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The Growler’s Unlabeled: Hazy IPA Blind-Tasting Event

Whose beers are they? That is part of the fun of the Unlabeled event!

On Thursday, July 18th at the Upper Landing Park in St. Paul, 48 breweries showcased their Hazy IPAs in a blind-tasting format. This Unlabeled Event, put on by The Growler focused on the beer and not the brand. It was a fantastic way to compare and contrast the beers, and the winner was a bit of a surprise.

What Is Blind Tasting?

Blind tasting sounds like you are literally wearing a blindfold as you taste the beer but it is not that. Rather, you go to one of 12 beer trailers and get an unlabeled flight. On the flight board, there are slots for beers A, B, C, and D. However, there are no indications of which brewery the beers are from. This provides you with a focus on the aroma, taste, look, and feel of the beers.

Photo by TJ Turner, The Growler

There’s An Unlabeled App For That

My biggest love of this event was centered around the Unlabeled app that people downloaded for free to rate the beers. You gave a beer a score totaling up to 50 points for Appearance, Aroma, Flavor, Overall Impression, and Mouthfeel.

What Worked Best

I have to say that The Growler did a great job with logistics for Unlabeled. There was ample seating, a good location with trees for shade, and the taster trays were easy to hold and carry. I love that Unlabeled put the focus on really focusing on the senses to taste beer. I think that events like Unlabeled really help educate people about beer and what a good and bad beer taste, smell, and look like.

Photo by TJ Turner, The Growler

What Didn’t Work So Well

Obviously, The Growler has no control over the weather. However, I didn’t like the fact that the beer was being poured out of pitchers that had been sitting out in the heat when there were refrigerated trailers right behind the volunteers. Some of the beers were too warm to really enjoy and that is one thing that might have helped. Again, not anyone’s fault about the weather, just a suggestion for improvement.

While I love 48 different options. I am a little OCD about completing things and it was tough to try all 48 beers. Hazy IPAs are a difficult style to taste repeatedly and so I think that they should mix in a pilsner station every few trailers so people can refresh their palate or just have a beer break from the intensely-hopped Hazy IPAs.

My Biggest Unlabeled Takeaway

Aside from Omni Brewing’s FAD winning the fan choice for best Hazy IPA, this event showed that there are a lot of really bad Hazy IPAs. I think that this beer style has a ton of fluctuation from beer to beer. There are some consistent Hazy IPAs that have hype behind them and consumers love. There are also many breweries making Hazy IPAs so wrong that they give the style a bad name. I get that hype drives a lot of what breweries make, but I don’t think that it behooves anyone-consumers or brewery owners-to put out something that is really bad, regardless of the fact that it is a hip style to sell.

The blind-tasting highlighted the good, which I feel was about 20 percent of the ones I tasted. I think that as this style continues to mature, the bar will rise and they will get better as a whole. However, I think that even in places in like Colorado, Oregon, and Michigan, a great Hazy IPA is harder to find than it should be.

So, I loved the event and am already looking forward to the next Unlabeled Blind-Tasting Event that will be taking place on Friday, September 20th at the Upper Landing Park in St. Paul. That event will highlight a style that many of us love with reckless abandon: Oktoberfests!

Kudos to The Growler

Lastly, I want to thank the entire battery of volunteers, Growler Staff and breweries who signed up to make this happen. As a beer geek, I love an opportunity to educate myself about beer. I think that the conversations that people were having about the beers really illustrated the immense passion that this community has for beer. I want more of these events to showcase a beer style, but also provide the vehicle for rich beer conversation and camaraderie to flourish. Prost!

Dan Beaubien has been involved with Beerploma since 2014 although his passion for craft beer dates back to 2006 when he started traveling for beer.  Dan mostly covers craft beer events, festivals, brewery openings/releases, and beer reviews. Dan has a soft spot in his heart for authentic British Style ales, IPAs, and all things barrel-aged.  If you have any questions or comments about this article feel free to email Dan at dan.beaubien@beerploma.com .