Why/How did IPA's become so popular in America?

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by bdeast1, Jun 9, 2012.

  1. dennis3951

    dennis3951 Mar 6, 2008 New Jersey
    Subscriber Beer Trader

    I think part of it is that so many good IPA's are brewed. Just about every craft brewery seems to make a good IPA. That does not seem to be the case about any other style.
  2. kzoobrew

    kzoobrew May 8, 2006 Michigan

    Are the popular because so many are brewed or are they brewed because they are so popular?
    tronester and Zaphog like this.
  3. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    I would wager that the ‘answer’ is: brewed because they are so popular (with craft beer drinkers). A hoppy beer like an IPA is often an ‘acquired taste’ because it is such a flavorful beer. For somebody that is a BMC type drinker, an IPA is an ‘overwhelming’ beer. I don’t think that craft breweries/brewpubs would make so many IPAs if there wasn’t a demand for them.

    I homebrew a lot of different types of beers and I bring a variety of those beers to parties; recently brought a case to a Memorial Day Barbeque Party. The number one question/comment I get is: “Is such and such beer hoppy? I don’t like hoppy beers”. At this recent party the Oatmeal Stouts went quickly. I came home with 3 bottles of IPA. I was obviously at a party that was populated with folks who are more ‘mainstream’ and not BA type folks.

  4. 5thOhio

    5thOhio May 13, 2007 South Carolina

    "What better way to differentiate yourself from the hoards of "common" BMC drinkers than to crack open a nice bitter IPA?"

    "It's because of the bigger better faster more mentality. We have trouble when it comes to subtlety or nuance in most things. We are in your face people as a nation."

    "Because many want to be part of the 'cool' clique."

    I don't drink beer to show who I am, nor do I drink beer as a political or sociological statement. I drink beer because I like the taste. IPAs are one of several styles I like. There are other styles I don't care for. I don't try to learn to like styles just because they're popular among other craft beer drinkers or because of some perceived image it creates if I have one.

    Some of you apparently overthink things. Maybe it's because there are so many college types on this forum who have to write papers and theorize all day. Or maybe some of you are influenced by advertising or fashion trends among your peers. Hoiwever, IPAs and other styles we seem to think were discovered just prior to us becoming craft beer drinkers have been around a long time and have little to do with hipsters or politics or anthropology or American culture. They have everything to do with appearance, flavor, aroma and alcohol.
    Chickenhawk9932 likes this.
  5. Pahn

    Pahn Dec 2, 2009 New York
    Beer Trader

    or, the opposite of everything you said. you don't offer anything like evidence for your view, yet you accuse the people you're criticizing of "overthinking".

    i don't know why people like IPAs, but surely you're underthinking. it sounds like you think that everyone else who likes IPAs likes them for exactly the same reasons as you do, just by assumption. that's a weird place to come from if you're going to jump into an argument and insult people ("you must write papers all day, duhhh").
  6. dennis3951

    dennis3951 Mar 6, 2008 New Jersey
    Subscriber Beer Trader

    Your right i didn't get my point across to well. I like IPA but enjoy Red/Amber Lagers and APA even more and there are far fewer good choices of them around than gbood IPA's.
  7. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    In my opinion it's because IPAs are one of the easier styles to brew well. For example, hefeweizens or pilsners would be more popular if more breweries could match the brilliance of German brewers.
    hopsputin and oregone like this.
  8. 5thOhio

    5thOhio May 13, 2007 South Carolina

    "...or, the opposite of everything you said. you don't offer anything like evidence for your view, yet you accuse the people you're criticizing of "overthinking".
    And exactly where is the evidence in the posts that say people drink IPAs because "...of the bigger better faster more mentality" or "...many want to be part of the 'cool' clique..."? I expressed my opinion just as the other BAs expressed theirs.

