There has been much talk and banter of late regarding the “new” trend in craft beer, the session IPA. For some reason, the talk in the blogosphere, and supposedly the industry, has always been about the next “trend.” This has been going on for years, and has always referred to the next trend being some lighter, more “drinkable” beer.
The problem is that they have always been wrong. Why are all these better known, bigger bloggers such light weights when it comes to beer? Why are they imposing their weak palate on the rest of us?
The people that have caused the doubling of the number of breweries in the country are not getting into the business because they are excited about weak, light weight, session beers. They are risking their savings because they have been making monster IPA’s in their garage for years, because that is what they love. They did it because of the complexity of their favorite Belgian style or farmhouse style.
When craft beer people step into their favorite pub or taproom, they are going to try some different things, but will always come back to their favorite style. In a brewpub taproom, you will see scores of samplers being purchased for first timers, and rightly so. Get a feel for all the beers they make, then order your favorite.
The package, off premise market is different, to be sure. At the golf course or on a lazy afternoon, maybe catching the latest game on the tube, most people will tend to sip a lighter beer. But IPA, as a style, is still forty percent of the craft drinking market.
So let’s consider style then. The Beer Judge Certification Program, or BJCP, is pretty much the standard when it comes to style description. They give very specific limits in a number of categories that place beer into a certain category. For instance, the IBU range, a measurement of the bitterness, of an IPA is from 40-60+. The SRM, or color range, is from 6-15. The alcohol level, or ABV, is 5.5-7.5%. Those are huge ranges.
So if people like a less bitter, but still hoppy beer, they may tend to purchase an IPA that falls into the lower end of the IBU scale. Here is the thing, though, it is still an IPA. Why call it a session IPA? As an inferred category, it is illogical.
So quit your whining, bigger beer bloggers. You can’t create a trend that doesn’t exist. Craft beer drinkers will not be pigeon holed. Announcing a trend you would like to see is not going to cause craft brewers to listen to you, believe you, and start making what is little more than your preferred style. If their customers still want an imperial IPA, that is what they will make. And they seem to still want that beer, sorry.
Time for a pint. Cheers.