Add craft powerhouse Sierra Nevada to the list of breweries trying to capitalize on the “haze craze” with its year-round IPA Hazy Little Thing. My Untappd feed is saturated with check-ins for hazy IPAs, so I can’t blame Sierra Nevada for wanting in on the action, but I am always a little leary of widely distributed beers in this style.
The hazy IPA relies heavily on freshness, since the hop oils that those juicy citrus and tropical fruit notes depend on are quick to lose their punch. This does not pose much of an issue when buying straight from a brewery within days of canning, but distributing a beer introduces a myriad of temperature and time variables that impact the product in ways the brewer cannot control.
Sierra Nevada takes on the style anyway, and the resulting beer certainly looks the part in my appropriately branded IPA glass. It’s bright and golden orange, with enough haze to hold onto some light, but not so much that it looks like a milkshake IPA. Sitting on top is a good two fingers of light fluffy white head that clings to the sides of the glass.
It doesn’t boast the juice bomb-like qualities of the best hazy IPAs nor the balance of Sierra Nevada’s best hoppy offerings.”
I pick up more hop bitterness on the nose than most fruit-forward beers of this style. Citrus rind dominates the aroma with hints of lemon, orange and grapefruit. Tropical fruit notes of mango and pineapple show up, but they take a backseat to the bitter citrus. The overall aroma is a little soapy, as the play between the sweet and bitter qualities of the fruit is slightly out of balance.
That bitterness that dominated the nose carries through to the taste. I wonder if punching up the bitterness is Sierra Nevada’s way of coping with the inevitable degradation of the other hop flavors during distribution. Either way, it’s a well-rounded bitterness that is complimented by a muted fruitiness. The orange and lemon carry through, but mostly present as sweetness, with a hint of tropical fruit peeking through as well.
Hazy Little Thing would be better if Sierra Nevada could coax a little more brightness out of the hop additions to balance the sweetness of the fruit flavors and malt bill. The bitterness that is present seems to compete with the sweetness rather than help to balance it. While hazy IPAs typically have a soft mouthfeel, this beer is more thin than soft. At 6.0% ABV, I definitely would hope for more body and have had several hazy IPAs in this ABV range that deliver on the mouthfeel in a way Hazy Little Thing does not.
In the end, this is a beer caught in between. It doesn’t boast the juice bomb-like qualities of the best hazy IPAs nor the balance of Sierra Nevada’s best hoppy offerings.