Whenever a new fad comes up out of nowhere—whether it's fidget spinners, Hypercolor T-shirts, or any smartphone game ever—the backlash usually follows pretty quickly after. So it is with the "haze thing," as one frustrated employee at a large Oregon brewery put it not long ago.
The craze for so-called "New England IPAs" is undoubtedly reaching its pinnacle across the States as the clock takes us to summer. Take a stroll around the smaller craft breweries of the U.S.—the newer and more obscure ones in particular—and it's almost a lock that they've released an opaque IPA that goes overboard on Azacca and Citra hops for an almost fruit juice-like quality. Chances are it was released in 4-packs of plain cans, often with a sticker hand-slapped on it, and chances are people have tried to sell it on gray-market Facebook groups for far beyond face value.
This is exactly how small, regional outfits such as Monkish in SoCal, Tree House in Massachusetts and even an Austin, Texas brewpub named Pinthouse Pizza have earned national attention. Release a decent NEIPA, let the lines run out the door, and ride the craze. Traditionalists might howl at them—the lack of clarity, missing head, and chunks of yeast floating around violate well near everything they teach at brewing school—but it's undoubtedly something new in an industry eternally looking for the next new thing.
Now it's firmly Oregon's turn. The 2017 edition of Fort George Brewery's 3-Way IPA is now floating around bar taps and beer shops, and it's arguably the most "authentic" hazy beer to go on sale in Bend proper. Every year, the Astoria-based outfit releases an IPA collaboration between itself and two other Pacific Northwest breweries, and in '17 it's between Fort George, Seattle-based Reuben's Brews, and Great Notion Brewing in Portland. Great Notion, of course, is the outfit that opened in early 2016 and is already having to launch a second, 30-barrel facility in northwest Portland just to keep up with demand for Juice Box and the rest of their IPA lineup.
And while it's a collaboration, the final 3-Way might as well have been labeled a Great Notion product. Fort George jokingly describes it as "juicy, light in color, juicy and fruit-forward, extra juicy, with oats and wheat for a smooth, juicy mouthfeel," and there's really not much to add beyond that. It's very representative of Great Notion's product, and whether the solidly orange IPA impresses or not, there's nothing like it on the Oregon market.
One knock that certainly can be made on this year's 3-Way is that—unlike previous collabs—it's just not very hoppy-tasting, at least by Oregon standards. For a truly NW-NEIPA (?) experience, head over to Sunriver Brewing and try their Vermont Vacation IPA this summer. It shares a lot of properties with 3-Way, from the murky color to the Citra-hop fruity taste, but it's also got more than a whiff of the hop bitterness locals have been enjoying from their "mainstream" IPAs for years.