Lawson’s Listens to Consumers to Make “First” Hazy IPA

Lawson’s Finest Liquids is one of the breweries credited with starting what is now called the “New England IPA” style. Of course, with a variety of iterations of the style now, and a changing palate of consumers, a brand like Lawson’s “Sip of Sunshine” brand — one of those early purveyors of the style — isn’t seen as a true NEIPA anymore.

Sean Lawson, CEO, and founding brewer, recognized that along with his team and have adjusted accordingly with the debut of a new year-round brand that debuted called “Hazy Rays.”

“It’s funny because it’s an outgrowth of sort of our trajectory,” Lawson said. “For years people have been asking, ‘When are you going to make a hazy IPA?’ And I was like, ‘Wait, I thought we already made hazy IPAs.’

“I’ve never thought of Sip as the New England-style IPA. It’s an IPA that’s brewed in New England. And it’s fresh and a little bit hazy. But the style of hazy and juicy has really evolved over the years to become much more opaque and more heavily focused on very high volumes of dry hop aroma and flavor with a softer, mouthfeel and less bitterness than a traditional American IPA.”

Hazy Rays joins Lawson’s lineup of flagship brands and can be found year-round in four packs of 16 oz. cans and 12-packs of 12 oz. cans alongside Sip of Sunshine, Little Sip, and Scrag Mountain Pils at retail stores across Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island.

READ MORE: The Concept That Makes Lawson’s Finest Liquids Pop on Shelves

It’s an additional year-round, but at the same time, Lawson’s is retiring its Super Session brand, which had a similar ABV of 4.8%.

“Hazy Rays is very much in that wheelhouse of juicy and hazy IPA with a soft mouthfeel, low bitterness, fruit-forward aroma, and flavor profile,” Lawson told Brewer Mag. “It comes in at 5.3% on the ABV.”

Lawson said over the past year or so they have looked at consumer insights beyond their own customer base.

“We did a survey about six months ago, both through social media and our email list, and found that hazy IPAs … were really high on people’s list of interests of beers that if they if we made them, what would they want to see us do,” Lawson said. “Those were the top at or near the top of the list. Then just seeing in the marketplace that Hazy IPA is really still very strongly on the rise and we wanted to speak to that segment of the market a little bit more clearly.”

It seems like a natural part of the evolution of the brand, he said.

“Even though it may seem a little late to the party, we’re very methodical in how we approach our beer and our recipe formulation and the branding,” Lawson said. “For something that’s just in the taproom, it’s a pretty quick innovation pipeline. But for beer that we launch out, that’s a year or more in the making. We’ve been working on this for probably more than a year at this point. It takes a while and that’s our that’s our approach is methodical.”

What Lawson said differentiates Rays from other similar Hazy IPAs is that it’s a little bit less opaque than a typical hazy.

“It’s a little bit more translucent, it really grabs the light and glows when it catches some sunlight,” he said. “Some of the hazy/juicy or New England style IPAs are so heavily dry hopped they start to become a little bit chewy or vegetal with hop character.

“We really wanted to ensure that ours was smooth, approachable, soft on the mouth, but still carry that nice, rounded impression of the citrus character in the beer without getting into any sort of hop strength. It’s a way that we describe beers that just give you this really intense impression of dry hopping in the mouthfeel.”

Lawson’s had to more than double its preorders based on projections that the wholesalers had given them after they announced it late in 2022. When speaking to Brewer, the beer had only been out for a week and depletions showed strong.

“Thankfully this is coming now in the spring and not at the height of summer,” Lawson said as more was being pumped out due to demand. “Summer is when tanks are all full. And so spring tends to be a little better for making room for changes, and for adding capacity.”

Lawson’s is planning on the next iteration of the style, which will be an imperial, hazy/juicy IPA. “We don’t even have the brand and the name ready to share yet, but it will be out later this summer,” he said. “It’s on our brand calendar as “High ABV Hazy” right now. So that’s something that we’re planning for.”

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