I occasionally listen to local sports talk radio. Well, to be fair, I listen to Toucher and Rich on 98.5 almost every day, but that is a general entertainment radio show with a sports focus. On a less frequent basis I also listen to hardcore, sports-are-our-entire-lives-and-the-only-thing-we-care-about sports talk radio. The conversations on these shows are often ridiculous and over the top. For example, last September when the Patriots got off to a rough start there were callers and talking heads who seriously debated whether the Pats should bench future Hall of Fame QB Tom Brady. Good idea guys, that would have worked out really well. If you listen to these shows on a regular basis you hear people call in and routinely express these fringe/crazy opinions, and the hosts encourage this kind of talk. If you are a run of the mill, rational sports fan listening to these one-sided debates you might start to question your beliefs. What if these ideas that initially seemed way out there aren’t so crazy at all? The thing you need to remember is that many of these shows force their callers to wait on hold for up to an hour before they get on the air, so the majority of the people you hear get through are the type of people who have an hour to kill waiting on hold while listening to the radio. The hosts also welcome fringe ideas because it gives them things to talk about for four hour blocks on a slow sports day. The opinions of these people don’t represent the opinions of the majority of the fan base, but that rarely gets addressed on the show. There is a selection bias that promotes radical ideas espoused by people with too much free time.
Recently there have been a number of beer enthusiasts on social media and message boards who have boldly claimed that they are done drinking IPAs. The IPA style is by far the best selling type of craft beer, and has spawned a number of sub-styles including Black, White, Rye, Belgian, Double, Triple and Session IPAs. Many breweries have nearly abandoned brewing other styles of beer in favor of lineups stocked with different types of IPA. If you go into a bar with a strong beer selection and try to drink every IPA available you’ll probably need someone to carry you home long before you finish the list. The abundance of IPAs, often at the expense of other styles, has led to a bit of a backlash amongst an outspoken minority of beer geeks. It typically starts in the form of hypothetical questions. Are there too many IPAs? Is the market saturated? Why don’t more breweries make [insert beer style X]? Has the IPA style “jumped the shark”? In and of themselves, these can be legitimate questions, but for some they lead to bold proclamations, including claims of eschewing the IPA style all together. I do wonder how many of the people who are so bold to declare that they aren’t going to drink IPAs any more really stick to that, I’m guessing very few. These people have become the sports talk radio callers of the beer world, starting from a defensible position and taking it way too far. Unfortunately some of these types often spend too much time of social media and message boards, so their opinions look more widespread than they really are.
Now, I’m not saying that anyone or everyone has to like IPAs or any other style of beer. If you prefer stouts, pilsners or sours over hoppy beers that is perfectly legitimate. I am taking an issue with the people who were outspoken proponents of IPAs for years and now treat the style the way a hipster treats their favorite underground band after they sign a major label record deal. Like that band, the beer didn’t change, so denouncing it now is disingenuous. I also understand palate fatigue, I got a little burned out on hoppy beers last fall, so I took a break and focused on maltier offerings. I never claimed that I was over iPAs, it’s just nice to mix it up once in a while. There are some legitimate complaints about the current beer market. Would I like to see some more diversity in beer styles? Sure. Can black IPAs be muddled, or DIPAs overdone, or session IPAs undrinkable hopwater? In some cases, absolutely. Does this mean I am going to trash the style in any way? Not a chance. Complaining about the specific issues with the beer market is legit, but taking the next step to trash the most popular style of beer is taking the argument to an extreme.
The thing is, there is a great reason why the IPA style is so popular; hops are delicious. Bitter, aromatic with a vast array of bold flavors, it is no wonder that hop-bomb beers have become the crown jewel of American brewing. The IPA style is also so diverse, even without all of the sub-styles there are an impressive and rapidly expanding number of hop varieties, not to mention the contributions from malts, yeast and water. There are many great hop-forward beers being brewed locally and nationally, along with plenty that are mediocre or worse. Instead of bemoaning the style, focus on the great beers and realize that ever increasing competition will be the death knell to the brewers who can’t get it right. It is also fine to sing the praises of other beer styles, but you can do it without denouncing IPAs. As with sports, it is OK to be the passionate fan and it’s OK to have strong opinions, but don’t be the guy who sits by the phone for hours just to go on an irrational tangent. When done correctly the IPA is one of the best styles of beer, and drinking a great one is much more fun than complaining about a crappy one.