When I was in college, a good friend said he didn’t like a particularly popular beer because it was too hoppy. “Too hoppy?” I wondered. “How could that be?” But then came the next two decades of hop intensification, and the staggering amount of IPAs with skyrocketing IBUs began to shock my palate as well. Today I rarely can handle more than one of those piney beasts, and I usually don’t opt for them at all.
Then I stumbled into something called hazy IPAs. While I’m naturally wary of embracing regional styles from elsewhere — in this case, the northeastern corner of our country — this style reignited my early affinity for hops. Rather than sharp, tangy, and boozy like the leading West Coast IPAs, the hazy style wraps its hop expression in a creamier, unfiltered mouthfeel, delivering the appealingly bright and tropical flavors without that syrupy, sappy edge.
Now we have a great interpretation by Firestone Walker Brewing Company’s brewmaster, Matt Brynildson, who spent a year creating the recipe for Mind Haze. That included a trip to Gutmann brewery in Germany, where he found similar qualities in a weizenbock they’d been making for 50 years, and he determined the right use of oats and wheat to achieve haze without yeasty or added starch gimmicks.
The result is a very rounded and balanced sip, lush in body and big but balanced in hop profile, offering hints of guava, orange, and pine while slipping smoothly down the throat. It just hit the market this month. See firestonebeer.com.