The Session #77: I’m So Bored with the IPA

For this month’s Session Justin Mann asks What’s the deal with IPA’s?   Good question, since I’ve been asking that myself.

Certainly, if one takes a look at the most popular beers on beer geek hangouts like RateBeer and BeerAdvacate, IPA’s and Imperial IPA’s dominate the lists.  A list of the best commercial beers recently rated by the American Homebrewers Association is no different.  A lot of this is attributed to a backlash against dull, lifeless light lagers that dominated America’s landscape for decades.   Of course, light lagers still completely dominate the world of beer in terms of overall sales, even if the sales of these beers are in slight decline. 

True, sipping palate searing IPA’s beats swilling vapid nothingness of industrial lagers, but can’t we do a lot better than this?   Doesn’t brewing have far more possibilities than simply dumping a bunch of hops in the brew kettle and calling it a day? 

Sure, I like IPA’s but there’s just too many of them.  Even Costco has an IPA.  (On the west coast, it’s brewed by Gordon-Biersch.)  There are times I think world would be a better place if half the IPA’s were simply taken out and shot.  It’s precisely at these moments when I grudgingly try a new IPA, and discover a uniquely enjoyable twist to the style I didn’t think was possible.  It frustrates me to no end.

I recently enjoyed Costco’s IPA, bottled under their
Kirkland, brand at a picnic.

So I think that right there explains all the hub-bub about IPA’s.  Craft beer is a lot about pushing the limits of beer and in the United States, that usually means bigger is better.  You can do wonderful things with malt, but it’s largely limited to  toasting it at differing amounts to draw out varying levels of carmalization.  Yeasts offer plenty of variety, but it’s often subtle and nuanced.  If you’re looking for big new flavors in beer, hops are the easiest way to go.  Plus plenty of new hop varieties are cultivated each year, so brewers have more and more flavors to play with.

But perhaps this is all a trick question.  Take a look at some the most popular craft beers, at least those brewed by the Brewers Association Top 50 Breweries.  Let’s see, there’s Sam Adams Boston Lager, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, New Belgium’s Fat Tire, Shiner Bock, Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale, Lagunitas IPA (that’s one IPA), Alaskan Amber, Bell’s Brewing Two Hearted (that’s two IPA’s), Boulevard Brewing Unfiltered Wheat, Stone Brewing’s Arrogant Bastard,  Anchor Steam and plenty other beers that are decidedly not IPA’s.  If you want to include “Crafty” beers into the discussion, that brings beers like Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat, Widmer Hefeweizen, Redhook ESB and Kona Longboard Lager into the discussion.  And dare I bring up Blue Moon?

I’m sorry, what was this about IPA’s being so popular?  Hop-obsessed beer geeks furiously posting reviews on the internet are definitely not the typical craft beer drinker.  At least not yet.

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ramblingsofabeerrunner

Writing about beer from the California's Silicon Valley.

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