Talking Beer With the Biggest IPA Hater on the Internet
An in-depth Q&A with the mind behind @ipas_suck.
Written by J. Travis Smith
Photography by @ipas_suck
Things we learned:
- If you hate on popular beer, people will respond.
- Waiting in line for beer is absurd.
- Hardcore craft fans are the same as hardcore music fans.
- German beer has everything American beer has, but with more nuance.
- Never take yourself too seriously.
Around the same time that Hop Culture launched its Instagram account (late 2016, for anyone keeping score) another account emerged from the growing mass of beer-focused Instagram accounts. It was named @ipas_suck and its videos consisted of a 34-year-old part-time hardcore rocker, part-time office stiff, giving honest, and vulgar, reviews of some of the most sought-after IPAs in the country. He hates all of them. Tree House? Shit. Trillium? Garbage. Other Half? Pour it down the drain.
As someone who has driven out to Monson, Massachusetts just to stand in line for a beer, I was immediately intrigued. The account was the yin to the yang of fanatical beer culture. It’s a way of thinking that super fans take for granted; I mean, why wouldn’t you spent the time and money required to track down dank IPAs, some of which are written about like they provide a lens into a higher state of being. I’m also someone who progressed through what I’d affectionately call my “IPA phase” and now mostly drink low ABV saisons and anything with a little funk. The account, and Eric, the man that does the shouting, immediately spoke to me.
So I shot Eric an email to see if he had anything interesting to say, and he did. His answers were long-winded, but I left them largely unedited because loving IPAs has become such a given, almost passé, in beer nerd culture — like naming Quentin Tarantino as your favorite director, or Kurt Vonnegut as your favorite writer — that the other side needs to be heard.
J. Travis Smith: What’s the story behind the account?
Eric, known IPA hater: It’s pretty much just my personal opinion that IPAs are a garbage beer. The thought of tropical fruit rolled in pine needles never sounded appetizing to me. I haven’t ever cared for the style and I didn’t even know it was a “thing” (meaning community) until we, @mvsalerno and @dumpsterdive, visited a small brewery I’d never heard of called Tree House Brewing Co.
Around July of last year I was making plans for how I wanted to spend my 35th birthday. I rented a house in upstate New York to celebrate and Mike (@mvsalerno) told me that he and Matt (@dumpsterdive) were going on a beer tour in the days leading up to our trip, and that I should join. The catch was that they were going to all IPA breweries (Trillium, Tree House, Alchemist, Hill Farmstead, Night Shift, etc).
They knew I wasn’t going to be happy with the beer, but what the fuck, it’s a road trip with friends. Mike and I picked up Matt in Connecticut and made our way to Tree House. Somewhere along the way Mike suggested I start an Instagram account to document the trip and just give my honest reactions to the beers. He showed me a few accounts and I got the general idea. I remember being in disbelief of the nerdom embodied by the line out front of Tree House. I started taking pictures immediately.
The hate is innate. I hated the smell of the brewery, I hated the holier than thou limit bullshit and the “I have this and you don’t” attitude it creates.
We walked into the brewery and they started talking about allotments and limits and all sorts of bullshit I’d never heard of. The hate is innate. I hated the smell of the brewery, I hated the holier than thou limit bullshit and the “I have this and you don’t” attitude it creates. We went off to BT’s Smokehouse [Ed. note: The BBQ is bomb.] up the road for lunch. Mike handed me an Alter Ego and said go to town. The reviews from those few days are pretty funny to me because it’s just my unfiltered reaction and lack of understanding of how people could possibly drink it. The plan was to let the account go dark after the trip but we were having so much fun and people I didn’t know at the time, like @craft_cult and @beerfriends_, encouraged me to keep it going.
When I was 7 years old, my mom rinsed my mouth out with soap because I cursed too much. Watch me relive the experience as I try a fresh Tree House Brewing Alter Ego. #dialsoap #treehousebrewing #apple #ipassuck #craftbeer #alterego #beer #beerporn #craftbeer #craftbeerporn #beergeek #treehouse #treehousebrewing #alterego #alteregoipa
JTS: Why do you think people have responded so well to your account? Do you think that some followers think you’re joking — you are shitting on the “top” beer produced in America?
E: This is truly something I haven’t been able to grasp. As someone who reached out to me, I suppose I should ask you this question. I really can’t wrap my head around it. I have to believe it’s morbid curiosity in masochism. These beers aren’t easy to get. The fact that I’m “purporting” to hate their taste, the culture, and the fans of the style must have some sort of allure. Like, why would this guy waste his time getting this beer if he knows he’s not going to like it and then film his reaction? As far as why someone would watch that…you got me. And you’re right, all I do is yell at the camera. I mean, it’s a pretty fucking simple concept.
I legitimately hate IPAs. They’re fucking terrible.
The best part of it has been the response. I get a lot of DM’s and comments where people say, “can’t tell if you’re serious or not” but then they go on to say how much they enjoy it. I didn’t know it was a question until people started asking it. I legitimately hate IPAs. They’re fucking terrible.
JTS: Why do IPAs suck?
E: How much server space do you have? That’s a multi-pronged answer.
As a style of beer, it’s just not for me. There’s just something in an IPA that disagrees with me. I’m not a tropical fruit fan: I hate pineapple, guava, and papaya, and that’s always a selling point of these beers. So there’s that. I also think that they lack subtlety. I used to see a lot of breweries trying to outdo each other for the ‘wackiest’ beer. I made a split pea and ham IPA…fuck off. That’s something that really bothers me about IPAs. I see a lot of people doing things “just because.” The act of making it doesn’t make it good. But if you couple it with the right marketing, limited quantities, and a collaboration with X brewery, then people will kill their parents to get it. People are apt to prove that they are the alpha whale (read: the “beer you’ve never heard of” nerd). Which brings me to my next point, the “cool factor.”
