Samuel Adams canning a hazy IPA

Boston Beer Co. is expanding distribution of a hazy, New England-style IPA under its Samuel Adams label.

The beer/hard tea/hard cider/hard seltzer company this month gained federal approval for two labels for 16-oz. cans of the buzzed-about beer style.

The 6.8 percent alcohol-by-volume beer has been brewed since late last year, offered only at Samuel Adams' Boston brewery. But based on positive reception in the brewery, Boston Beer in August began releasing kegs to select retail accounts throughout Massachusetts and neighboring states.

Now the brewer is preparing to expand the beer into much-broader distribution. Samuel Adams asked for the OK to make the beer at breweries in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.

Boston Beer chairman and founder Jim Koch said in a conference call with analysts this week that he's "had very good feedback" on the New England IPA, and said "it's kind of the hot craft beer style right now, but you really can't get it. It's almost like a unicorn."

Samuel Adams’ decision to jump on a hazy IPA comes amid a prolonged sales slump, with the company expecting volumes down 4 to 7 percent for the full year.

CEO Martin Roper told analysts Sam Adams needs to offer drinkers "reasons to drink" its beer. That includes innovations such as the New England IPA and a new, sessionable hop-forward lager called Sam '76 that Roper called "the most-interesting beer development we've had" in years.

A company spokeswoman declined to detail Boston Beer's plans for the New England IPA, saying the company doesn't "have anything to share at this point."

New England-style IPAs, sometimes called NEIPAs, Northeast IPAs or double dry-hopped IPAs, are essentially unfiltered or double IPAs that are aggressively hopped. They range from slightly hazy to downright murky in appearance and tend to be lower in bitterness and heavy with fruity or floral aromas. Some compare the appearance and taste of some of these beers, which tend toward higher alcohol by volume, to orange juice.

The style originated on the East Coast at breweries such as The Alchemist, Hill Farmstead Brewery and Trillium Brewing Company, but is now one of the buzziest styles of craft beer and brewed virtually across the country. At the Great American Beer Festival this month in Denver, the style was being offered by dozens of breweries.