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Personally from the consumer perspective I’ve become saturated with IPA’s. I do really like IPA’s but I’ve noticed I no longer always prefer to have an IPA.  I used to believe an IPA would work in all situations, now I find myself fancying a stout or a porter.  I’m not exactly sure why.

I believe we are heading into a period in the United States (Northwest area at least) where the IPA is going to simmer a bit. People will still enjoy the style, but there soon will become a different dominant style emerges and that will not be the IPA.

Here are six reasons why I believe IPA’s in the United States are on the decline (in no particular order):

  1. The once rebellious and unique IPA style was hard to find (at least a decent version).  This is not the case now.  For example just this evening I was in Costco and I noticed that almost 85% of what they offered were IPA’s.  Compare this just six months ago where only 15% of their case selections (not the bombers) were IPA’s.  15% to 85% in one of the biggest mass market large volume stores in the world.  Hmmmmm.   Judge for yourself.  If you go to a grocery store (any grocery store in most parts of the United States), almost everyone has a wide selection of IPA’s.
  2. Previously the occasional beer drinker really hadn’t heard of the IPA style.  To many the IPA was a mysterious, potent and bold beer they used as a badge of social uniqueness and honor.  IPA’s were “interesting”.  Well what happens when you fully investigate something you find interesting?  You (as the consumer) move on.
  3. IPA’s are bitter and bold.  This has been taken to extreme in many cases.  I’ll even say that some folks are basically covering up a bad beer with an extra dose of bitterness from the hops.  It’s easy to make a bitter IPA just like it’s easy to make an overly sweet ale.  This makes IPA’s vulnerable to being accused of being “2nd rate” even before someone tries it.
  4. IPA’s used to be known for the “strong beer”.  Of course now there are many selections of non-IPA beers that offer a strong ABV percentage.
  5. Let be honest here.  As much as I love the bitter beer.  IPA’s basically are not well rounded.  That’s why we love them.  Having said that, at what point do people burn out from the bitter.  This is hard to say given that micro-breweries continue to grow, and that micro-beers are about experimenting.  It’s quite possible that we’ve experimented about all we can with bitter.
  6. IPA’s are popular everywhere in the world now it seems.  Currently IPA’s are not only extremely popular with every type of beer drinker they are spreading out across the world and becoming popular in areas that the IPA style is not known for. (see google trends doc below)

I know that summer is coming and many will reach for a light refreshing style of beer.  Maybe a pilsner or a golden ale.  I personally believe that the overcorrection to the bitter IPA is upon us.  I find myself desiring Stouts and Porters.  This obviously doesn’t go well with summer warmth, however climates in the Northwest likely will allow this style to grow in popularity even during summer.

The Stout and Porter style of beer also allow for strong or mild ABV’s while still providing a very pleasant flavor.  Yes you can get a stout at about 4.5% ABV or if you prefer you can jump right into a solid 8% ABV stout.  Both of these stouts offer great tastings.  It’s very hard to find a 5% ABV or less IPA that still tastes well rounded and exceptional.

As a brief counter to my argument that IPA’s are on the decline I’d like to offer that hops add more than bitterness and the ability to make a higher ABV beer.  Hops have a unique preservative quality to them (actually the reason the IPA style was created in the first place).  Scientist have actually found that the chemical compounds in hops can produce hallucinogenic quality when ingested in high amounts.  I don’t think that has ever happened to me.  However, I can tell you that an extra hoppy beer compared to a “not so hoppy” beer of the same ABV percentage seems to produce a stronger effect on me.

Perhaps this why (consciously or subconsciously) people like IPA’s?


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