I like big hops and I cannot lie
Those rhizome haters can’t deny
That when a beer goes down with a piney, citrus taste
And a bitter flash in your face
You get strung
Can’t drink fast enough
‘Cause you notice that beer’s robust…
It’s the “imperial age” of American craft beer, and the IPA is king. Last year, craft brewers took double digits in the U.S. beer market, and their most popular style continues, unmatched, to skyrocket up the charts and shakeup the industry.
Which makes August 7, IPA Day, feel like a cross between Independence Day and a birthday party for a benevolent dictator. Created by beer drinkers, brewers, and bloggers, it celebrates a style that serves the beer community as both boundary pusher and standard bearer.
What makes IPAs so awesome, so worthy of our devoted attention? Let me count the ways…
The fact that there are so many variations of the IPA may send style purists into a tizzy, but when it comes to a leader, I want one that’s versatile enough for widespread appeal. Last year’s Great American Beer Festival saw 279 entrants for the category; there’s something for everyone. The bold hop-bombs known as West Coast IPAs live alongside the toned-down East Coasters and sweeter, boozier doubles. And if you can’t take the heady feeling that comes from knocking back three heavy hitters in a sitting, session IPAs are growing in the shadows of their strapping, “bigger” brothers.
# 2. Accessibility
In an ideal world, you could buy a Belgian gueze at your local 7-Eleven, and we may yet get there. In the meantime, you can count on the IPA to get you through even the driest of craft beer deserts. Because they’re so bankable, most of my go-to beers are IPAs.
# 3. Influence
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then IPAs have been most sincerely flattered. Their popularity has inspired brewers to up the dosage of Humulus lupulus in wheats, browns, lagers, and black beers—even ciders. Rather than accusing brewers of jumping on the bitter bandwagon, we should view these hoppy hybrids as an opportunity to anchor drinkers in familiar flavors in order to expose them to the broader world of the style beyond.
# 4. Ambassadorship
In the light lager world of big-name beer, IPAs have made the introduction for full flavor and created the foundation for adventurous palates. America’s beer lovers are increasingly embracing local lagers and golden ales that marry robust profiles with lighter alcohol content. They’re entering the wild and uncompromising frontier of sours. Hop-seekers are finding that pilsners, spicier than the German lager styles, also can satisfy on hot summer days. IPAs may be front and center now, but they share the spotlight, and I most heartily welcome every fan they bring to the community of craft beer.
# 5. Appeal
Last, but by no means least, these beers stand on their very own merits as delicious feasts of aroma, flavor, and bitterness. They conjure up the sensations of dark pine forests, juicy citrus fruits, and herbaceous floral gardens. Dry-hopped, fresh-hopped, single-hopped, just plain hopped—I love them all.
So make it an #IPAday, and share one with a friend.