    "it sounds like you think that everyone else who likes IPAs likes them for exactly the same reasons as you do, just by assumption."
    Where exactly did I say "I, and everyone else?" All my statements were in the context of why I, that is me, drink beer. And yes, I implied that others also drink beer for the taste. Wild & crazy idea, huh? However, show me where I suggested or stated that EVERYONE drinks beer for the reasons I do.

    My point, in case you missed it, was that to assert that people drink beer because of some mythical American attitudes or because they want to look cool is kind of groping for theories that have little basis in evidence. Consider this: I can find plenty of comments on this site where people discuss IPAs and use terms like "delicious" "tasty" "flavorful" etc etc. How many statements can you find where the writers say "I drink IPAs because of my bigger better faster mentality" or "I drink IPAs because I have trouble with subtlety and nuance" or "I drink IPAs because I want to be in the cool clique?"
  9. PaleMalt

    PaleMalt May 14, 2012

    about three to four yeas ago i did not like IPA's at all. My brother lives in Atlanta got me to try sweetwater ipa and since then i have been hooked on IPA's so wanted say thanks to sweetwater for making a great ipa.
  10. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    That is an intriguing ad line for Sweetwater IPA: Don’t Float the Mainstream.

    I like that line!

  11. dennis3951

    dennis3951 Mar 6, 2008 New Jersey
    Subscriber Beer Trader

    That's the point i think i was trying to make! lol
  12. djsmith1174

    djsmith1174 Aug 21, 2005 Minnesota

    I like them, but I have no desire to limit my palate to one style. So they get rotation in my beer purchases, but not more than any other style of beer. The thing I like about craft beer is the variety. BMC lacks any variety at all, as well as flavor. But if all anyone drinks are IPAs and DIPAs, then they are not enjoying all that is available to them. Even though the flavor is much improved, I have to believe there is some monotony with drinking like this as well.
    Chickenhawk9932 likes this.
  13. bigflatsbeerman

    bigflatsbeerman Nov 2, 2005 New York

    I took me about 10 years of drinking craft beer before I rellay liked IPA's. Once you develop a taste they are fantastic, but then I noticed beers I use to think were very hoppy weren't any more you I kept seeking stronger and stronger hop tastes. It's weird, somebody should do a study to figure out this phenonmenon.
  14. bdeast1

    bdeast1 Feb 4, 2011 Alabama

    Yes to that. I live in AL and get quite a bit from Sweetwater, but I only recently tried their IPA. I was very suprised at how tasty it was. A very good sessionable IPA. There is good beer in the south if you know where to look.
  15. mindspin315

    mindspin315 Feb 23, 2011 New Jersey
    Beer Trader

    It comes down to one thing...THEY'RE FREAKIN' DELICIOUS! (and smell wonderful too)
  16. oregone

    oregone Jul 2, 2008 Oregon

    I agree wholeheartedly.
    And I prefer hoppy brews to those styles.
  17. bubseymour

    bubseymour Oct 30, 2010 Maryland
    Beer Trader

    I think there is a small segment of beer drinkers that truly love really hoppy ipas. There is another segment of society that think it's just cool/hip. Actually I think for beer styles American IPAs would be one of the lesser prefered flavored beers if you did a blind taste test. With that said, I enjoy most well crafted and balanced ipas.
  18. bubseymour

    bubseymour Oct 30, 2010 Maryland
    Beer Trader

    I just wonder if craft brewers pump out so many pales and ipas due to true demand for them or ease to make?
  19. jesskidden

    jesskidden Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    I suppose that explains why "light beer" (a style well over a century and half younger than IPA) has gone from zero to over 50% of the US beer market in about 40 years, with 4 of the current 5 top selling beers "light beer" --- and IPA's have well under 1% of the US market.

