I recently conducted an experiment with Ken West, a good friend of mine who teaches philosophy at Kankakee Community College. It seems late in the game now to say hazy IPAs are all the rage, but they are here to stay.
There is always the debate amongst beer people which is the best brewery in Chicago, or your local area; what they really mean is who makes the best hazy beers? There are many breweries in contention for this crown, especially here in the Chicago area. Since the category was created a few years ago, a prominent Chicagoland brewery has won at Great American Beer Festival in the litany of categories that cover this style.
Alarmist Brewing won gold for Le Jus. Eris Brewery and Cidery won bronze in the same category for Foiken Haze. Penrose won bronze in 2019 and gold in 2020 for Goofy Boots. Old Irving Brewing took gold for Beezer. Corridor Brewery and Provisions won silver for Color for Life. They only have been doing this category for three years. That’s a lot of hardware for one city to take in a brand-new and ultra-popular category.
So, what one might do is get a group together buy these beers and do a blind taste test. The problem right now is we can’t get a bunch of people together in winter safely. So, I chose the next best thing.
Ken and I have had a few beers together during the years. Ken likes good beer but isn’t conversant in the contemporary trends. He knows what he likes and recognizes a few names, but the names and buzz around these things he is largely unfamiliar with. I thought this might be an interesting place to start.
I have shared with him a few different styles of hazy beers; he didn’t know that I was experimenting on him at the time to see what style he preferred in this fairly diverse category. It seemed he liked the straight for DDH hazy IPA; didn’t have to have fruit, didn’t have to be a particular hop, didn’t have to be a milkshake, didn’t have to be sour — just a straight forward version of this style was acceptable, so I crafted a session and wanted to see what would happen.
I chose the freshest beers I could find at The Open Bottle from the best Chicago breweries that were available with an eye toward which largely would be considered the Haze House Chicago of our more than 200 breweries. My thinking here is people’s perceptions of the beer they are tasting is the name on the can. So, if I were to sample them with a person who likes the style but the brands don’t matter, then I might be able to get an accurate read.
Here is the list:
Hop Butcher for the World Double Blazed Orange
This beer wasn’t a perfect pick because it is a milkshake IPA with vanilla and fruit added, but I wanted Hop Butcher to be in the mix, and that was the one I could get my hands on.
More Brewing Main Course
More is a legendarily popular brewery here in Chicagoland. It has won multiple medals for its barrel-aged stouts at Festival of Wood and Barrel-Aged Beer and is generally on the top-10 list of any person in Chicago.
Noon Whistle Brewing Gummy Banter
Noon Whistle is an award-winning brewery out of Lombard that has a serious hazy IPA game, though they brew a variety of styles. I included it because I love their beer, it was fresh at the time, and their Gummy series is really popular.
Phase Three Brewing DDH Full Frame
Phase Three is one of the breweries I test to see what the fuss is about because their beer is so universally beloved.
Penrose Double Galactic Boots
A brewery that has won two awards in this nascent beer category at the biggest beer festival in the land, Penrose is on this list as an underdog. Again, I got this version because it was fresh at the time and available. I like Galaxy hops. With Boots in the name, I thought it might be a close cousin to the Goofy Boots line. Penrose can correct me if I am wrong.
Hubbard’s Cave V50 Fresh DIPA
Hubbard’s Cave makes this cut because I love their beer. They were one of the first breweries in Chicago to really go deep into this category, and made it popular to serialize their beers so you always could check into the freshest and latest hop combinations. V50 features Citra, so it meshed with the flavor profile of DDH Full Frame, Gummy Banter and Main Course.
You have read this far, so you must be waiting to see what Ken picked as the best beer of the night that will advance to the next round. The Hop Butcher pick was a bit of a zag on this occasion, so the orange and the vanilla pervaded that experience. Obviously, Double Blazed Orange was a favorite but should be set aside.
The second pick and the true winner of the evening was Penrose Double Galactic Boots, which shocked even me. I drank them all right alongside him over some deep philosophy chat late into the evening. They are all fantastic — well worth the price of admission. I was partial to More’s Main Course, but my opinion is biased in these matters.
The runner up in Ken’s estimation was Noon Whistle’s Gummy Banter, and I base that solely on the fact he took a photo of the cans that night and went and bought some Gummy Banter from Liquor World later that week.
Here are your champions from the first session of The Hazed Beer Experiment: Penrose Double Galactic Boots and Noon Whistle Gummy Banter. Next time, there will be six different breweries, and we will keep going until we get them all.