Hazy beer invades Northwest Arkansas

Flyer staff photo

New England IPA is a new style of beer that has been steadily gaining popularity. It thumbs its nose at the long-held belief that beer should be bright and perfectly clear. The style’s defining characteristic is its turbid haze. Plainly stated — New England IPAs look more like fresh squeezed juice than they do beer. And that particular peculiarity has had a polarizing effect on beer drinkers across the nation.

People seem to either really love the style, or really, really loathe it. There’s not much room in the middle for those with a more moderate impression.

The naysayers can’t get past the murky undertow of the beer. There are studies that say a person’s sight has a significant impact on taste, and in this case, the cloudy aesthetic of New England IPAs doesn’t fit with the flavor one expects from beer. Some have gone as far as to call the style “ugly” or downright “off-putting.”

Fans of the style, on the other hand, point to the juicy flavor profile and soft mouthfeel of New England IPAs as cause for celebration. In their opinion, the extreme bitterness and traditional pine and citrus characteristics of “normal” IPAs have grown stale, and New England IPAs provide a refreshing alternative.

Hazy IPAs have been slow to appear in Northwest Arkansas, though a few noteworthy examples have emerged in recent months.

Lost Forty Brewing Co. in Little Rock released a few versions of its ultra-popular Trash Panda—with each featuring a different hop (Simcoe, Azacca, and Mosaic thus far). Fresh off a medal win at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Lost Forty has created quite a buzz around its hazy IPA. So much so that 4-packs of Trash Panda disappear from Northwest Arkansas shelves almost as soon as they arrive.

Springdale’s Core Brewing Co. introduced its version of a New England IPA as well. Albatross, as it’s known, has been one of the most well regarded beers to come from Core recently. It was brewed with oats to give it a creamy mouthfeel (to match its creamy complexion). To this point it has only been available on draft and at growler-filling stations throughout the region. Hopefully there are still a few kegs out there so you can judge for yourself.

Another example of the style hit the market this week, and it is worth the effort to find while it’s here. Little Rock’s Rebel Kettle Brewing Co. traveled north to Springfield, Missouri back in October to brew a batch with Mother’s Brewing Co. What resulted was a kettle-soured marvel they call Hipster Banana.

“Hipster banana” is actually a nickname for the pawpaw fruit—an obscure North American fruit that tastes like a cross between a mango and a banana. Pawpaws were used to give the Rebel Kettle-Mother’s collaboration a decisively fruity character.

But as with other examples of New England IPA, Hipster Banana’s trademark is its milkshake-like appearance. To the eye it looks like grapefruit juice with a healthy dose of cream to thicken things up.

Subtle acidity created by the kettle souring process lends a complexity that is a unique twist on the style. What results is a turbid, fruity, and tart brew that is an absolute blitz on the senses. Hipster Banana comes in 22oz bottles and can be found in short supply at Liquor World and Crossover Liquor in Fayetteville, as well as other beer retailers along the I-49 corridor.

Another New England IPA making its debut tonight is Sticky Passion Double IPA by Bike Rack Brewing Co. Head brewer Josiah Moody crafted this beer with lactose sugar and ale yeast, and used passion fruit puree during secondary fermentation.

“Due to the addition of lactose, the flavor comes off as creamy, juicy, and sweet with a mouth-coating burst of hop flavor,” Bike Rack wrote on its Facebook page. “The use of passion fruit in this beer leaves a light, tropical tartness on the palate while accentuating the aromatic hops we used in this fruity, creamy beer.”

Sticky Passion will be on tap at both Bike Rack locations in Bentonville starting at 3 p.m., and will be available in 4-packs of cans as well.

If you’ve traditionally viewed haze in your beer as a bad thing, maybe it’s time to try something that challenges your senses a bit. Don’t let other people’s opinions sway your thinking — try hazy beer for yourself and decide if it’s for you. Based on the response from Northwest Arkansas beer drinkers thus far, there’s a lot to love about New England IPAs, and we can expect to see more of them in the future.