    I guess I define "so popular in America" differently than many BA's.
  20. 5thOhio

    5thOhio May 13, 2007 South Carolina

    "I just wonder if craft brewers pump out so many pales and ipas due to true demand for them or ease to make"

    If any business makes a product just because it's easy to do, versus supplying a demand, they won't be in business for long.
  21. GregoryVII

    GregoryVII Jan 30, 2006 Michigan

    One word: Cascade. Hop growing in America started out by trying to replicate already established hop varieties from Continential Europe and the UK. They were the "neo classics" such as Mt. Hood, Willamette and Cascade. But Cascade was different. The love child of Fuggle and Serebrianka, she was not an imitation. With bright citrus, grapefruit and pine aromas/flavors Cascade was uniquely American. I think that is one of the big reasons early craft brewers fell in love with it. For once we had an ingredient that uniquely distinguished us as a brewing culture...other than six-row barley that was largely the domain of BMC brewers anyway.

    What better showcase for this ingredient than in IPAs? It likely caught on because it was starkly different than what mass brewers were turning out. It was even different than the classic examples from Germany, the UK and elsewhere. And, most importantly, they were so damn delicious. Cascade launched a whole new path in hop breeding that has turned out even bolder and more flavorful varieties like Centennial, Amarillo, Citra, Simcoe and others. Cascade was the hop that launched a revolution and the American Craft Beer movement with it.
  22. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    “Cascade was the hop that launched a revolution and the American Craft Beer movement with it.”

    GregoryVII for the win!

  23. otispdriftwood

    otispdriftwood Dec 9, 2011 Colorado
    Beer Trader

  24. 5thOhio

    5thOhio May 13, 2007 South Carolina

    "A misleading statistic since Sierra Nevada and Sam Adams have the largest distribution of all craft beers."

    Or, maybe it's the other way around: they have the largest distribution because their flagship beers are quite popular and people bought them and their business grew? If big distribution automatically insures big sales, where's Bud American Ale or Budweiser Select on the top brands list? Commerce in America is littered with brands that didn't sell even though they had big distribution and name recognition. Remember "new Coke"?
  25. Kuemmelbrau

    Kuemmelbrau Aug 2, 2008 Louisiana

    really? this is too simple
    rise of light beer= prohibition (when that's all that exists for ~40 years it is obvious that it will sell well)
    rise of ipa in america= cultural tastes
    "so popular in america" im sure was a comparative statement in regards to other countries
  26. MLucky

    MLucky Jul 31, 2010 California

    Two main reasons:
    1) as some others have said, it's just a really tasty beer style that's deservedly popular.

    2) Americans who gravitate toward craft beer usually do so because they're looking for bolder flavors than what they get from AmBev, and IPAs are boldly flavored in a way that everyone notices immediately. A lot of craft beer drinkers want to be "blow away" by what they're drinking, and a really hoppy beer will give them what they're looking for in a way that even a very, very malty beer might not. (Whereas to the newcomer, something like a nicely done czech pilsner might taste too much like a BMC beer, or something like an excellent porter might not deliver the jolt they're looking for.)

    Add to this the fact that IPAs are relatively easy to make, and thus a style that pretty much every craft brewer attempts, and you've got a market that's flooded with IPAs.
    5thOhio likes this.
  27. sandiego67

    sandiego67 Feb 25, 2008 California

    Americans like anything that is over salty, over sweet, over battered, over portioned. Therefore, they like beer that is over hopped.

    IPA's are to beer as Chardonnay is to wine.
  28. jesskidden

    jesskidden Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    (?) "Light beer" came about 35-40 years after Repeal - and US beer from Repeal to the late '60's-early '70's got progressively "lighter" - more adjunct, fewer hops. Can't blame Prohibition for Miller Lite, Coors Light, Bud Light and Busch Light being 4 or the top 5 beers in the US today- they all were developed in the 1970's-80's.

