A couple months back, I was touring a Massachusetts brewery with the founder and head brewer. The space was cavernous, all gleaming stainless steel and untouched cement floors. It wasn’t scheduled to open for a while, so as we got to the guts of the operation — massive fermenters, mash tuns, and the like — I asked the guys what types of beer they’d be making first.
“What types of beer do you like?” the brewer asked back.
“I love IPAs,” I said.
“Of course you do,” he chortled.
Incredulous, I laughed it off. But honestly: I was fucking pissed.
I’m tired of being judged for my affinity toward IPAs, told by friends or random bartenders I really should branch out and try the pilsner. Or the hefeweizen. Or this new pomegranate sour because OMG it’s amazing. I don’t fucking like pilsners. Mind your own business.
I get it. The IPA wave that came looming over America like a great tsunami back around 2011 was expected to lay waste to our palates for a while before breaking and rolling back onto some distant shore. The town would be rebuilt, proper order restored. Soon we’d go back to our lagers and we’d like it.
The IPA wave that came looming over America like a great tsunami back around 2011 was expected to lay waste to our palates for a while before breaking and rolling back onto some distant shore.
But to the surprise of many in the industry, that wave hasn’t yet crested. The IPA trend isn’t a trend at all but the status quo; the official beer of America is the India pale ale, whether you like it or not.
This is a gift and a curse. Along with an unprecedented number of craft breweries in the U.S. has come a heightened interest in drinking the hop juice, and vice versa. Demand is high. Taprooms are booming. Everyone seems pretty happy. But the undercurrent here isn’t necessarily as rosy: It’s hard to make it as a craft brewery right now without offering at least a few quality IPAs, if not a whole bunch. Not every brewer wants to focus on hops all the time.
Which brings me back to my brewery tour. I didn’t appreciate the snap judgement — “This damn kid and his damn IPAs…” — but I feel for the head brewer, too. He’d been brewing classic styles for decades but times, and tastes, have changed.
Trying new beers is something I wholeheartedly support. And while I don’t always drink IPAs, it’s the style I return to time and time again. Part of the beauty of so many breweries making so much fantastic beer these days is that the variation within a certain style is immense — competition begets creativity. The tsunami forces innovation.
I won’t judge your beer order if you don’t judge mine. Unless you get a pilsner. Those things are fucking gross, dude.