Author Topic: IPA: Beer style or marketing term?  (Read 1010 times)

Online troybinso

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IPA: Beer style or marketing term?
« on: June 10, 2014, 08:44:31 AM »
I got to thinking about all of the different types of IPA that you can get from craft breweries. It started off with American IPA and English IPA. Then came Double/Imperial IPA. Then in the last 10 years or so there has been an explosion of subcategories of IPA including: Triple IPA, Red, Black and White IPA, IPL, Session IPA, and I am sure there are a few others that I can't think of off the top of my head.

Truthfully, I love IPA and it doesn't bother me to hear craft brewers using these new terms to get another IPA out there. Why are they doing it? IPA is the fastest growing craft beer style.  So why do they call a beer "Black IPA" instead of "American Black ale" or "Session IPA" instead of "Extra hoppy American Pale Ale"? Because IPA is what is selling the best. Craft brewers love to make beer, but they have to sell it. Homebrewers just get to do the making part. Successful marketing is a huge part of a successful craft beer business, and having a new IPA is what is popular right now. So really, the definition of IPA has changed. IPA doesn't actually mean "India Pale Ale" anymore. It just means "IPA" - which is shorthand for a beer that is extra hoppy.

For all of us beer nerds who have dog-eared copies of Mitch Steele's IPA book and have made historical IPA recipes (I am one of them), there are 10 more young craft beer drinkers who are just getting introduced to beer. For them, IPA is a flavorful new thing that tastes nothing like Coors Light. They can go into a bar or a brewpub or the grocery store and find an IPA and know that it is going to be different and exciting to drink. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Black Butte Porter were the beers that got me into craft beer 20 years ago, and IPA is what is getting new beer drinkers into craft beer now.

Offline goschman

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Re: IPA: Beer style or marketing term?
« Reply #1 on: June 10, 2014, 09:15:16 AM »
I don't mind all the sub categories of IPA because it helps me understand what to expect. If something is labelled as a generic "IPA" but uses roasted malts and is pitch black I would probably feel disappointed because that isn't necessisarily what I wanted. Similarly, if something is labelled "White IPA" I know that it most likely uses a good portion of wheat malt and may or may not be fermented with belgian yeast. Being informed about what you are buying is helpful...

Brewers are being very experimental and producing things that are not necessarily recognized within current standards. Many of my beers turn out this way because it suits my curiosity and palate. I think it is easier to hear 'session IPA' and know what it is instead of hearing a description like well I guess this is a very low ABV, high IBU pale ale that is supposed to mimic the hop character of an American IPA.
« Last Edit: June 10, 2014, 09:25:45 AM by goschman »
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Offline S. cerevisiae

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Re: IPA: Beer style or marketing term?
« Reply #2 on: June 10, 2014, 09:20:20 AM »
Black IPA makes no sense to me whatsoever. The beer is basically a hoppy Porter.  Belgian IPA is another style that I find to have a poorly-chosen name.

With that said, I agree that appending "IPA" to beer styles that having nothing to do with IPA appears to be a marketing gimmick just like "Amber" was the marketing gimmick of the nineties. The craft beer market is much more of "me too" market than craft brewers are willing to admit.
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Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: IPA: Beer style or marketing term?
« Reply #3 on: June 10, 2014, 09:23:39 AM »
I think it was just a natural extension of the craft beer boom. IPA was the number one style in terms of sales, and like anything popular, brewers pushed the envelope (of hoppy beer in this case). I agree with goschman in that at least you know what you're getting with the style name - if I'm buying AIPA I don't want to take home a White IPA without knowing it.
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Re: IPA: Beer style or marketing term?
« Reply #4 on: June 10, 2014, 09:30:20 AM »
I don't mind all the sub categories of IPA because it helps me understand what to expect.

However, these beer styles have as much in common with IPA as golden retrievers have in common with wheaten terriers.  American IPA is an adaptation of English IPA that uses domestic ingredients.  It is not so far away from the original style as to be unrecognizable.  Most people who have been away from the craft brewing scene for a while would think hoppy porter, not black IPA upon seeing and drinking a black IPA for the first time.
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Offline goschman

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Re: IPA: Beer style or marketing term?
« Reply #5 on: June 10, 2014, 09:34:48 AM »
I don't mind all the sub categories of IPA because it helps me understand what to expect.