    Ales were 20-30% of the US beer market in the first years after Repeal- a much larger percentage than today's +5% for "craft beer".
    5thOhio, tronester and Norica like this.
  29. jesskidden

    jesskidden Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    How is it "misleading"? The poster I answered said there was no "most popular" (craft) beer, and I listed the most popular, based on actual sales. One would expect that the brewers of the best selling beers would have the largest distribution- distribution and sales kind of go together.
    5thOhio likes this.
  30. knightlypint

    knightlypint Apr 18, 2012 New Jersey

    It was American IPAs and all their variants which turned me away from American beers.
    jmw likes this.
  31. JdoubleA

    JdoubleA Apr 27, 2011 North Carolina
    Beer Trader


    9 16 1 =26, reversed is 62

    13 1 19 15 14= 62

    5thOhio likes this.
  32. Pahn

    Pahn Dec 2, 2009 New York
    Beer Trader

    hah. oddly enough, i'm reading the illuminatus! trilogy right now (coincidence?). book is unbelievably funny.
  33. otispdriftwood

    otispdriftwood Dec 9, 2011 Colorado
    Beer Trader

    It's my opinion, that's all.
  34. StubFaceJoe

    StubFaceJoe Nov 24, 2011 Colorado

    Facts Shmacts! You can prove anything with facts!

    Marketing HAS to be brought into the discussion though, if we are saying the rise of the AAL has to do with the "flavor" profile. People DO drink these beers to be part of a whatever is going on with them (sports, family tradition, PRICE, etc.)
  35. Kuemmelbrau

    Kuemmelbrau Aug 2, 2008 Louisiana

    "light(er) beer" as opposed to "dark(er) beer" Not light beer (the style [or should i say "light American Lager" so you understand]) i realize that "light american lager" wasnt around immediatly after prohibition. but prohibition killed off the array of other styles smaller breweries (and the breweries themselves) were producing and was a large factor in the rise of "light American Lager"

    you are only emphasizing my original point "light American Lager" came about the same way as ipa. We (americans) took the "bohemian pilsener" and made it extreme(ly light) We as americans can even do "less" more than the rest of the world!
  36. Providence

    Providence Feb 24, 2010 Rhode Island

    I have always thought craft drinkers are attracted to potent flavors, especially IPA's, because they represent everything that BMC is not. While I don't think a heavy hitting BA Stout or DIPA is the best intro to craft, as they are just far too shocking and could turn someone away (although not always). However, once the taste for quality beer is gained, the thirst for a product that has very little in common with a BMC beer is strong, very strong. So they go with a flavor profile that is nowhere near that of Bud Light.

    Just my guess.
  37. Hanzo

    Hanzo Feb 27, 2012 Virginia

    After so many years of drinking AALs cranked out of soulless factories the people are having a revolution, so why not pick an in your face style that is huge on flavor as a showing of what we really want?

    Oh and they are delicious as others have pointed out.
  38. yemenmocha

    yemenmocha Jun 18, 2002 Arizona

    No need for the " " for craft for Sierra Nevada. it is craft beer.
    jimmy666 likes this.
  39. jesskidden

    jesskidden Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    The OP referred to"... 'America's most popular beer' (not including BMC products)" and I listed the top selling craft beers, putting the quotes around "craft" only to draw attention to that fact.

    There are a number of beers that aren't "BMC" that sell better than SNPA and SABL (and, to me, thus are more "popular" but apparently opinion outweighs sales figures for many ;)) - Heineken, Corona, Modelo, Yuengling Trad. Lager, Labatt Blue, etc, but I assume that he wasn't interested in discussing those sorts of beers.
  40. yemenmocha

    yemenmocha Jun 18, 2002 Arizona

    Oh ok I thought you were saying it isn't really craft or something.
    Mavajo likes this.
  • About Us

    Your go-to website for beer (since 1996), publishers of BeerAdvocate magazine (since 2006) and hosts of world-class beer events (since 2003). Respect Beer.
  • Extreme Beer Fest® Cometh

    February 3-4, 2017. Boston, Mass. Limited tickets available. Prepare for epicness.

    Learn More
  • Free Trial Subscription

    Reside in the US? Interested in a free 1-month trial subscription to the print edition of BeerAdvocate magazine?

    Yes! Sign Me Up!