I had a fondness for Transformers in my younger days. Long before there were live-action movies with endless explosions and overacting, there were action figures based on an afternoon cartoon.
These alien robots could transform into everyday objects, usually cars and trucks. The Autobots were the goodies, led by Optimus Prime who along with others stood for righteousness and harmony against the Decepticons, the baddies who only wanted to cause harm.
Making my way through dozens of juicy/hazy IPAs, a relatively new beer judging category, I found myself thinking of childhood toys. These IPAs are designed to be cloudy, fruity, low in bitterness, and offer a playground for new-age hops. They are typically straw yellow to dark orange in color, with varying heads but a distinct fogginess to them all.
The large majority of them use copious amounts of Mosaic and Citra hops, varieties that have been on the marketplace for less than a decade but have come to be known for their punchy flavors of tropical fruit, berry, stone fruit, and citrus. More often than not these two are used in tandem, with other new-age hops like Idaho 7, Azacca, Strata, Lemondrop, and a flurry of Southern Hemisphere grown varieties which bring their own unique flavors.
Brewers can add pounds of the stuff per barrel to a recipe to offer a hoppy punch, but sometimes that can land bluntly on the palate. The best options tease nuance out of the hop flavors, allow the grains like wheat and oat to remain forward, and only occasionally lean into adjuncts like fruit purée or milk sugar.
Juicy/hazy IPAs forego much of the bitterness that was the calling card of IPAs in the past. The popularity of the modern style has brought new drinkers into craft beer and given brewers license to experiment with technique.
As was true with the Transformers 40 years ago, it’s true with juicy/hazy IPA today: There’s more than meets the eye.
Hop Butcher for the World Be the HBC India Pale Ale; $15/16 oz 4 pack, 98 points. Hop growers are experimenting with new varieties and brewers are eager to brew with them. This IPA uses two—as yet unnamed—hops and the results are intriguing and smile-inducing. It shows aromas and flavors of cedar, vanilla, dried flowers, and toasted balsa wood. It’s warming and welcoming while still being fresh and vibrant. Experimentation like this shows great promise for the whole category.
Beachwood 28 Haze Later; $15/16 oz 4 pack, 97 points. This is a lively, murky concoction of hops and grain that plays up a mélange of pineapple, tangerine, clementine, white peach, and tropical fruit. It shows a soft body, with low carbonation and pleasing bitterness that does not appear until the glass is almost emptied. This is an IPA that is a sign of a well-stocked fridge.
Monday Night What’s Golden; $20/16 oz 4 pack, 97 points. With aromas of fresh-cut pineapple and orange, this is an escape to better settings in a glass. This is an IPA that delivers sip after sip in its tones of citrus, pine, and apricot. Easy and a pleasure to drink, it is part of a rotating series from the brewery.
The Hop Concept Haze Pipe; $12/16 oz 4 pack, 97 points. This IPA has the juicy components many look for in the category. Clementine, lemon, pine, grapefruit, and, as it warms up, dried papaya, all appear in this well-balanced, medium-bodied ale. It deftly showcases a clear knowledge of hops and how best to use them.
Weldwerks Advanced Fluid Dynamics x Double India Pale Ale; $18/16 oz 4 pack, 97 points. It’s OK to get lost in the aroma of this beer for several minutes before taking a first sip. Whipped vanilla and sweet coconut milk emerge quickly and create a tropical sensation that is accented slightly by sliced overripe pineapple. The body has rounded carbonation and a slightly viscous, mouthcoating quality. If an IPA can be an indulgence, this is it.
Dogfish Head Hazy-O; $10/12 oz 6 pack, 96 points. From a brewery that knows hops and how to use them comes a hazy offering brewed with oat milk. It hides its higher-than-average alcohol well, with a full, creamy body, luscious tropical flavors, and slight bitterness. An easy drinker that’s a twist on the traditional, this is a modern IPA that hits the mark.
Radiant Enlighten Yourself; $17/16 oz 4 pack, 96 points. This is light, funky, and tart, with a delightful grapefruit sourness on the first sip. That continues and adds melon, tangerine, and lemon acidity to the palate. It is medium in weight, with swaths of sweetness and a touch of hop bitterness on the finish. If this is in the cooler, pounce on it.
4 Noses Hop Cannon; $17/16 oz 4 pack, 95 points. This is a soft and tropical IPA, with lots of mango, passion fruit, ripe guava, and kiwi tones. Bright in flavor and aroma, it tickles the tastebuds while offering just a patina of bitterness on the finish.
Crooked Stave Juicy East; $11/12 oz 6 pack, 95 points. Light and easy drinking and chock full of hops, this IPA has a lot of West Coast and international callbacks with its hop profile, but new-age swing with tropical fruit and zesty lime. A thirst-quenching IPA with a touch of bitterness on the finish, this is one that grabs the taste bud’s attention and holds it.
Pure Over the Summit; $22/16 oz 4 pack, 95 points. This is an easy-drinking IPA that has well-balanced aromas and flavors of citrus and tropical fruit that doesn’t weigh down the taste buds. The brewery calls it murky, but it has a nice haze and a juicy component. Enjoy with shrimp tacos.
Rhinegeist Cloud Harvest 05; $10/12 oz 6 pack, 95 points. This offers a vibrant selection of hops that bring forth summer berries, ripe passionfruit, and a low but persistent thread of orange. This is light and easy-drinking, with low bitterness, moderate carbonation, and a lively disposition that lends itself to early afternoon patio drinking or whenever a deft use of hops is desired on the palate.
Rockwell Velour Tracksuit; $12/16 oz 4 pack, 95 points. On the clearer side of haze, this berry-forward IPA balances between juicy and bitter, and does a remarkable job staying level. Showing a smooth mouthfeel and flavors of warm melon, pineapple, and stone fruit, it ends with a delightful dankness.