Boston Beer Co. is hopping aboard the haze train.
The brewer will soon begin shipping kegs of a hazy New England-style IPA around Massachusetts and possibly New Hampshire, becoming the first major domestic brewery with national distribution to distribute a style of beer that until now has been the domain of the small craft brewer.
To be released under its Samuel Adams label, the company’s New England IPA has been brewed since last year but offered only at its Boston brewery and in growlers. Based on response that a company spokeswoman says was “very positive,” the brewery will now release kegs to select retail accounts.
New England-style IPAs, sometimes called NEIPAs, Northeast IPAs or double dry-hopped IPAs, are essentially unfiltered or double IPAs that are aggressively hopped. They range from slightly hazy to downright murky in appearance and tend to be lower in bitterness and heavy with fruity or floral aromas. Some compare the appearance and taste of some of these beers, which tend toward higher alcohol by volume, to orange juice.
Brewers achieve the beer’s signature hazy appearance by the use of dry hopping, the incorporation of high-protein grains such as flaked oats and wheat and certain yeast strains.
The style originated on the East Coast at breweries such as The Alchemist, Hill Farmstead Brewery and Trillium Brewing Company, but is now one of the buzziest styles of craft beer and brewed virtually across the country.
Some nationally distributed brewers such as Stone Brewing Co. and Ballast Point Brewery have released unfiltered versions of their IPAs, which leave behind residual yeast and hop matter that can make them hazy, but none thus far have distributed a beer with New England-style called out on their labels.
Boston Beer says it doesn’t plan for now to distribute the beer beyond its home market. But other larger craft breweries are jumping on the style. Stone plans this month to release a New England-inspired double IPA called Nor’East Nod in large-format bottles as part of its 21st anniversary series. And San Diego-based Coronado Brewing Co., which distributes its beer in 16 states, this year released a seasonal New England-style IPA called North Island IPA.
Samuel Adams’ foray into hazy IPA comes as the brand is mired in a sales rut. Although parent Boston Beer posted a 1 percent increase in revenue for its most-recent quarter, CEO Jim Koch said one of the company’s top priorities is returning Samuel Adams to growth “through improving our messaging and innovation.”
Case volume of the franchise is down 19.7 percent year-to-date through August 5, according to Nielsen cross-channel data. Its case share of the craft segment has slipped to 7.2 percent, down from 9.1 percent a year ago.