On the first Friday of every month beer bloggers around the world join together for The Sessions (which are also known as Beer Blogging Friday). There’s no entry fees or membership required, we all just write a blog entry on a pre-determined topic each month.
This month’s Session is hosted by Justin over at Justin’s Brew Review. He’s asking what the go is with IPA, why has the craft beer community gone ape shit over it. Or as Justin put it, without the use of gratituous profanity, “I’m just wondering, why all the hype? What is it about an IPA that makes craft beer enthusiasts go wild?”.
Why indeed? I reckon it’s for two reasons and they both start with the letter P. That’s “palate” and “peer pressure”.
The further I go along my journey of good beer, the more I discover that there are beers that I once thought were awesome but which now seem lacklustre. Of course, the beers themselves haven’t changed – my palate has.
As that palate has developed, it’s inevitable that beers that might have rocked my world no longer do much in the way of rocking. It’s such a regular occurrence that I’m always surprised when I taste a beer from “the early days” and find it’s still great. The IPA is a style that can easily overcome that situation. And it does this with two words – “more hops”. A beer that’s bigger and more extreme is sure to excite beer geeks palates that – while not exactly jaded, do perhaps require a bit of a wallop to wake them up.
It’s an approach that certainly doesn’t work for the beer newbie, whose palate hasn’t been built up to handle the uber-hoppy beers, but that’s not a great problem. Really, it’s not as if there aren’t loads of other beers relative newbies could get to work on.
It’s also an approach that can led to a sort of palate fatigue. I’ve found myself moving towards increasingly bitter, hoppy IPAs over time. But I’ve also found that I can rarely drink more than two of them in a row before my taste buds start craving something else. And so I go back to something that is a bit more sessionable.
As most fans of good beer know, if there’s a buzz that surrounds a particular beer, it can drive the desire that you must try it. And, right now, there’s a big buzz surrounding IPAs. There always seems to be a new, big, crazy IPA that comes up and it’s a beer that we must try. Maybe because it’s a good beer, maybe just because it’s so stupidly hopped that we want to drink it just to see what the fuss is about, just to say we’ve tried it.
Right now IPA is the big trend so brewers keep making them, and we keep wanting to try them. Most likely, in a year or so, there will be some other style that becomes “cool” and then we’ll move onto those. Maybe that next trend will be saisons, sours, or even lower alcohol session beers (I for one would love that trend because I reckon flavoursome beers that clock in at two or three per cent are actually much harder to make, and should be more highly praised). But until that happens, IPAs will be the “big deal” beers.
But at the end of the day, I drink beers from a range of styles, only one of which is IPA. I’ll drink some of them and then something else. Because it’s the wide variety that is offered in the beer world that got me so excited over it and that steered me away from drinking wine.