The act of making it doesn’t make it good.
This isn’t to say that I’m hating on them because they’re popular, so please don’t misunderstand the point. I truly wonder if these beers were made in bigger batches, released in every grocery store — Costco, CVS, and the like — would anyone actually give a fuck? I saw a news report from CBS recently, reporting on the hunt for craft beers and the line waiting phenomena. They quoted Andrew Burman (partner at Other Half) as saying “This wasn’t part of our business plan. It wasn’t what we wanted, but it’s what people want.” My interpretation of that is that people create demand. If the people waiting in line didn’t want it to be a k3wl secret fraternal order of nerd dickheads, they wouldn’t show up. But they do. And the reason some asshole freezes in his car overnight to be first in line is for bragging rights. Which is absolutely absurd — absurd that they do that and absurd that anyone cares. But they do. If Other Half or Grimm Ales or Greenpoint Brewing got bought tomorrow by Anheuser-Busch and received nation-wide distribution, I can guarantee you the fanboy bullshit would die out in a fucking heartbeat. I can hear their biggest fans now saying, “It hasn’t tasted the same since they got bought out. They made them switch up the recipe. I only liked them when they were independent.” Same shit with music, people only like something when it’s “their thing.” Once everyone knows about it, the fans jump ship. In music, every hardcore fan’s favorite album by any band is either their first record or their demo.
I truly wonder if these beers were made in bigger batches, released in every grocery store — Costco, CVS, and the like — would anyone actually give a fuck?
JTS: Well, what beer do you enjoy drinking?
E: I’ve always been a German beer fan. My favorite beer is Schneider-Weisse. Just their regular Tap 7 never stops being good to me. It’s not seasonal, it’s not “cool” or hard to get. It’s just a super solid beer. Other beers (or companies) I really love are Andechs, Augustiner-Brau, Julius Echter, Franziskanner, Hacker-Pschorr, and Maisel’s Weisse. All of those companies make either great Dunkel (my personal favorite), Weißbier, or lagers. Mönchshof also makes a great Schwarzbier that I think was one of Michael Jackson’s (the beer journalist) favorite beers. Lately I’ve been drinking a lot of the Ayinger Altbairisch Dunkel, a great beer with a ton of flavor. The flavors found in all of these, specifically the Dunkel or Weißbier are very subtle. They don’t hit you over the head. It’s meant to be drinkable and enjoyable. In many cases the breweries or monasteries have lasted hundreds, if not over a thousand years (Weihenstephan). You think your favorite IPA company will be around in 3017?
You think your favorite IPA company will be around in 3017?
I’m also a big fan of Belgian beers. I try to tell people who like IPAs that if they like IPAs, they should try a Belgian. Strong, high percentages of ABV, similar consistency, complex flavors…it’s just missing that overly hoppy flavor. Oftentimes I’ve been able to make converts out of IPA drinkers. Take a nice Orval, a Westmalle, Mardesous, hell, even something as “basic” as Chimay or Duvel. Tell me that that doesn’t measure up, and get you dicked-off to boot. And if you want a hoppy Belgian, they’ve got you covered. Brouwerij De Ranke has an XX Bitter, Brasserie D’Achouffe has a hop inspired Tripel, Brouwerij De Brabandere has an 1894 Oak & Hops. Tell me you wouldn’t look super cool posting that bottle on your Instagram. No one’s even heard of it! Think of the envy and all the new followers! Germans are the same. Schneider Weisse Hopfenweisse (which originated as collaboration between Schneider and Brooklyn Brewery) is essentially a more subtle, hoppy version of what would be an IPA. I just think that people haven’t been exposed to a lot of different styles. They try a Becks and are like, I don’t like German beers.
JTS: Your account is catchy. My friend from Boston and I call each other “fucking fresh boys” all the time when we drink IPAs. Where does this quotable humor come from?
E: The IPAs Suck account was born out of me and my friends hanging out drinking. I think that’s what makes the channel funny. It’s just 3 (sometimes 4) best friends hanging out, making fun of each other and these stupid beers that people take so seriously, laughing all the while. You could be us, and you probably are. Making my friends laugh makes me laugh and try to go harder. I said before I don’t think I’m funny and I believe that. I do, however, think I’m good at making fun of things and being mean. If that translates as funny, then I’m golden. To be completely honest, I’m not even the funniest one in the group.
Hey man, if you want immature, I’ve got all you can handle. I think that’s funny that you guys are out there saying the same shit I say. The video that the “Fresh Boy” thing came from was definitely the first of its kind for us. It was different in that it’s the first one with a concept. Mike’s funny. He always has some master vision, but neglects to tell me. He knows the mind of the IPA nerd more than I because he is one. So he tells me what to do and how to act it out. It doesn’t hurt that he’s a video editor and has produced/edited his own movie (Plasterhead). We were just messing around and the Fresh Boy thing came out. If you and your boys are out there yelling it, I think that’s awesome.
JTS: What’s next for you? Any plans to use the momentum of your account for some other project?
E: I mean this all started out as a joke, so I’m kind of just trying to take it in that way. There’s been talk of trying to monetize or merchandize and strike while the iron is hot, but let’s be honest…I’m an idiot with an iPhone making fun of beer and finding new ways to say the same thing. For now I’m going to keep with this as is. We have a ton of reviews that have been shot and need an edit. So as long as people are watching, we’ve got content. It’s really just fun for me and my friends. I think that’s the most important thing.