Today is National IPA Day, a global marker for craft beer’s most beloved style. And it is reflective of where the craft beer industry is now that less people may be celebrating it than ever before.
Founded elven years ago by Ashley Routson, along with Ryan Ross, IPA Day quickly became a social media event that was embraced by craft beer lovers and industry professionals around the world.
Those kind of things seemed like stupid fun back then when the craft beer biz was more youthful, the industry was unstoppable, and everyone was in love with high-octane IPAs.
IPA Day 2022 finds a profoundly different craft beer landscape. Craft breweries are still struggling to recover from the economic impact of an unprecedented pandemic. Inflation is cutting into brewers already slim margins
And even the kind IPAs that consumers are gravitating to have changed as well.
When Routson got things rolling back in 2011 the IPA, particularly what had become known as the West Coast IPA, was craft beer. Those high ABV, abundantly hopped, sometimes crushingly bitter brews captured the imagination of a nation and mainstreamed the craft beer business.
Flash forward to 2022 and even though the industry is still cranking out beers like Stone Brewing’s Ruination, Stone has now been acquired by Japanese brewing conglomerate Sapporo, and the West Coast IPA has been overshadowed by the New England/Hazy IPA phenomenon that the Alchemist’s Heady Topper brought to the fore.
America’s infatuation with higher and higher IBU counts has given way to new juicy IPA variations that play down the bitterness that craft beer consumers once couldn’t get enough of.
In 2011 most of these IPA’s came bottles, today it’s more a common to find them in cans.
Back when National IPA Day first launched big Imperial IPAs packaged in 22oz “bomber’ bottles lined retail shelves. Now that packaging configuration has all but disappeared along with the term ”Imperial” which is now more often referred to as called a Double IPA.
And even though the IPA remains craft beer’s dominant style, brewers are returning to lagers in droves, crafting beers that they hope can compete in the low-carb, low-alcohol and lesser calorie Michelob Ultra realm.
In today’s increasingly competitive craft beer environment brewers have gotten more serious about everything and celebrating events like IPA Day less if they want to survive.
(All image credits: Brewers Association)