Is the IPA dead?

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First Posted: 1/26/2015

The craft beer boom is in full swing with an increasing number of beer drinkers switching from macro to micro every year. The most popular style of craft beer being the IPA (India Pale Ale), this hop forward ale has caught on with beer drinkers but has it seen its best days?

One quick look at any number of beer rating websites and it’s easy to see the popularity of IPA’s and see that many craft breweries built a reputation on this single style. However, many craft beer insiders point to the rise in styles such as sour beers as the decline in the IPA popularity.

The IPA style is credited to George Hodgson who’s Bow Brewery, in 18th century England, created the hoppy style of beer for both domestic consumption and for those troops stationed in colonized India. The style grew in popularity and many brewers in England’s Burton-upon-Trent region began creating similar style of beer and soon usurped Bow Brewery in popularity, but the style soon fell out of favor.

The style was revived by many American brewers as pale ale which was very hoppy for the time from breweries such as Anchor Brewing and New Albion. The beers quickly gained a following and soon hoppier versions were being made.

Soon even bigger IPA’s were being brewed and Double IPA’s were born. This variation is claimed to have originated with Vinnie Cilurzo, owner of Russian River Brewing Company, in 1994 at the now-defunct Blind Pig Brewery in Temecula, California.

This is where the gauntlet truly came down and as the style grew in popularity many brewers tried their hand at it with varying results. If a brewer was able to get the style right it could mean large sales and growing popularity for the brewery, but if they got it wrong it could quickly sink them.

The IPA’s brewed today are far more aggressive than any previously brewed with many becoming very hard to find due to the growing popularity. Some of the most sought after IPA’s include: Heady Topper, Pliny the Younger, Dreadnaught IPA, and Abner.

Many of these beers have a great deal of hype around them due to their rarity, not to mention their deliciousness! This is not the fault of the brewer, but instead shows the popularity of the style and the desire to try the best of the best for many craft beer drinkers.

However, as the IPA style has grown in popularity many craft beer diehards have begun to shun the style as a mass produced beer. Many brewers have also taken a similar viewpoint and have gone so far as to not brew IPA’s and instead focus solely on styles such as sour beers.

So the question begs to be asked, is the IPA dead? Has the market become too over saturated with IPA’s that craft beer drinkers are moving on to other styles?

The short answer is no, the long answer is yes.

A style with the immense popularity that the IPA currently holds will be going nowhere in the immediate future. Many brewers are still entering the IPA market with variations on the style with very tasty results, which indicates that more can be done with the style.

However, in the long term all beer styles come and go out of fashion and the IPA will be no different. Just as a large variety of hops were once popular in beers are now no longer grown, the IPA style will continue to change and soon will be usurped by other beer styles.

With many IPA’s garnishing a great deal of hype the important thing to remember in the pursuit of trying them all is to enjoy them. After all it is beer and is meant to be something savored and not collected and analyzed like insects.

Whatever your favorite beer style there is something for you out there to be found. Just try to spend more time enjoying great beer instead of hunting for it and bragging about it. To sum it all up, shut up and drink!