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I challenge you to find a topic more contentious than haze in beer. Minus the odd, typically wheat-based style, the general mandate for clarity is the clearer the better–crystal is best. Well, for one reason or another our friends over in New England have decided to buck the trend: instead of crisp, dry, crystal clear megadank hop bombs the New Englanders have opted to follow a whatever-it-takes mentality to squeeze maximum “juiciness” out of their hops and yeast. As the result of their methods, the beers have a distinct haze/turbidity to them (“hazy af“) proponents claim enhances mouthfeel and the fruity-juicy character of the high ester yeast and New World hops.
While I am personally a fan of clear beer–you drink with your eyes, etc–I do not have a problem, per se, with folks developing/enjoying their own regional interpretations of a style. By and large I wager most folks feel the same and us West Coast folks were content to enjoy our thing and let the folks in New England do their thing… until homebrewer king Jamil Zainasheff fired off the “Tweet Heard ‘Round the World” and everyone lost their friggin’ minds.
I'm sorry, you who think this is acceptable beer have lost your minds. This overly yeasty crap is offensive. pic.twitter.com/TTTrT3nbhi
— Jamil Zainasheff (@mrmalty) March 2, 2016
If you follow the thread further it turns out he was merely upset about paying $9 for a beer that has poor fermentation character, but it was already too late: the New Englanders had already grabbed their pitchforks to defend their precious haze and the West Coasters had lined up to join in on the dump-fest. Now you have to have an opinion and the other side is wrong! Oi! (Also, Jamil needs to learn to properly orient his photos)
Here is the sad truth of the matter: many West Coast folks likely have not sampled a good representation of the NE style, it simply does not get made/distributed out here; my own experience was limited to a handful of sips from smuggled cans at bottle shares. Meanwhile, New Englanders have been living under West Coast beer imperialism for the last decade or so, maybe they do know better. Not one to get too tangled up in brewing dogma, I decided to see what the hubbub was all about and brew a New England Pale Ale myself. At the urging of noted oat enthusiast Scott Janish I decided this would also be a good time to experiment with his recommendation of > 18% oats in the grist. It’s so juicy!