WayBird | Half Acre
I honestly can’t remember the last time I got hazy drunk. I would guess around 2017, as that’s when hazy beers really started blowing up in my mind. Over the years, the style has finally settled into something definitive – typically higher sweetness and “juiciness,” while lower on bitterness, malt and carbonation. After a few years of drinking them, my enthusiasm has significantly died down. I’m definitely back on having bitter and malty hoppy things in my life again. So when Half Acre announced WayBird, their new year-round hazy IPA, I had conflicting emotions.
On one hand, Half Acre absolutely knows their way around hoppy things. Daisy Cutter. GoneAway (formerly Senita, formerly Heyoka). Bodem. Vallejo. Space. I’m sure I’m missing some but you get the idea. On the other hand, making a hazy appeal to me now comes across as a very difficult proposition. I understand the style guidelines but typically like more bitterness than usual along with decreased sweetness. If any brewery is going to nail that in the area, it’ll be Half Acre.
WayBird pours like a typical hazy IPA with a dingy gold or amber color. It’s a homogenous color too, with little to no “light on top but dark on the bottom” gradient thing happening. A finger of white head forms on top of the beer and then reduces to a thin layer. Even while looking at the beer I could smell all the tropical and citrus fruits; it literally filled the room. Papaya, mango, cantaloupe, and orange dance about your nose while a small hint of pine sneaks in at the end. These aromas are aggressive, plentiful, and much closer to a hazy DIPA than a hazy IPA. Impressive aromatics.
Thankfully WayBird doesn’t slam on the sweetness, but it does keep the bitterness down. While I’d like a little more bitterness than presented, a small amount does come through to keep you going back for more. But the promising nose, filled with all those lovely fruit aromas, tamps down greatly on the palate. I could say I tasted what I smelled above, but really flavors became nothing too specific. Just a generic juicy fruit note. (And not Juicy Fruit gum, either.) If I had to pick a standout, it would be the orange, but everything just blends together. That doesn’t make the beer bad, but it doesn’t deliver on its aromatic promise.
WayBird keeps things at medium to sometimes high carbonation. Those fruits in the flavor hang around for a bit after the sip but go away quickly. The entire beer itself is light across the tongue. You will finish your can of WayBird surprisingly quick and the 6.5% ABV stays hidden throughout. Thankfully the carbonation stays high while the sweetness stays low, aiding its disappearing ability.
Immediately WayBird slots in as a top 5 year-round hazy IPA option in Chicago. (Other ones up there include Revolution’s Hazy Hero and (in as much as they are year-round) the gold medal winning Le Jus and Beezer from Alarmist and Old Irving, respectively). While I’d appreciate more bitterness coming through in the finish, it didn’t prevent me from easily drinking multiple 16 ounce cans of it in one night. This moves up the summer hazy IPA rankings as it will also be available in 12 ounce 12-packs, perfect for a gathering at any locale. Just watch out and try not to get hazy IPA drunk on WayBird like I did.