It is hard to believe – at least to craft beer drinkers – that craft beer sales only make up around 7 percent of the annual market share for beer sales. The number has been growing steadily over the past few years, with the 2008 percentage being only four, but craft beer still has a lot of room for growth in the market overall. Many breweries have taken to one style in particular as the flagship beer that is driving the craft beer market: the incredibly popular IPA (India Pale Ale) style, which many cannot seem to get enough of despite the overwhelming amount of IPA variations on the market today.
For a lot of craft beer drinkers, the IPA was the gateway brew to craft beer. With the overabundance of flavor and hoppy goodness, it was a giant kick to the palate when matched up against the mass-produced beer that many had been drinking prior. However, once one gets adjusted to the taste of standard IPAs, more is demanded of the beer: more hops, more alcohol, more flavor. More, I tell you, more!
Fear not, craft beer devotee, as brewers have heard this cry and have been experimenting wildly with the IPA style with beers that go beyond the standard step of Double IPAs. Thankfully, the results have been delicious and just what one would want from his or her IPA – hops and flavor!
Breweries such as Dogfish Head have taken to blending its immensely popular 60 Minute IPA with Syrah grapes (popular in many red wines) to create the Sixty-One Minute IPA, a seemingly hoppy red wine.
Another great take on the style is the Black IPA, or Cascadian Dark Ale, as it is called in some corners. This style has a roasted malt backbone, giving the beer its color and almost porter-like body and taste, but with the addition of a heaping amount of hops, which creates a creamy, roasty, and hoppy dark ale. Breweries such as Stone Brewing Co. have been brewing its Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale for some time and have created one of the seminal Black IPAs, while breweries such as 21st Amendment has its Back in Black, another fantastic example of the style.
Our own local heroes at Breaker Brewing Company have jumped ahead of the pack with the new Blasting Cap Coffee IPA, infusing both fresh brewed coffee and fresh coffee beans into the beer for a truly eye-opening experience! Stone Brewing Co. also has its own version of the Coffee IPA style with the deliciously smooth Dayman Coffee IPA, but be warned – it’s a very tough one to find!
There is a seemingly endless amount of breweries experimenting with the IPA style; Stone Brewing Co. has also produced a coconut IPA, R&R Coconut IPA, that has such an incredibly smooth, easy-drinking body that you may forget that it is an IPA altogether.
Founders Brewing Company has also taken the IPA experience one step further by aging its incredible Double IPA, Double Trouble, in bourbon barrels, imparting a unique coconut and vanilla flavoring to the beer.
Many breweries are also starting to experiment with what are now being called “Triple IPAs.” While the style is still up for debate, the main reason for doing this is simply to create an even hoppier beer. This takes the style more into a niche area for beer drinkers, as the casual IPA drinker may not seek out more expensive, hopped-up brews; however, the true hophead will track them all down with a vengeance. The IPA style is extremely popular for a reason, though, and there is no better time than now to try it out if you haven’t yet.