i really am obsessed, y’all. i don’t even drink IPAs and yet, due to all the reviews i’ve read about this one and all the PR hype from sam adams, i’ve been keeping an eye out for this one in my local grocery stores. and i just happened to stop in this morning after my first dog walk to buy some water cuz i was out. (it was sweaty today!) so i took a look – though i walked past it the first time cuz they just threw it in with all the regular beer, not with the other NAs – and it was there! $8.99 for a six pack at rouses downtown. (and no, i don’t usually shop at rouses anymore but due to my tight schedule and location this was the best option to stop to get water.)
so yeah. sam adams – you’re probably familiar with them. boston beer company. one of the biggest “craft” breweries in the US, or the craft-iest corporate brewery in the US? your pick. there’s been a lot of controversy in the craft beer world over sam adams and i don’t want to get into all that. i don’t usually drink their beer, not on any kind of principle – i just never found it all that compelling. but they were pretty much the beginning of the craft beer movement.
“just the haze” is the newest, most hyped NA brew this year so when i saw it i figured, why not? i don’t usually like IPAs (at least with alcoholic beers) but i’ve been finding i have more of a tolerance for the bitterness of hops in the NA brews i’ve tried so i thought, well maybe? it’s a “hazy, juicy” IPA – i actually never really knew what that meant since i don’t drink IPAs – but i’m learning it’s exactly what it sounds like. hazy, referring to the visual appearance of the beer, unfiltered, not crystal clear, like a lot of farmhouse ales i’ve enjoyed in the past. and juicy, meaning, duh, like it’s got juicy flavors and aromas.
what i didn’t realize about “just the haze” cuz i guess i blocked it out or just wasn’t paying attention when reading all those reviews is that one of the juices of the “juicy” is grapefruit. i really don’t like grapefruit! i have strong anti-grapefruit feelings and reactions. i don’t like the bitterness/tartness pucker factor. i prefer a sweeter citrus – orange, mandarine, satsuma. i can handle lemon and lime but grapefruit just puts me over the edge. so yeah. the predominant juiciness – though not the only – is grapefruit. (there’s also a lot of pineapple and kind of a lime and other tropical fruity thing going on – it’s quite complex – but the grapefruit kinda lingers on the back end after the initial sweeter pineapple and just screams at me. maybe it’s just me; maybe i’m just sensitive.)
i put a few in the fridge as soon as i got home from work but was worried they weren’t cold enough so i iced one down in the freezer for about 30-40 minutes while i cooked some dinner. that was almost too long, as when i poured it there was a little icy sludge starting to happen. so maybe that affected the taste some. i’ll revisit this review when i try the second one which didn’t go in the freezer.
my first taste surprised me… that there was so much going on and that the bitterness and sweetness both competed and harmonized at the same time. this brew is confusing to my palette! it’s quite light in body and taste, and smooth, still feels like a real beer in your mouth. i could see this being very thirst quenching on a hot day. it’s interesting to me.
what i don’t really notice much is an extreme hops bitterness i was expecting from something called an IPA. but it’s really much more subtle here, which upon more research i’m finding is a quality of juicy, hazy (or New England style) IPAs. which means “just the haze” is true to style. so maybe that’s why all the NA IPA heads are gushing over this beer, because it very well replicates an alcoholic juicy, hazy IPA.
for me the more subtle bitterness from multiple hops means i can tolerate it better, even with the grapefruit. i drank it with my dinner and it didn’t overwhelm it. i liked it enough to finish the whole thing and i will try another one before passing final judgement. but i might give away the rest of the six pack unless i have a very different experience, as i’m not sure given all my other options that i will want to reach for this beer over so many others. (i already have a few other citrus type beers that i like a lot more.) but i would probably be thrilled to find it as an option in a bar or restaurant that had limited NA options. so i’m glad i tried it to know what it’s like. and i learned something by trying it and doing the research – i learned what a hazy juicy IPA is!
(just for the record, according to sam adams’ site, this beer has an IBU of 35, which puts it in a moderate range though kinda low for an IPA. it has 98 calories per can, and it uses citra, mosaic, sabro, and cascade hops. the malts are listed as sam adams two-row pale malt blend, white wheat, golden naked oats.)
it’s still getting rolled out around the country (we JUST got it this week here in new orleans) but it will likely be THE most widely available craft NA IPA on the market since sam adams already has really wide distribution. i wouldn’t be surprised to eventually see this one on tap in the really devoted craft beer spaces as THE NA option. so maybe this beer will help sam adams get its groove back in the craft beer arena? we shall see.