We all love to hate click-bait articles with inflammatory headlines. Even more so when there is no place to comment in reply. These are best responded to with longer blog posts to adequately address the issues. David Infante on Thrillist posted recently an article called “Why I Hate IPAs.” My first response to that is that he should learn to recognize that beers are created in many different styles precisely because people have different tastes. It is because of the recent craft beer explosion that people who don’t appreciate PBR and other similar beers David seems to love have other options.
Before I get deeper into this response, let’s look at a few of his major complaints. 1) IPAs are quite filling and lead to bloating, 2) IPAs are musky and grassy and taste like spoiled beer 3) IPAs are overpriced, 4) IPAs can’t be chugged.
1) IPAs are quite filling and lead to bloating
This point I can concede but I would add for most people IPAs are also problematic because they are high calories. The same is true for most beers with a high ABV so it could equally apply to imperial porters, imperial stouts, and all of the other stronger beers. My response to this is simple, fans of IPAs are more concerned with the taste of the beer. If a little bloating is problematic by all means drink something else. It is precisely because of this aspect of IPAs that they are not an everyday enjoyment for me.
2) IPAs are musky and grassy and taste like spoiled beer
I would say David needs to learn about the different types of hops before he starts to lump all IPAs together as having the same flavor. There are two main types of IPAs, darker malt-heavy brews and lighter PBR colored hop-forward brews. Within each of these two styles are a number of different flavors that you can find in mass-produced beers. The flavors change drastically depending on the types of malts used and the types of hops used. Some hops provide a grassy flavor. Others provide a floral flavor, others citrus, others grapefruit, others pine. The list goes on.
I personally don’t really like the darker malt-heavy IPAs but that just means I tend to find IPAs that present the flavor profiles I enjoy out of a good IPA. I tend to prefer the grapefruit, floral, and citrus flavors of hops and so I typically buy IPAs that lean in that direction. This brings me to something that led me to create this blog in the first place. I believe brewers have failed because they think it is enough to simply label their beer as IPA and hope it will sell. This leads consumers to assume that IPAs all taste the same when in fact there are multiple varieties.
I will rarely buy a six pack of an IPA I am unfamiliar with now because I know there is a 50% chance that it will feature flavors I don’t really care for. Breweries that take the time to list the hops and flavors present in the beer (like San Diego’s Modern Times) are going to end up ahead of the competition because they describe their beers in a way that someone who knows what flavors they like can understand. This means less dissatisfied customers.
3) IPAs are overpriced
This is a bit silly, especially with the example given that some six-packs are $22.50. Most fans of IPAs know what they like and can find a six-pack for around $10, maybe $13 or $14 with certain brews that cost more to make. Cost-conscious IPA fans learn quickly how to find what they want at a price that makes sense. Many breweries are starting to charge $9.99 for a six-pack or sometimes $9.99 for a four-pack of 16oz cans. I would never spend $22.50 for a six-pack because at that price I am better off spending $5 on a 22oz bomber or filling a growler at a local brewery.
Either way, craft beer is going to be slightly more expensive because it tends to have more quality ingredients. It costs more to brew a good IPA than it does to brew PBR, especially when you don’t have the capacity for brewing on such a large scale as the big beer companies.
4) IPAs can’t be chugged
I would hope that anyone serious about beer enough to complain about certain tastes would respect themselves and the beer enough to recognize that it is not worthwhile to chug any beers. Craft beer, whether it is a pale ale or an IPA, is meant to be enjoyed for all the flavors not downed quickly to get drunk faster.
Rather than complaining that IPAs can’t be chugged, if beer under 5% ABV is desired there are plenty of quality craft beer options out there to choose from. There are plenty of local breweries in most cities that sell six-packs of well-crafted pale ales, blondes, and ambers. The best way to find out what to buy is to visit those breweries and order a couple of tasters. Recently Craft Breweries have started brewing session IPAs as a way of providing the flavors one expects from an IPA in a lighter beer that can be enjoyed all day long and doesn’t have the bitterness of a 7% IPA. I doubt David would appreciate these beers though because he says clearly that flavors are not important to him.
If David wants craft beer fans to respect his opinion, he should start by learning to respect the beer he drinks. If flavor truly doesn’t matter to him then he is wasting his money even when he buys a six-pack for $9.99. The craft beer movement was led by people who demand more from their beers than simply watered down lagers. Lately I have been searching for the best local pale ales under 5% that are light in color and have the citrus and tropical fruit flavors I like in an IPA.
What are some local examples of lighter beers with good flavors?
One example of a San Diego brewery that does this really well is Modern Times, with their Fortunate Islands. This is a wheat beer that had hops added to it to give it the tropical fruit flavors I love in an IPA while being a low 4.8% so that it is great for those days when you want to down a six-pack (or in this case a four-pack).
Another beer, though sadly not available in six-packs yet is Rough Draft Weekday IPA, a session IPA. This is also a 4.8% beer that has a lot of the citrus flavors I’ve come to expect from IPA along with a light pine flavor. Still at $5 a 22oz bottle it is not too expensive. I hope one day the brewery will start to sell this delicious beer in six-packs.
Finally, Karl Strauss makes a delicious Pintail pale ale. At 5.3% this is a little bit above the threshold for some but it has a lot of the same citrus and tropical fruit flavors that I enjoy from a good IPA. This beer is typically available in reasonably priced six-packs at $8.99 each.