Somewhere around 2004 or 2005, my friend and I were in San Diego waiting for another friend of ours to get out of a job interview. We were his ride to and from the office building. In an effort to kill time, we wandered into Ballast Point Home Brew Mart, which was, apparently, a brewery.
We didn’t know much about the beer making process. We didn’t know much about beer, but we knew what we just had was different and gave us a little bit of a buzz off just the few samples we had.
Fast forward a decade or so, and we both drink almost exclusively craft beer. This isn’t to say I won’t have a Corona or a Miller Lite (and if you turn these things down at a summer BBQ because they’re “not craft” or “swill” then fuck you). I’ve seen a lot change in my own tastes in craft beer.
First, I really liked porters. Then I started getting into pale ales. They were a bit lighter. I remember drinking my first real west coast IPA from Green Flash. Holy shit the bitterness. I hated it. But IPA’s grew on me. You see, back then, IPA’s were a style of beer you became accustomed to. It was an acquired taste. A refined craft beer drinker drank IPA’s when they reached the level of craft beer drinker. Not just someone who dabbles.
This isn’t the case anymore. IPA’s are becoming the entry point to craft beer. People who have never drank anything other than Bud or Coors or Sam Adams (still a craft brewery, btw, and a great one), are now seeking out IPA’s. They’re the gateway to craft beer. They’re all people drink these days. Young kids, old men and women. IPA’s. All the time.
Remember when parents joined Facebook and everyone under a certain age thought, “Holy shit, my mom is on here” and signed off? It the same thing with craft beer. Mom’s and dad’s are into it. It’s no longer this subversive, cool world anymore (much to some people’s disappointment). I’ve got 65 year olds coming into the store at which I work looking for double dry hopped IPA’s.
They ask for juicy IPA’s, cloudy IPA’s, hazy IPA’s, citrus IPA’s. They talk about IPA’s they like using words like “turgid” or “citrusy” or, my favorite, “hoppy.” No shit. “Great hop nose up front showing those hop characteristics, and finishes really hoppy,” reads many a review.
And I’ve come to this conclusion:
If you only drink IPA’s, you don’t like craft beer. You like IPA’s.
I must emphasize that this is fine if you only drink IPA’s. You like IPA’s. Drink what you like to drink. I go onto beer websites and look at “hauls” or fridge pics that show three cases of assorted IPA’s and double IPA’s. “Gonna be a nice weekend #whalez #beerhaul!!”
You can’t call yourself a beer drinker if you only drink one style of beer. It’d be like me saying I’m a complete sports nut, but when you ask me about sports I reply, “I mostly watch NASCAR.” That’s great. I’m a huge NASCAR fan. Doesn’t make me a sports fan.
And spare me the argument that your cellar is filled with KBS and Bourbon County. Oh, a hyped-up special release that has off-the-chart ratings on Beer Advocate? I should be impressed that your one deviation from hop-forward beers are the extremely sought after beers that you use to impress your friends with haul pictures on Instagram? Great. Doesn’t change that you don’t like beer. You like IPA’s. Back to my sports analogy. Can I watch only NASCAR and just the Super Bowl and now you can officially call me Sports Nut again? No. It means I watch what everyone else watches.
Again, this is fine if you only drink IPA’s. That’s what you like. But I hear too many “craft beer drinkers” (aka people who don’t like beer, just IPA’s) talk about how they won’t drink macro swill or fizzy yellow piss or whatever they call and it’s pure snobbery from a sect of people who only drink one style of beer. I was a self-described hophead once. I still love a great IPA and there are some great Massachusetts breweries that are making great versions. But part of the fun of craft beer is variety.
Craft beer is at a weird crossroads right now. I commented on a friend’s article a couple weeks ago that craft beer is becoming beer for people who don’t like beer. It’s orange-juice IPA’s, coffee/vanilla stouts, and fruit-flavored German lagers. I’m not saying we need to convert every drinker back to Belgian farmhouse ales and German Hefeweizen; I’m not saying that your beer is bad.
But, shit, throw in an oatmeal stout or a pilsner or a fucking English style barleywine every once in a week. Get some variety. Stop drinking only hop-water, or continue to, I guess I shouldn’t care. Just don’t talk about how much of a craft beer geek you are.