The Session No. 77: IPA: What’s the Big Deal?

This month’s Session* topic is hosted by Justin of Justin’s Brew Review. He raises the topic of “IPA: What’s the Big Deal?” and writes:

For quite some time now, I’ve been wondering what makes the India Pale Ale (IPA) style of beer so popular. Don’t get me wrong–I thoroughly enjoy it and gladly participate in #IPADay. I’m just wondering, why all the hype? What is it about an IPA that makes craft beer enthusiasts (CBE) go wild? Is it because CBEs want to differentiate craft beer from crap beer? I don’t care if a watered-down pilsener is labeled as “triple-hops brewed“; it wouldn’t satisfy someone looking for an IPA.

At the same time, not all CBEs prescribe to the IPA way. . . . . So what’s the deal?

This one is easy to answer: it’s tasty.

No, really. It’s tasty. It’s that simple. This is not a difficult question nor a trick answer. I should end this post right here. (Of course I’m not going to do that. When was the last time I had a short post?)

Using guerrilla marketing techniques Pabst Brewing Company managed to convince millions of hipsters to somehow resurrect a beer that had declined in sales for 23 straight years. But really, other than perhaps a change in brand for most of them, this resurgence did not reflect some seismic shift in drinking habits.  Let’s face it. PBR isn’t at all different than any others in the American fizz category that has dominated the market for decades.

Craft beer represents something entirely different.  It does indeed represent a seismic shift (or at least some tectonic drift) of drinking habits. Craft beer is booming for one main reason: it has flavor.

Like many craft beer explorers, my taste progression started in the stouts and brown ales and slowly edged toward the hoppy/bitter side of the equation, eventually fully embracing IPAs (though I remain far more interested in the taste of hops rather than extra bitterness.)  Within the last couple of years I’ve begun a wonderful exploration of Belgian-style flavors, something I couldn’t stand to taste just five years ago.

Unlike PBR, there was no mass use of guerrilla marketing trying to make IPAs “cool” so people would drink them.  (Uhh . . if there is, it’s obviously working extremely well on me.)

Nearly every brewery in the country produces at least one IPA (we happen to have two local exceptions). It’s what people are seeking and not just because its “in.” Sure, the bitterness and “how many varieties of hops can I cram in here” race is a bit annoying, but the American style IPA is here to stay.

Sometimes the answers really are simple. What’s the deal with IPAs? They taste good.

*Today is the first Friday in July which means it’s time to take part in The Session, a collective effort of beer bloggers around the world to write on a common topic once each month.