Why All Hazy IPAs Taste the Same—and How to Brew Something Distinctive

Hazy IPAs remain popular—and they also remain remarkably similar. Here’s some advice on stepping away from the usual yeast strains to brew a hazy that stands out from the rest.

Five Star Chemicals (Sponsored) May 25, 2023 - 7 min read

Why All Hazy IPAs Taste the Same—and How to Brew Something Distinctive Primary Image

Most of the information in this article came from a Five Star Chemicals Webinar presented by Kara Taylor To view the webinar, click here.

Hazy IPAs are crowd-pleasers—that fruity, juicy profile is approachable even to non-beer drinkers. Not everyone, however, is a fan.

“They all kind of taste the same,” says Kara Taylor, head of operations at White Labs, a yeast and fermentation laboratory and provider.

Taylor says the biggest misconception brewers have with hazy IPAs is that the murkiness comes from yeast and yeast alone. Most brewers rely on the same strain to make their hazy brews, contributing to uniformity across the market.

However, there are ways that brewers can play around with alternatives to create a more distinctive hazy IPA that will stand apart from the rest.

What Creates Haze?

While, yes, yeast can accentuate haze, brewers shouldn’t rely on it.

“You have to have enough protein and polyphenol content because that will give you haze no matter what yeast strain,” Taylor says.

Grains with higher protein content such as wheat or oats—in combination with hops—lead to more haze.

Leaning only on yeast for haze also can compromise the mouthfeel of the beer—and, from a digestive standpoint, the beer could potentially cause discomfort. Taylor theorizes that this is why some people do not like drinking beer.

“That mix of having a lot of yeast in addition to a lot of carbohydrates and carbonation gives people an upset stomach,” she says.

So, why are brewers relying so much on yeast for their hazy IPAs?

Why Most Hazy IPAs Taste the Same

Until about five years ago, haze was considered undesirable in IPAs and many other styles. Even today, most instructional materials available educate brewers on how to eliminate haze, not how to promote it. Despite the widespread popularity of hazy IPAs, there’s still an education gap.

At White Labs, Taylor says she suspects most brewers are unaware of the value of the protein and polyphenol content for haze from her own experience.

“When customers buy certain strains, they will report back that their beer wasn’t hazy, and it’s like, ‘Well, the yeast is contributing to haze and accentuating the haze, but it’s not the main cause,’” she says.

Taylor says White Labs has a top seller for hazy IPAs: WLP066 London Fog. It’s popular due to its ester profile, robust performance, and opaque quality. Many other labs also sell predominantly one strain recommended for hazy pale ales and IPAs. Thus without major adjustments to the recipe, Taylor says, many beers will taste very similar.

“People forget how much yeast impacts flavor,” she says.

Essentially, the relative lack of understanding about the value of protein and polyphenol content for haze combined with the ubiquity of London Fog and similar strains is why there is a lack of variety in hazy IPAs today. Taylor says there are other options available to reach sought-after results.

How to Make a More Distinctive Hazy IPA

To execute a perfect hazy, brewers are looking for the following three characteristics:

  • The most obvious is the haze, which comes from protein interactions with hops and flavonoids, and it is accentuated by yeast. This combination is responsible for the opaqueness of the beer.
  • A fruity, hoppy aroma. The aroma is more tropical than the stone fruit–notes often found in West Coast IPAs. The tropical hops help contribute to the relatively low perceived bitterness of the brews.
  • A fluffy texture and mouthfeel. Most are looking for a smoothie-esque texture in hazies.

Experimenting with different yeast strains can help brewers produce these characteristics. But what makes a yeast strain suitable for hazy IPAs?

  • Low to medium flocculation. Flocculation contributes to the mouthfeel and murkiness by keeping the yeast suspended.
  • POF- (i.e., negative for phenolic off-flavors). Phenolic yeast traits are partly responsible for the haziness found in hefeweizen and some Belgian ales. However, it also adds clove and spice flavors that brewers typically want to avoid in hazy IPA.
  • Medium to high attenuation (i.e., how well yeast convert sugar to alcohol). Taylor says the amount of attenuation depends on what brewers are trying to achieve. Some brewers add lactose to beers so they are sweeter and seem juicier. In that case, medium to high attenuation isn’t necessary. However, Taylor says most hazies have some level of dryness. The fruitiness and perceived sweetness come from the aroma first, then from the actual sweetness in the beer.
  • Some biotransformation characteristics. Taylor says many biotransformation interactions occur during fermentation that labs haven’t yet been able to categorize with current science. Because of this, labs will know what strains work well in certain styles, but not always why. Strains with some biotransformation characteristics can lead to extra fruitiness that many brewers are trying to capture with hazy IPAs.

When choosing yeast strains, brewers should determine what they are trying to accomplish. If you want something with a fluffy mouthfeel, low flocculation is key. Taylor says to avoid looking at attenuation for flavor and mouthfeel since those two components don’t usually relate. She says most people are looking for a lot of fruitiness, so strains with more biotransformation characteristics can help accomplish that goal.

Experimenting with yeasts with these four components can help brewers achieve a hazy IPA that drinkers haven’t had the opportunity to try. She says to experiment with yeast, work on splitting batches, and try different fermentation temperatures.

“We have to keep making new hazy beers that are innovative because people like them,” Taylor says.

Most of the information in this article came from a Five Star Chemicals Webinar presented by Kara Taylor To view the webinar, click here.