A few years ago, a meme called “Read Another Book” first appeared in progressive/leftist circles on Twitter. Its purpose was to ridicule liberals for using Harry Potter comparisons with regards to politics (i.e. “Trump is Voldemort! Kellyanne Conway is just like Umbridge!”). If you are worried that a post titled “Please Make Other Kinds of Beer” is going to dabble in politics or problematic multimedia franchises, rest assured it will not past this paragraph. I just really wish I had the photoshop skills to make my own version of it that says “Anti IPA League: Please Make Another Beer.”
“Culture war” is far too strong a phrase to describe the shift in American beer consumption over the course of the 2010s, but I don’t know how else to describe it. Craft beer – and the ubiquitous IPA, which is 90% of craft – is king. You can buy microbrew in gas stations, 7-Elevens, Walmarts, and WinCos. Every place you go that sells beer is wall-to-wall with this stuff. It is unavoidable. Craft consumption started the decade as the cool alternative and ended it as the new default. In the 2020s, drinking Bud, Coors, or Miller feels more rebellious.
I don’t dislike IPAs. There are at least two – Belching Beaver’s “Phantom Bride” (a collaboration with Deftones that is named for one of their songs) and 21st Amendment’s “Brew Free or Die!” blood orange IPA – that I adore. These are both wonderful and I pick them up all the time. They also reflect a relatively new trend with IPAs (a “trend-within-a-trend,” so to speak) to make them just a little bit easier to drink. They both have citrus fruit in them which takes off some of the bitter flavor IPAs are infamous for. Hazy IPAs, which I don’t think contain fruit (drinking lots of beer does not actually impart any knowledge on how it’s made), also try to do this. I think they mostly succeed, but I’ve yet to have a hazy that amazed me. Ballast Point has one called “Passing Haze,” which implies that at least one person who works there has some modicum of self awareness.
I do think it’s nice and admirable that brewers are trying to make IPAs just a little bit more accessible. But do you know what else they could do? They could also make other kinds of beer. I know, sounds mad, right? But trust me, they do exist. Beyond the vast ocean of IPAs and IPA variants, there are lagers, pilsners, brown ales, red ales, white ales, scotch ales, porters, and stouts. There are also barley and rye wines, which are awful, but at least they’re something different. And this attitude of “everything must be an IPA” is extremely limiting. I mentioned earlier that Deftones does collaborative beers with Belching Beaver. They have done several at this point and last year one was made to celebrate White Pony‘s 20th anniversary. Now what sort of beer would such a momentous benchmark call for? A white ale feels appropriate. Or perhaps a white stout? Those aren’t common; it’s thematically a good fit for the crown jewel of Deftones’ discography. Nope. Alas, it is an IPA.
I’m not super bummed about this. I just really want micro brewers to have just a little more imagination. They are eventually going to run out of spins to put on bitter, hoppy flavor and they’ll have no choice but to go back to make literally anything else. Surely that will happen in my lifetime? I don’t want to will IPAs out of existence. I just wish the microbreweries of America would tone it down from 90% IPAs to a mere 60%. That sounds like a good compromise to me.