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Tim Bissell Tim Bissell
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Three Pint Stance – Is IPA over?

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Lately, I’ve been hearing the same basic question at our tasting room and at brew fests over and over and it goes something like this: “So, do you think this hop craze is over?” Some call it by different names, some sound exasperated, others more worried, but the question remains. Is the IPA still the dominant style in the craft beer market and will it remain so?

Obviously, the answers are mostly conjecture and will vary depending on who you talk to about it, but since this is my column, here is my cold, dry-hopped take.

Take the question in its simplest form: is IPA over? No, definitely not.

Now let’s dive in a bit. Is the hazy, New England IPA, everything-must-be-double-dry-hopped fad that took the industry by storm over the past four or five years slowing down? In my estimation, that particular fad may be dying down - or perhaps just plateauing a bit - but IPA as we know it is definitely not going anywhere.

To take it a bit further, though, I would argue the question itself is the wrong one to ask. The better question to ask is “Are breweries starting to diversify their offerings a bit?” And to that I would answer an emphatic YES!

You see, there was a time about 10 years ago, when it was considered cool for a brewery to make a range of beers, from lighter, crisper offerings to dark, malty traditional brews. Sure, they would make an IPA or some variant of that style and offer it in line with the rest of the beers, but there was balance. Things were good.

Did that ever really go away? Of course not - you can still pop into a bunch of breweries that are making a variety of delicious beers from all across the flavor spectrum. As of late, it’s been the IPA factories that are getting all the attention, and rightfully so to a certain point, as they have been driving the success of local beer and there is little anyone can do to take that away from them.

But as craft beer’s influence continues to grow, with more and more people taking notice and wanting to try their local option. This is where the diversification comes back, because it’s just a fact that there are certain people out there that will simply never enjoy a hoppy IPA. This is a good thing, because when everyone likes the same thing, you end up getting a whole bunch of the same thing (see any beer store over the past couple of years).

Now that there is a call for more Pilsner, Kolsch, Stout, Gose/Sour Beer and the like, you are seeing growth in those microsegments of the market and also seeing draft lists that once has four of eight lines devoted to some sort of IPA bump that back to one or two to make room for a kettle sour or a locally-made light beer option.

IPA certainly isn’t dead, but it isn’t the behemoth it once was – and that’s OK. Even the biggest fans of IPAs should rejoice as the brewers begin to diversify their portfolios and make beer that is accessible and approachable to drinkers of all stripes. There is room for so many more under the big tent of craft beer.

Next Week: We’ll go into my harebrained theory about how IPA got so big in the first place. It’s a completely unscientific and anecdotal theory, but, again, it’s my column and I do what I want. Until then, keep those beers cold!

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