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Counterpoint: IPA Day Sucks

Today is something called IPA Day, in which we, craft beer drinkers are supposed to drink IPAs. To which I say, get off my lawn! I'm all for celebrating beer styles, but right off the bat there are two things wrong with picking IPAs in particular. First, they are the most popular style of craft beer. Second, the concept of the IPA has been stretched so far that anything with a noticeable amount of hops has become an IPA, even though it has no historic connection to British colonial rule, isn't pale, or might not even be an ale. Let's take these in turn.

1. Making an IPA has become de rigueur, which is French for "prescribed by fashion." If you make beer, odds are someone's going to ask about your IPA. It's expected, if not downright required. And why wouldn't you make an IPA? After all, it's the best-selling craft beer style out there as well as the most popular style, by number of entries, at the World Beer Cup. The result is that there are many many IPAs out there, which is nice because having options is nice. But it's also not nice because a lot of these are crap. Brewers can and do use massive amounts of hops to cover up flaws in the beer (shots fired: I call these West Coast IPAs).

So today we craft beer drinkers find ourselves celebrating something that is celebrated every day. What's the point in that? An open, naked appeal to IPA hegemony is unnecessary. This great rant compares it to having a White history month. Celebrate something else.

2. Even when one might not want an IPA, they are inescapable. Here are some local riffs on IPA, an exercise so committed to conceptual stretching I'm surprised a politician hasn't picked up on it yet. Flying Dog's In De Wildeman (Farmhouse IPA), Heavy Seas Dubble and Black Cannons (Belgian and Black IPAs, respectively), DC Brau's Brainless Corruption collaboration with Epic Brewing (Belgian IPA), India Ink (Tuppers/Mad Fox Black IPA)…. I could go on, but you get the idea. Adding hops to something and calling it an IPA is the craft beer version of putting a bird on it.

A few years ago we started seeing black IPAs (or IBAs, or Cascadian Dark Ales if you are some sort of un-American separatist), even though the P in IPA is for Pale. I know we live in a world in which KFC and MTV are just a bunch of letters without the original words behind them, but do we have to do this for beer? Where I come from, America, words have meaning. Pale means pale. Not black, not white. Pale. Now there are white IPAs, or, as they've been known for decades, "hoppy wheat beers" (waves to Bells Oberon and 3 Floyds Gumballhead).

Another recent development is the IPL, a hoppy pale lager. Think of something like New Belgium's admittedly delicious Shift, and you're not too far off.

That black IPA you like so much (I'm partial to Rock Art's Black Moon and 21st Amendment's Back in Black): it's a porter with some more hops in it. "Hoppy porter" isn't any harder to say than "black IPA" and yet here we are.

And by the way, there's nothing new about these hoppy bastardizations of the IPA, either. Bass brewed one in 1888.

In sum, whether its a genuine IPA (in that it is generously hopped, pale, and an ale) or not, they're everywhere. They're inescapable. People love them. I am people. I love them. Sculpin and Loose Cannon in particular. And I, like you, drink them all the time. IPAs don't need a day. For craft beer fans, every day is IPA day.

What should you do instead? Drink a style that doesn't get enough love. Ignore anyone who describes her- or himself as a social media guru or expert. Reward craft breweries that lager; we need more of them. Patronize the breweries that have beers cold-conditioning, taking up precious real estate. If you like hops, have a Victory Prima Pils. Sour beers are an excellent antidote to summer weather. It's August, go grill something and pair it with a rauchbier. I'd add that at least no one has thought of making a hoppy one of those, but I'd be wrong. But whatever it is, make sure it's good, even, or perhaps especially, if it's an IPA.

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