I couldn't care less if a beer is hazy or not. If it tastes good, it tastes good. Hell, some even look good, turning the brilliant jewel tone of a crystal-clear beer into a frosty glow. What confuses me is the militance with which so many beer folk approach this issue.
You find partisans on both sides spitting and snarling at each other (and, on occasion, discussing politely) the merits and dangers of the other's position. I find it baffling.
I can understand a discussion of the flavor impact that the additional matter in the beer can impart. I can understand those who express a concern that it encourages breweries that aren't named Tree House to push out beers that aren't ready yet. I can understand the position that young beers that haven't yet cleared might be a phenomenal and unique delivery mechanism for new and different flavors in beer.
What I can't understand is...
"Respect the Haze!"
That's what I read in a beer group on Facebook. "Respect the haze!"
A beer being hazy is not, in and of itself, some kind of signal that it's a better beer, or produced a certain way, or will have specific advantages over other beers. So what's with the glee over seeing a hazy beer? And why do some people seem to revel in it? And why do some breweries actually introduce stuff like flour into their beer to make it hazy???
Maybe it's just some kind of beer anti-establishmentarianism. What could be a bigger slap in the face to the hyper-controlled and over-processed and machine-made beers of the macro breweries than to release a beer that looks like someone just crushed chalk into it?
Or maybe it's that some people only get exposed to the best versions of these hazy beers, and so they actually do believe that there's some intrinsic advantage to it. I hope not, because they're in for a bit of a disappointment, eventually.
Or maybe they're just looking for anything "sophisticated" to say about beer, and they fixate on things that aren't debatable - it takes a bit of nerve to declare that you're tasting butter and grape and therefore you believe that there's a pedio infection in a beer. What if no one else tastes those things??? But everyone can SEE that the beer is hazy, and so it's an evaluation you can react to without fear of being wrong!
Trust - but Verify
Let me say this: anyone who celebrates or denigrates any beer just because it's hazy is probably approaching this stuff from a way-too-superficial perspective.
To the purists who say that hazy beer is much more often a sign of improper handling or immaturity and that we shouldn't encourage this in brewers/breweries...well, I agree, but I also think you should make allowance for reasonable experimentation and evolution in beer.
To the rebels who revel in haze for its own sake and say that some of the best beers in the world right now are hazy...well, I agree, but I also think that you should realize that throwing paint up against a wall doesn't make you Jackson Pollock. OK, some breweries make incredible beers that also happen to be hazy (like Tired Hands, pictured above). But a whole hell of a lot more are making beers for which haze, cloudiness, turbidity and the like are a sign of a weak brewery. And if you still like their beers, then great - drink them. But don't be surprised or offended when others point out that they don't, and that the haze might be a warning sign.
So, for everyone, maybe the right answer is to be wiling to believe that a hazy beer can be great - or that haze might suggest a problem. Don't be a hazist.
Clarity matters. Quality matters more. If it's a great-tasting beer, I'll forgive happily an irregularity in appearance even if it doesn't work as well for me as that brilliantly-clear beer. Hell, for some beers (basically everything Maine Beer Co. makes) I wouldn't care if it's brown sludge with the yeast lining up to spell out "Die, Josh, Die," I'm still going to drink it.
So let's not judge a beer by its cover. Don't assume that a hazy beer means a bad beer. But this also means that those of you parading around celebrating haze need to rein it in a bit, too.
And let's all, instead, join together in unified opposition to the idea of White Stout.
Keep it simple.