Haze: Misconceptions

A little clarity on one of beer's hottest topics

By Shana Solarte

May 15, 2023

As we’ve discussed previously — and you may have gathered just by looking at your local draft lists — hazy beer is here to stay. And, honestly, we think it’s pretty cool! The more we learn about haze, the more we’ve come to view it as another tool that brewers can use to perfect and influence their beer. 

We’ve done extensive research on how haze forms and stays in beer, and we’d like to discuss a few common misconceptions about haze.

Misconception: You have to use a low-flocculating yeast to achieve hazy beer.

If you’re new to brewing hazy beers, you may hear people say that using a low-flocculating yeast is key for haze stability. There’s still common lore that the haze found in hazy IPAs is due to yeast cells in suspension. This has led to many haze-forward beers eventually dropping clear, as even the lowest flocculators drop out of suspension over time. The result: draft pours with varying levels of haze, and pours from the bottom of the keg often lead to a very unappealing amount of yeast in the beer. It’s also bad for packaged beer, requiring consumers to avoid pouring into a glass, or even being instructed to roll and pour” the can to get yeast resuspended. So perhaps we can use that as a starting point: the approach to making beers reliably hazy is not yeast in suspension.

Additionally, our research indicates that flocculation does not correlate with haze stability. We have found examples of low- and even high-flocculating yeasts that are what we refer to as haze-positive strains, meaning that they behave in such a way that they create stable haze in beer under certain conditions.

Haze vs flocculation

Figure 1: Based on our trials, flocculation does not seem to influence haze positivity. We found haze-positive strains at both the low and high ends of flocculation.

Misconception: Adjuncts are necessary for haze.

Over the years, people have tried everything to bring in more protein and beta-glucans, like loading up the mash with wheat and oats, or even using gallotannin products for polyphenols. There have even been rumors over the years that some brewers were adding raw flour in the boil. These can all be tools for developing haze and contribute to it, though even those require a deft hand, as too much of it can cause instability and make your haze look like flakes of fish food. We’re here to tell you that none of this is strictly necessary — you can make haze with nothing but barley in the grist as long as you choose the right yeast strain for the job and pair it with a late dry hop addition.

To address this misconception, we conducted all of our haze experiments with 100% barley malt and achieved haze levels consistent with the haziest of hazy beers. Figure 2 below shows a wide array of haze-positive strains that achieved stable haze with a 100% barley malt grist.

Haze and yeast strains

Figure 2: NTU measurements of various yeast strains after dry hopping. All samples were made up of a 100% barley malt grist.

Misconception: Mid-fermentation dry hopping works best for haze.

While working to learn more about how strain choice affects haze, we encountered some interesting findings that strongly suggest that the later you dry hop, the hazier your beer will be — an observation that totally countered the existing conventional wisdom that mid-fermentation dry hopping was best.

For two different yeast strains, we took samples of 15°P wort made with 100% barley malt and dry hopped at a rate of 2lb/bbl (8g/L) at the following intervals: 

  • Control (no dry hop)

  • Knockout (in fermentor prior to pitching yeast)

  • Day 1

  • Day 2

  • Day 3

  • Day 4

  • Day 7

  • Double dry hop (half on day 1, half on day 7)

It was clear from both the haze-positive and haze-neutral strains that the late dry hopping resulted in the most haze. One of the most impactful findings was that regardless of timing, the haze-neutral strain really struggled to become truly hazy.

Dry hop timing

Figure 3: In addition to observing haze visually, we took NTU measurements to better understand how haze was forming in the haze-positive and haze-neutral strain samples.

Misconception: Hazy is lazy.

When the haze craze took off, some staunch traditionalists stood their ground against haze and some went so far as to say that hazy beers were only around because those brewers were too lazy and impatient to clear up their beers. But we, as well as many of our brewing friends, have found generating consistent haziness from batch to batch to be a tough task. Skim through any brewing advice forum online and you’ll see scores of brewers asking why their go-to hazy beer recipe is suddenly clearing up in the brite tank. 

The truth is that it can be a huge R&D effort to build stable haze into a product. Many small and even midsize breweries don’t often have the time or space to test out multiple strains of yeast and pair them with various grain bills to find their perfect mix. 

These beers require the same love and care as any others. We want to be gentle, careful, and un-rushed when making beer, and the concept of laziness’ implies that brewers are taking an easy or uncaring approach. If it was lazy or easy to make these kinds of beers, we wouldn’t be working so hard to unlock it.

Jude La Rose, Hop Butcher for the World

Our research on haze is geared toward understanding where haze comes from and how to perfect it, so brewers can reliably produce — or even avoid — haze in their beers. We strive to keep learning more about haze in brewing and will continue to share updates on our research as time goes on.

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