Brewers, beer sellers (wholesale and retail), beer drinkers: a question for you. Does a craft brewer NEED to have an IPA in their lineup? Given that there are literally thousands of IPAs already on the market, can you make it without one? As a drinker, do you want every local brewery to do an IPA?The conversation, to say the least, has been brisk. There's clearly a lot of pressure on brewers to make an IPA -- it's a constant request for those who start out without one -- and Greg Ouelette, the brewer at Martha's Exchange in Nashua, NH, noted that while he always has one on offer, when he replaced it with "a nice pale ale," it sold slower than the IPA on before it and the IPA he put on after it.
Some mention that what they'd really like to see is a good crisp lager (which brought up the inevitable "pilsner is harder to make than throwing a ton of hops in another IPA" argument), while others have noted that maybe saison/farmhouse is the next 'must have' style, moving up already. Might be something to that, God knows it's been true in Philly for a few years already.
So...what do you think? Does a brewer need to offer an IPA year-round? What does it mean if they don't? Does your opinion change if the IPA is a 'me-too,' or if it's something quite different? What if it's a Belgian, white, red, black, green, or blue IPA? (What if it's one of those but the brewer wises up and calls it something else?)
Let's open up the whole damn can of worms here. I love drinking IPA -- and was terribly disappointed when an IPA growler sample I recently got from a new brewpub smelled like burnt rubber and cowshit -- but I like drinking a lot of different beers. I applaud a brewer who wants to make something other than what everyone else is making; really, really, really love to see that, and making just another IPA is just...boring. But I can't wait to try Pretty Things' new Meadowlark IPA, which sounds quite tasty. But I was also excited by Susquehanna Brewing's Goldencold Lager, one of the best American-brewed hellesbiers I've had.
- Does a brewer run the risk of losing attention by not doing an IPA? (Or does it matter more what the beers they DO make are?)
- Is the lust for IPA simple-minded and similar to the lust for hot sauce? (Or is it more an effect of the newer strains of hops that add great citrus/pine/floral/tropical fruit flavors and aromas to beers, or maybe of new technologies that allow fresher hop flavors at the tap?)
- Will IPAs peak and fall -- as raspberry beers did in the 90s -- or are they going to take over the category? (And if they're good IPAs...what does that mean to you? What's it mean to the brewers?)
- Is style consolidation inevitable? (Or are we seeing style diversification with all the Belgian, white, red, black, etc. "IPA" styles expanding in the market?)
Discussion is encouraged. For myself, I think IPAs are frickin' great. I think the [insert descriptor here] IPAs are to be judged on individual merit, but the nomenclature is silly. And I love a wide, wide variety of beers, and would be unhappy if that were crimped by the popularity of IPA.