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Hazy and juicy IPAs are all the rage, but let's not forget the hoppier brews that got us here.

While traveling through southwest Michigan a few weeks ago, I stumbled across a stack of at least a dozen six packs of Bell’s The Oracle IIPA at a well-stocked beer store. A couple of years ago this find would have been an embarrassment of riches. The limited brew was extremely sought after and didn’t stay on store shelves too long.  Also, this summer was its first release in two years.

OK, I know the fact that I was an hour from the Bell’s brewery played a factor, but I can’t help but think that changing tastes are part of why I had easy access to an amazing beer that’s not on the regular rotation at Bell’s. The same beer store can’t keep M-43, Old Nation’s exceptional hazy IPA, on the shelves for more than a day or two, but there sat The Oracle.

The Rise of the Juice

The hazy IPA trend is definitely a bandwagon that I’ve jumped on since sampling my first beers from Boston’s Trillium Brewing a few years ago. These juicy brews don’t appear to be going anywhere.

In March, the Brewers Association added three styles of juicy/hazy IPAs — juicy or hazy pale ale, juicy or hazy IPA, and juicy or hazy double IPA — to its style guidelines. The list under the North American Origin Ales category already included pale ale, IPA, imperial IPA and session IPA.

In May, the Brewers Association released numbers that show the speedy growth of the category and that juicy/hazy IPAs are actually outpacing pilsners in the craft beer industry.

Juicier IPAs were well-represented at the Wisconsin IPA Fest in August with Central Waters Unsettled and The Fermentorium Juice Packets placing second and third respectively among beer judges. Eagle Park Brewing‘s Demon Haze — which expertly combines juiciness with a hint of dank bitterness, and in my humble opinion is the best interpretation of the style made in the state — took home the people’s choice award.

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Seeing through the Haze

Juicy is fine, but I feel bad that I’ve neglected my bitter old friends. I’m dedicated to revisiting the more traditional (that’s a broad term in this category) IPAs. I think back nostalgically to before the juice invasion when flavor profiles were at the opposite extreme and hop bitterness was a measure of pride. A time when the aptly named Green Flash Palate Wrecker was a frequent resident of my fridge or when my go-to beer was anything by Three Floyds.

It’s good to put down the cloudy glass from time to time to remember some of the outstanding beers that won people over with hops and revisit some newer brews that also celebrate the style.

Bell's Two Hearted Ale with a pint glass

Photo courtesy of Bell’s Brewing

1) Bell’s Brewing Two Hearted Ale

The extremely drinkable ale is a perfectly crafted beer. Old-school Centennial hops provide subtle bitterness, while significant bready malt flavor lends to drinkability. It’s still one of my favorite beers.

2) Three Floyds Brewing Permanent Funeral Imperial IPA

An unapologetically potent 10.5% ABV hop bomb. The balance of piney bitterness with a hint of malt sweetness results in a exceptionally smooth brew, despite it registering at palate wrecking 100 IBUs (international bitterness units).

3) Maine Beer Company Lunch IPA

Maine Beer Co. recently arrived in Milwaukee, and that means we now have access to this limited gem. It’s a West Coast IPA brewed in the northeast that features delicious piney grapefruit flavor.

4) Ale Asylum Bedlam! Belgian IPA

A gateway beer for those trying to go from juicy back to bitter. It has a nice slightly sweet fruitiness, but a hint of hops and a fairly clean finish thanks to the use of Belgian yeasts.

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5) Third Space Brewing Upward Spiral IPA

The West Coast IPA claimed gold for Third Space at Wisconsin IPA Fest, and it earned it. Upward Spiral is big on citrus flavor and is another beer on this list that goes down smooth.

6) Good City Brewing Reward Imperial IPA

Dankness used to be extremely popular before the juice revolution. Reward revisits that with a resinous hop profile that creates a great sipper. Recommended fresh from the tap at Good City.

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