The “Chlorophyll” Hazies
At Paste Magazine, Jim Vorel writes the article I’ve been meaning to get around to. He identifies two qualities common to hazy IPAs that result from using too many hops. It’s his second point I’d like to highlight:
“All too often, NE-IPAs now lusting for that “juicy” profile are simply taking their hop rates too far, and as a result they’re losing the very thing they’re seeking. These beers are being hopped at such rates that the delicate impressions of fresh fruit are lost, and all that remains is the overwhelming flavor of plant matter. And mind you, this is a style where a touch of “grass clippings” as a flavor note can be considered a good thing. But when a hazy IPA tastes like a mouthful of wet leaves, then we’ve clearly overshot what was intended, and it’s time to stop pretending that this is a desirable result.”
This is a flavor note I’ve come to recognize thanks to a decade slurping fresh-hop beers. Like hazies, fresh hopped beers often receive insane amounts of hops by brewers who are chasing a percent or two more of that elusive fresh-hop goodness. Hazy-makers do the same thing, reasoning that if two pounds per barrel of Citra is good, four pounds must be amazing. There is only so much juice a brewer can squeeze from hops, however, but there are other unwanted compounds that keep on rising with higher additions. The most obvious to my tongue is that “plant-matter” flavor Jim describes. In fresh-hopped beers, people have begun to call that note “chlorophyll,” and perhaps it could be used to describe hazy IPAs as well. (Stan Hieronymus, who knows a lot more about hops than I, is skeptical; caveat emptor.)
Here is a fake graph that describes my experience. The sweet spot is in that zone where plant flavor is low and juice is pretty high. Once the juice curve starts flattening, the chlorophyll starts spiking and pretty soon you’re upside-down on these elements.
My sense is that consumers are either slow to notice this flavor, they haven’t been trained to recognize it yet, or they don’t find it objectionable. (It’s possible some people like me are especially sensitive to it, too, but this seems the least likely explanation.) I would love to hear your own observations. Do you get a plant-matter flavor in some hazies? If so, do you find it objectionable?
Speaking of Hazies…
I’ve been keeping another small observation in my pocket to whip out at the right moment. Since it doesn’t merit a full post, how about now?
Some large percentage of hazies (half?) are one-offs. The demands of the market for both hazy IPAs and new hazy IPAs means breweries are constantly throwing new combinations together. Each time a one-off goes into production, though, there’s a really good chance it will emerge not fully realized. Experienced brewers can improve the odds, but there’s still a good chance that it’s not quite there. Even very simple beers often require fine-tuning in process or ingredient. With all the intense flavors modern hops bring, putting them all in harmony on the first try becomes a harder trick. That means a lot of hazies are on the market that are just 80% dialed in. Or 70%, or 60%.
This is certainly my experience, and I’ve spoken with brewers who complain about it themselves. I’m not entirely sure how this cycle stops, but it’s a downside of the current hazy crazy—you end up drinking a bunch of half-baked examples. So far we haven’t seen any inkling that the hazy bubble is getting ready to burst.
COVER PHOTO: Craftbeer.com