Welcome to Liquid Lowdown, a column exploring the strange, beautiful world of local drinks. Each entry will spotlight one craft liquid made right here in metro Phoenix (or just beyond). Lowdowns will feature mostly beer, but we’ll also take detours into other alcoholic beverages. Snap open a can or thrum the cork from a bottleneck. Cheers. Let’s get weird.
Style: Hazy IPA
Name: Helical Haze
ABV: 7.6 percent
Maker: Simple Machine Brewing Company
Lowdown: By now, the Phoenix beer scene has matured to the point that drinkers tend to know what they want. There is this brewery for sours, that one for aged stouts, this spot for Saturday releases, and your favorite for everything in between. Our better breweries have had years to cultivate followings, and they’re only getting better at what they do. It isn’t easy for a newcomer to make a mark.
Simple Machine Brewing Company is looking to be an exception.
The small, three-barrel brewery opened in Deer Valley (701 West Deer Valley Road, #1) in January 2020. It has won a loyal following and has been rolling out solid, ambitious brews from its early days.
That’s thanks largely to Marshall Norris, head brewer. Before taking the mash paddle at Simple Machine, he helped pilot PHX Beer Co.’s transition. He’s also logged time at Borderlands Brewing Company (Tucson) and Helton Brewing Company. Norris digs being the new kid on the block. It gives him the latitude to have fun.
“We have a lot of flexibility to experiment, to see what’s sticking, to try new ideas and styles,” he says.
Recently, that has meant beers like a dunkelweizen and a pastry sour with cherry, vanilla, and graham cracker, the latter released for Simple Machine’s first anniversary. But that has also meant more conventional brews, like Simple Machine’s take on the new-classic hazy IPA: Helical Haze.
In the trajectory of the IPA revival, which began with this millennium’s craft beer boom, the hazy IPA is more of a newcomer that has become a must-have for breweries. It’s less astringent than the bitter West Coast bombs that peaked a decade ago. Its chief hallmark is an opaque, turgid body, a haze that is tasty unfiltered particles. If you drink beer, you probably know all of this. Hazy is everywhere.
Helical Haze, Simple Machine’s house hazy IPA, looks like cloudy pineapple juice in the sun and peach juice in the shade. It pours with a creamy, foamy head. It clocks in at 7.6 percent ABV, on the headier side for a hazy IPA. This was a change that Norris made as he developed the recipe, tamping down maltiness and dialing up the hops.
“We intentionally wanted to shoot the beer higher, because we wanted some residual sweetness with a heavier body,” Norris says.
Upfront, the beer has notes of citrus and piney florals. These slide away into a gently bitter endnote of unshy hops. This is an IPA that embraces hops from several angles, that doesn’t try to suppress their inner bitterness, but that does so without sacrificing everything to the bitter gods like a West Coast IPA.
Most of the higher ABV is tucked behind the hoppy profile, born from a nearly even mix of Cascade (a classic) and Cashmere (“one of the most underrated hops,” Norris says, “throwing off … a vanilla flavor, a very cool melon, grapefruit”).
Norris says that Helical Haze is consistently tied for first in Simple Machine’s sales. It costs $6 for a pint in-house, $16 as a four-pack to take home.
For a new brewery, this is a really solid hazy IPA — one that can hang with plenty of established brews, one that gets you juiced for what Simple Machine might do in the future.
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