Wheat, Pine, Pineapple
Fair State’s Party Forward is a study in restraint. This hazy IPA clocks in at a very reasonable 6% ABV and, in attrition to its approachable alcohol level, the beer is a well-rounded expression of the style. Mellow notes of lemon, tangerine, pineapple, and a hint of pine are delicately sprinkled through this soft and silky beer. This pillow-y beer is just a delight to drink.
Best Pacific Northwest: Breakside What Rough Beast
Region: Oregon | ABV: 6.8% | Tasting Notes: Peach, Pine, Bitter hops
There are a few things that set Breakside’s What Rough Beast apart from the crowd. This Portland, Ore. brewery is making a New England-style IPA that brings bitterness to the forefront, allowing it to play freely with a more understated fruity sweetness.
“What Rough Beast is one of the best out there because it does have a good balance to it,” Connors says. “It still tastes like beer, not an over the top milkshake-smoothie-beer-thing.”
Related: The Best American Beers
Best Colorado: WeldWerks Juicy Bits
Region: Colorado | ABV: 6.7% | Tasting Notes: Pineapple, Bitter hops, Grass
Colorado’s WeldWerks is a brewery that’s not afraid to embrace huge flavors. From the brewery that made a sour that tastes like spaghetti, comes a flagship New England-style IPA that cuts zero corners when it comes to taste. Off the bat, this beer smells like a fruit bouquet, with wafts of pineapple and peaches that carry over into the flavor. These big fruit flavors are balanced with a bold bitterness that’s often overlooked in the hazy IPA category.
Best California: Sierra Nevada Hazy Little Thing
Region: California | ABV: 6.7% | Tasting Notes: Orange, Hops, Sweet
“Sierra Nevada is always a safe bet and their rendition of the style is tight and clean,” Golab says. Hazy Little Things swept the nation 2018. You can find this beer at airports and stadiums and just about every grocery store. It’s the everyman’s hazy IPA. This beer was a game-changer, because it meant IPA-lovers didn’t have to wait in line at a trendy brewery to snag the latest overpriced four-pack. Hazy Little Thing is a turbid and tropical brew with a slightly more restrained flavor, but plenty of refreshing qualities.
Best South: Pinthouse Pizza Electric Jellyfish
Region: Texas | ABV: 6.5% | Tasting Notes: Orange, Floral, Bitter hops
“When I think of Hazy IPAs that excel at overall drinkability, Electric Jellyfish is top of the list,” Wells says. “Imminently crushable despite the ABV and hop load, it is a delightful cornucopia of tropical fruit and citrus flavor over a crisp malty body.”
With six different hop varieties (citra, simcoe, chinook, ekuanot, azacca, and galaxy) making up this brew, it’s no surprise that Pinthouse Pizza’s “hazy new school IPA” brings on the juice as well as the bitter hop flavor.
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Sarah Freeman is a food and beverage writer based out of Chicago. She has been writing about, as well as frequenting, restaurants and bars for the past decade—from learning about what makes a perfect piece of cocktail ice to the exploring art of beer label design. At the moment, she doesn’t have enough room for food in her refrigerator, because it’s filled with cans of beer and bottles of wine.