There is an influx of IPAs. They are everywhere! Double IPA. Belgian IPA. Rye IPA. Black IPA. My IPA is hoppier than your IPA competitions. Craft beer drinkers are burning off their tastebuds. Not everyone is happy with this.
Some blame breweries. Some blame consumers. Some blame everyone. I believe it’s a mixture of several things that are bringing IPAs to the front of the craft beer market.
I can go to several liquor stores in my area that have tons of different styles of craft beer. I don’t struggle to find quality beer to drink at home (even if you exclude my excellent homebrew, of course). I went shopping last weekend at one of the best beer stores in Atlanta and found an aisle full of IPAs. But guess what? They also had an aisle full of stouts and porters, an aisle of sours, an aisle of cider, the list goes on. The store was stacked with variety. No doubt a craft beer lover’s dream. Rather, I find that my struggles start and end at the bar.
I don’t always order a beer when I go out to dinner and want a drink. Sometimes I do order a cocktail. But there are some places, like a pub or a sports bar for example, that cry out for beer and not hard liquor. These are the places where I often struggle to find something to satisfy my palate. I am no hop head — I’ll be the first to admit it. I prefer to avoid arugula in a salad due to its bitterness so let’s not even talk how my tongue copes with high IBU beers. There are some exceptions to that preference, but no need to muddy the waters here. 😉
Bars and bar managers hypothetically stock what will sell. And when we are talking about draft beer, they have to ensure it goes within a particular time frame so they don’t waste the keg. So based on these assumptions, bar managers will put up IPAs because, let’s face it, right now they sell. And they sell fast. If you run a place that has 20 taps, you’re going to stack it full of items that will likely sell quicker alongside the basic restaurant must-haves like macro-produced light beer. And they sell because the market demands them. So all you consumers out there who clamor for hops, the bar market is being run not only for you, but also by you.
Bartenders are requesting kegs of IPAs because they are selling out. Guess who supplies these? The distributors! And guess where the distributors get the beer? The breweries! Well, if a distributor is getting a lot of requests from bar managers for a style of beer because their consumer is requesting a particular style of beer, they will then pass that message onto the breweries, right? The distributors make their money off being the go-between the market and the brewery. So in order to make money, they need to sell what’s popular. And breweries want to satisfy the market to make a profit and grow.
Right now, IPAs are the ticket. They sell out. They make a profit. Like any well-run business, breweries make beers that they hope will sell and quickly.
For those of you who are more fans of anything but an IPA, we need to start to request them. We need to get our friends to request them. We can use the law of supply and demand to shift the market to our preferences. So next time you want to complain about how “there are too many IPAs on this bar menu,” think about why this is and make decisions that can impact the market as a whole.
I’ll be doing my part to hope for more malt and less hops.