Start 14-Day Trial Subscription

*No credit card required

Ryan Newhouse's picture

Are Hazy New England IPAs Ruining the UK Beer Scene?

hazy new england ipas uk beer

The Hazy New England IPA is a beer that’s been called by many names: NEIPA, juice, “fad,” and “the first beer style based around Instagram culture,” which Brooklyn Brewery Brewmaster Garrett Oliver claimed in 2017. Over the last few years, the Hazy New England IPA has proven to be anything but a fad in the U.S., so the time has come to test the waters by crossing the pond, where this style is being brewed and served throughout the United Kingdom The question is whether or not the NEIPA will actually destroy the wide variety of real ales and famed beer styles in the U.K. in favor of the “monoculture” of unfiltered, hopped-up brews.

For the uninitiated, the Hazy New England IPA’s “patient zero” is arguably Heady Topper from Vermont's The Alchemist Brewery, which debuted in 2004. Unlike its predecessor in the IPA category, the famed West Coast IPA, which is predominantly bitter, the NEIPA uses hops to attain sweet and juicy flavors and aromas. And to be so Insta-worthy, this beer style’s haze comes from being unfiltered, leaving suspended residual hop particles and proteins from wheat and oat that make up a substantial part of this beer’s grain bill.

To tackle the question at hand of whether the NEIPA is a threat to U.K.’s beer culture, it would be unwise to compare what it did to the U.S. beer industry to what it might do across the pond. Yes, NEIPA has been a boon for U.S. beer sales in the last several years. IRI data has shown that when three of the top five largest craft breweries rolled out their Hazy IPAs (Sierra Nevada Brewing, New Belgium Brewing, and Sam Adams), they sold a combined $5.2 million in Q1 of 2018. Sierra Nevada’s Hazy Little Thing IPA took the lion’s share of those sales with $3,042,250 in sales.

At the end of the 2018 Q1, the Brewers Association announced new beer style categories for that year’s GABF judging categories, and yes, among them were “juicy or hazy IPAs.” The response to the new categories was overwhelming. Combining the GABF entries for juicy or hazy IPAs and juicy or hazy pale ales and double IPAs, the BA received a total of 706 entries. This beat out the previous record-holding beer style debut, the IPA, which had 331 entries in 2002. By 2019, the NEIPA was showing up on “Top Emerging Beer Styles” lists everywhere.

coast beer co hazy ipa
The question remains whether or not the NEIPA will actually destroy the wide variety of real ales and famed beer styles in the U.K. in favor of the “monoculture” of unfiltered, hopped-up brews.

Let’s return to the debate. By inference, the NEIPA is poised to disrupt the British beer pub culture far worse than it has disrupted the U.S. beer culture because A) we already had a variety of ales and IPAs in the U.S. so the change isn’t as drastic and B) the U.K. beer scene has long been sacred and supported by entities such as CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale), BBPA (British Beer Pub Association) and SIBA (Society for Independent Brewers). As NEIPAs are a clearly American style that are focused on hugely tropical and juicy aromas and flavors, it would surely be an outlier from what’s typically served in England.

The first hint the world got that NEIPA is infiltrating the U.K. was in early 2018, when Adnams Brewery, a storied 147-year-old British brewery based in Southwold, East Suffolk, announced it was brewing and releasing a New England IPA.

“The release has gone very well, and people are really enjoying our NEIPA. However, sales are modest compared to our cask/traditional beer,” says Sarah Fisk, Corporate Relations Manager at Adnams.

“Beer has always had an element of fashion about it, and there will always be drinkers who like to follow ‘fashion’ and then those who will stick to their favorite traditional ales,” Fisk continues. “As a brewer we aim to provide drinkers with a wide range of styles and will continue to do so.”

With modest sales, does that mean that the NEIPA was just a trial for Adnams? No, it’s not going away. “It’s a popular product and we are certainly going to be brewing it for the foreseeable future,” says Fisk.

From this first example we see that British beer drinkers may not be as eager as we Americans are to jump headfirst into the next new thing. However, there are signs that the NEIPA is not just a flash in the pan in the U.K.

The Society for Independent Brewers (SIBA), which supports over 830 independent brewers across the U.K., is hosting its annual BeerX UK, the U.K.’s biggest beer and brewing trade event, in March. Its invited keynote speaker is Jean-Claude “JC” Tetreault from Massachusetts-based Trillium Brewing Company. According to SIBA, they see Tetreault as “of one of America’s most influential brewers of the last ten years, and a front-runner of the craze for hazy New England IPAs.” If anything, it shows that independent brewers in the U.K. have questions, lots of them, and those questions are about the NEIPA.

adnams southwold new england ipa
The first hint the world got that ​NEIPA is infiltrating the U.K. was in early 2018, when Adnams Brewery, a storied 147-year-old British brewery based in Southwold, East Suffolk, announced it was brewing and releasing a New England IPA.

Two items of note here, SIBA followed the Brewers Association’s suit and also adapted the “juicy or hazy IPA” style for its 2018 Independent Beer Awards. And the brewery just across the street from the upcoming BeerX UK conference, Love Lane Brewing, is brewing a special NEIPA in honor of the conference and its keynote speaker.

Could the U.K. beer market even sustain the NEIPA if it wanted to? The likely answer is yes. Looking at data from Statista, we see that the U.K. is the fourth-largest beer market in the world. Furthermore, the U.K. market is expected to grow annually by 3.6% between 2020-2023 (though it has dipped at times, including a 2.2% drop in Q2 2019).

And just how much of this beer market is made up of NEIPA? “I am afraid we don’t have specific data tracking sales of the NEIPA beer style,” says Nick Lawrie, Digital Communications Manager at the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA). “We split our beer style sales data into lager, stout and ale segments.”

In the U.K., lager is still king. “Lager makes up over 75% of beer sales in the U.K. and is still growing,” Lawrie explains. “Whereas ale has fallen slightly, and stouts have stayed around the same level in recent years.” Lager is up, ale is down, stouts are… standing stout. Where does this leave us in knowing what’s ahead?

“Unfortunately, because we don’t track sales of NEIPA specifically, we cannot determine if it is having an impact on these more traditional styles of beer,” Lawrie offers. “Ale has fallen slightly as I say, but it is not clear if that is because it has lost sales to lager or to other styles such as NEIPA.”

If the Hazy New England IPA is currently ruining the U.K. beer scene, or intends to, it will likely be a death of a thousand pints and not by a tsunami of hops. British breweries are making them, competitions are judging them, some pubs are tapping them, a notable handful of U.K. beer drinkers are consuming them, and the social media culture is alive and well in England. While the future still seems lager-filled for now, the inroads that NEIPA has made is something to monitor in the U.K. going forward – however hazy the road (and the beers) may be.

unbarred brewery haze of glory

All Images Courtesy Twitter/Respective Brewery

Table of Contents