“New England-style” IPAs may also have a new category to compete in at the Great American Beer Festival.

Why Some States Are Using Beet Juice and Beer to ‘Salt’ Icy Roads
Credit: Justin Sullivan -- Getty Images

Haziness—a key characteristic of the uber-trendy beer style known as New England-style IPAs—used to be considered a flaw. But hazy IPAs have taken the world by storm, and now, the style is getting new legitimacy: three hazy pale ales are being added to the Brewers Association’s official beer style guidelines.

Precisely how these styles emerged is up for some debate, but in general, over the past decade, brewers— originally along the East Coast—began producing IPAs focused more on hops’ juicy characteristics rather than the bitter notes that tended to drive West Coast-style IPAs. Eventually christened New England-style IPAs, these beers also saw the addition of ingredients such as oats and wheat, as well as more massive doses of dry-hopping. The brews were then presented with less filtering, all of which not only affected their flavor and mouthfeel but also left a haze—sometimes so thick that these beers were dubbed “milkshake” beers.

Though early on, this “milkshake” designation occasionally came with a negative connotation, the days of hating the haze have waned, and now the Brewers Association—who acts as America’s craft brewery trade association and runs the Great American Beer Festival—is adding three new designations to its style guide: Juicy or Hazy Pale Ale, Juicy or Hazy India Pale Ale, and Juicy or Hazy Imperial or Double India Pale Ale.

When it comes to clarity, these three beers have a “low to very high degree of cloudiness” because “starch, yeast, hop, protein and/or other compounds contribute to a wide range of hazy appearance,” the new Brewers Association's Style Guidelines say.

Meanwhile, what sets them apart is ABV.

“What we discovered and verified was that there was a wide range of alcohol content for what was being perceived in the public as just one style,” Charlie Papazian, chief of the beer style guidelines and founder and past president of the Brewers Association, said in a statement. “After evaluating appearance, aroma, bitterness, hop characters, mouthfeel, and overall balance these beers gave a consistent impression that helped frame the Brewers Association’s inaugural guidelines for three styles of Juicy Hazy ales.”

These changes are also big news for the Great American Beer Festival—America’s biggest beer competition, but also one that has at times felt like it’s been nearing an IPA mutiny. For years, India Pale Ale has been the event’s most entered category, but as the IPA has continued to evolve, many have lamented that the official definition of IPAs hasn’t kept up. Breaking out Hazy IPAs from the group should help alleviate some of the pressure. And Chris Swersey, the Brewer Association’s competition manager, says that new hazy categories will almost certainly be a part of this year’s GABF. “The BA guidelines document serves as the jumping off spot for the content and organization of the competition guidelines,” he said via email. “We definitely plan to include the Juicy or Hazy categories at the 2018 GABF. Stay tuned for those coming soon.”