It comes as absolutely NO surprise to me that Deschutes – once they overcame their initial…well, let’s charitably call it “reservations” about hazy beers – would make one of the two or three best hazys I’ve bumbled upon yet. And “bumbled” is the precise term.
I freely admit that I greeted the whole NEIPA Thang with open scorn. For starters, hazy beers are nothing new. Mac & Jack’s African Amber has been hazy since 1993. Widmer Hefeweizen has been an outright milkshake beer since even before that. To some extent – and you should be aware of this – the over-the-top, fogbank, opaque murkiness of these current hazy ales, while not especially harmful to the beer, is just gratuitous. They don’t NEED to be completely opaque to convey those flavors. Ya want proof? Great! Take a bottle of Stone “Delicious” or Deschutes “Fresh Squeezed” and taste ’em side-by-side with your favorite hazy. The power of suggestion will initially lead you to believe that the hazy shows more citrus and florals and tropical fruit but a closer examination of what’s in yo’ mouf will reveal that to be an illusion.
No less an authority than Wayne Wambles, brewmaster at Tampa’s Cigar City Brewing – arguably the brewery that has done both the first and the best job of experimenting with tropical and fruit and wood flavor possibilities – has written several times on the fact that filtered beers can produce the same flavors that hazys can and Wayne Should know because he’s done it in a couple dozen of his ales.
But, as with any style of beer, there are great examples of this overcast thing and God-awful examples. And, as always, the bad outnumber the good. So – again, as with every type of beer – great breweries make great beers, consistently and on purpose, while mediocre ones stumble across one on rare occasions.
Deschutes is a great brewery and Deschutes “Fresh Haze” IPA is a great, flat-damned delicious and approachable, well-conceived, and wildly appealing beer.
This ale doesn’t need to be oversold, so I won’t even try. All you have to do is taste it. That’s all. Just dribble some into your piehole and let it coat your tongue and the Deal is Done.
Setting aside the issues of turbidity (hazy beers are cloudy because of undissolved solids in suspension) and shelf life (undissolved solids precipitate out. Simple physics. CANNOT be avoided or engineered around), starting with a great flavor profile is the way any ale states its case. (For those with a geeky bent, the haze is produced by the use of malts and extracts like malted and unmalted wheats and flaked barley that contain proteins that produce conspicuous hazing. Those, however, don’t really account for the signature flavors of the style(!). That’s hops and yeasts and brewerly skill.) And Fresh Haze’s case is stated with authority, from Sip One. Cascades and waves of tropicals and citrus and melons and stone fruit and a lovely, distinct shot of fresh tangerine meld seamlessly with sutble spices and a lovely, grapefruity seam of bright, resiny hops, all couched in a satiny texture and a creamy mousse of tiny bubbles.
As with every Deschutes beer I’ve ever tasted, even the two or three that I didn’t like all that much, Fresh Haze is wickedly drinkable and never once strays into that childish territory (that many brewers love) of confronting the customer. Whether it’s this ale or The Dissident or The Stoic or even The Abyss, Deschutes beers can be sipped and enjoyed without any of the “test of manhood” baloney that so many younger beer geeks think is what “serious beer fan” means. It’s not but you can’t tell them that and that very thing is why you will occasionally read something like what I got from a reader about six years ago…
“Deschutes’ beers are okay; maybe a little flabby for my tastes but I’d drink one, if somebody handed it to me. I’d rather have a _______ or a _______ but they’re not awful.”
Fresh Haze is just one more classic, compulsively drinkable ale from what is unarguably the Pacific Northwest’s best major brewery. It’s fresh and sexy and engrossing and smoooooth and delicious and, really, what more can you ask from either a new beer or its brewery? 98 Points