The Most Popular Category at This Year’s Great American Beer Festival? Yep, You Guessed It...
Step aside, American-style IPA.
Hazy IPAs – also known as New England-style IPAs or juicy IPAs – have been the biggest trend in craft beer in recent years. These practically opaque IPAs that focus more on fruity hop notes than bitterness started out as the signature style of a few tiny brewers but are now being offered by even the biggest craft brands like Sam Adams and Sierra Nevada. Due to this popularity, in March, the craft beer trade group the Brewers Association (BA) announced it would be adding these hazy brews to its official style guidelines, setting them up to be included at this year’s Great American Beer Festival competition.
But here’s more proof of just how popular they’ve gotten: Today, the BA released the number of entries the Great American Beer Festival is expecting to see in its three Juicy or Hazy beer categories—and specifically, the Juicy or Hazy IPA category is slated to be the most entered category at this year’s event.
According to a post from Julia Herz, the BA’s craft beer program director, “The total number of entries for all three of the juicy or hazy styles is 706.” She continues, “That statistically staggering sum is divided as follows: Juicy or Hazy Pale Ale: 131; Juicy or Hazy IPA: 414; Juicy or Hazy Double IPA: 161.”
By comparison, the most entered category overall in 2017 was American-Style IPA with 408 entries. Obviously, the 414 beer set to be entered in the Juicy or Hazy IPA category this year is greater than that number, but also, since brewers will now have an extra choice of where to enter their IPAs, it was likely that the previous American-Style IPA category would lose some entries in 2018.
Herz not only confirmed that this is the case, but also that the change represents a major turning point in the history of the Great American Beer Festival. “This marks the first time in over a decade and a half that American-Style India Pale Ale—which received 331 entries [this year]—is no longer the top entered beer style in the U.S. commercial beer competition,” Herz adds. “How’s that for a juicy year-one showing?”
Amazingly, American-Style India Pale Ale had been the most popular category at the Great American Beer Festival since 2002. To put it another way, Hazy IPAs have dethroned an extremely long-reigning king. As a result, you could argue that Hazy IPAs are more than just a trend: They are the current state of craft beer today.