I like beer. I don’t go gaga over it, but I like it. Some of it I like quite a lot. The recent proliferation of small brewers gives we casual beer drinkers a variety of brews to sample that was unheard of when I was a young kid collecting beer cans. We have broken out of the old habits of lagers and pilseners and have a stunning number of choices today. But why must so many of them be IPAs?
IPAs (as beer people never tire of explaining to me) stands for India Pale Ale, and was brewed with a higher-than-normal concentration of hops, which allowed English beer to be shipped to outposts in India without spoiling. Which is a very interesting story. About something that just doesn’t really matter in 2016.
When I buy beer, I only need it to withstand the drive home before it gets, you know, refrigerated. I think that modern ships sailing to India are able to take advantage of this technology as well. So why are we still brewing this bitter stuff that can last for months in searing heat with insects flying all around? I have no idea.
First, I don’t really like the taste of an IPA. It is really quite bitter. I am more of a stout man myself, though in warmer weather I can compromise and drink a brew that has a lower viscosity than the 30 weight motor oil which most closely approximates my favored Guinness.
But more than just the taste, I am tired of the whole IPA fad. Why, in this cornucopia of individual brewers, must everyone drink the same silly thing? But I suppose the herd mentality is hard to stamp out. I remember a few years ago when it seemed impossible to go into a restaurant without having the snooty waiter telling me about how “our special tonight is an herb-encrusted Chilean sea bass.” Really, those fish must have been positively jumping into the fishermens’ boats to satisfy everyone in the U.S. who just had to have some.
I suppose that there is really nothing to be done about it but do what I have been doing, which is to scour every brewpub’s beer menu for what seems like the six non-IPA selections which they deign to make available for cretins like me. Oh wait, four if you exclude the fruity wheat beers. I can just hear the conversation in the back: “You know, this brewing thing would be so easy without those same five people who won’t drink the IPAs that everyone wants. (Sigh) But I suppose we had better see about scratching something up for them. Have we done anything with tree bark or recycled tires?”
The good news is that sooner or later, the hopped-up IPA fad will be over and some other variety will be in the brewers’ and drinkers’ spotlight. But until then, I will just have to soldier along in the beer-drinker’s ghetto, with waiters looking at me as if I have just ordered a Strohs. Which, as I think about it, is something I could have a little fun with next time I stroll into IPA Land. “Do you have anything that is fire brewed? Or maybe something made with a Detroit-style water?” I know I will be able to do it. But maybe not with a straight face.
I think the IPA has become the de facto standard, like when blue jeans became acceptable to where just about everywhere. I don’t know if it’s a generational statement or one of those pissing match kind of deals, though. For a while there, I was really getting into the IPAs, but then after a while it became more and more and more hops in my beer, that eventually I couldn’t really drink them. I fell into porters and imperial stouts and while I do enjoy them, they have done a fine job of contributing to my weight gain. I never lost my taste for pilsners and lagers and have started back with those, particularly with warmer weather coming on.
I now work in the corrugated packaging industry, and one of our growth markets are small to mid size breweries, especially here in Michigan. I think my adopted home state is #2 or #3 in small breweries and that’s been good for industries like ours. Not that I’ve had a lot of time in this particular end of the industry (I spent many years in sheet-fed offset) but I see that the companies we do business with brew a lot more than IPAs, but the IPAs seem to be the anchor of their offerings.
Way different than when our folks were buying beer. Bigger was better and small home town breweries were the ones cranking out cheap beer for college frat parties. Miller, Budweiser, Schiltz, Stroh’s, Hamm’s, Genesee, Rolling Rock and probably several others I can no longer remember were the ones in my parent’s fridge growing up. Going to university near Cleveland, OH, a case of Bud was probably $8 in 1980? We could get some Cleveland-brewed beer, called Phoenix, for about $3/case. Hey, we weren’t drinking it for the fine flavor, we were just trying to get buzzed.
Are the IPAs the new Budweiser for the “ironic” generation? Could be. FWIW, they’re paying the bill to brew the other oddball beers that I like, too. So, I’m good with that…
All true. And yes, I drank my share of Old Milwaukee in college (unless I got extravagant and sprung for the Strings.)
I suspect that it is one of those cyclical things. I wonder what’s next, because I am really over the hops thing.
Strohs, not Strings. Damn auto correct.
I dunno about that, I like a nice hoppy beer occasionally and I certainly wouldn’t want to go back to the days where American beer was pretty much exclusively light lager. At least we have the choice now.
I also like a wheat beer once in a while but you’re spot on with the fruit, haven’t had one yet that’s good, the best so far was just interesting.
But, great news for you JPC, the Neustadt brewery actually makes a beer called 10W30 which may be the perfect thing for you. I’ll bring you some if we ever meet up at another CC event.
The fact that there is a heavy dark beer called 10-W-30 gave me my biggest laugh of the day. It sounds perfect for me.
I’ve been an outsider to the craft beer explosion that my generation has otherwise been enamored with. Most craft beers I don’t much care for, IPA or otherwise. There are a handful of Kolsch beers (which I understand to be a pale ale in lager clothing) that I have enjoyed; but I still find myself gravitating to the likes of PBR and Miller High Life the times I drink beer. Still, as a social activity, going to a craft brewery with a few friends and trying a different beer or two with a burgers and maybe some live music isn’t a bad way to spend an evening.
Great history of India Pale Ales.