However, these beer styles have as much in common with IPA as golden retrievers have in common with wheaten terriers.  American IPA is an adaptation of English IPA that uses domestic ingredients.  It is not so far away from the original style as to be unrecognizable.  Most people who have been away from the craft brewing scene for a while would think hoppy porter, not black IPA upon seeing and drinking a black IPA for the first time.

After having that black IPA for the first time, they will know that to them 'black IPAs' basically taste like a hoppy porter...

Firestone Walker's Wookey Jack tastes nothing like a hoppy porter to me. It tastes like more like what I think a black IPA would be. I guess I don't see the difference between calling something a hoppy porter or a black IPA; they are both outside of style guidelines but either term would help me to understand what I should expect from the beer...
« Last Edit: June 10, 2014, 09:43:37 AM by goschman »
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Online troybinso

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Re: IPA: Beer style or marketing term?
« Reply #6 on: June 10, 2014, 09:48:52 AM »
I don't mind all the sub categories of IPA because it helps me understand what to expect.

However, these beer styles have as much in common with IPA as golden retrievers have in common with wheaten terriers.  American IPA is an adaptation of English IPA that uses domestic ingredients.  It is not so far away from the original style as to be unrecognizable.  Most people who have been away from the craft brewing scene for a while would think hoppy porter, not black IPA upon seeing and drinking a black IPA for the first time.

But we don't get to decide what an IPA is, the market does. IPA has changed over time into something different from its "original style." A brewery can slap the term IPA onto anything they want - the one constant that I can see is that an IPA is always hoppy. Although I would like to hear of an example that wasn't.

Offline HoosierBrew

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Re: IPA: Beer style or marketing term?
« Reply #7 on: June 10, 2014, 10:02:06 AM »
FWIW, I think the best black IPAs are not hoppy porters - they are highly hopped beers with the roastiness of (at very most) Schwarzbier.
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Re: IPA: Beer style or marketing term?
« Reply #8 on: June 10, 2014, 10:04:03 AM »
I don't mind all the sub categories of IPA because it helps me understand what to expect.

However, these beer styles have as much in common with IPA as golden retrievers have in common with wheaten terriers.  American IPA is an adaptation of English IPA that uses domestic ingredients.  It is not so far away from the original style as to be unrecognizable.  Most people who have been away from the craft brewing scene for a while would think hoppy porter, not black IPA upon seeing and drinking a black IPA for the first time.



But we don't get to decide what an IPA is, the market does. IPA has changed over time into something different from its "original style." A brewery can slap the term IPA onto anything they want - the one constant that I can see is that an IPA is always hoppy. Although I would like to hear of an example that wasn't.

Go to the UK and have a Greene King IPA, just a Bitter in my book, and not very bitter or hoppy as far as Bitters go.
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Offline S. cerevisiae

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Re: IPA: Beer style or marketing term?
« Reply #9 on: June 10, 2014, 10:13:16 AM »
But we don't get to decide what an IPA is, the market does. IPA has changed over time into something different from its "original style." A brewery can slap the term IPA onto anything they want - the one constant that I can see is that an IPA is always hoppy. Although I would like to hear of an example that wasn't.

Craft brewers are quick to boast about their creativity.  However, when it comes to the business/marketing side of beer, craft brewers are mostly "me too."  The only true marketing genius in the pack is Jim Koch.
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Offline S. cerevisiae

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Re: IPA: Beer style or marketing term?
« Reply #10 on: June 10, 2014, 10:24:53 AM »
Go to the UK and have a Greene King IPA, just a Bitter in my book, and not very bitter or hoppy as far as Bitters go.

And an ordinary bitter at that!

GREENE KING IPA, 3.6% ABV

Lots of people say they like this fine ale because it's well balanced with a refreshing, hoppy flavour and a clean, bitter finish. We create the hoppy aroma and flavour using two varieties of English hop – Challenger and First Gold. Our brewers adds the hops to the copper by hand, just as we've always done, and by blending in pale, crystal and black malts he balances the hops with the richness of the malts. The refreshing flavour of Greene King IPA makes it a great accompaniment to spicier foods and curries (though it's always nice simply enjoyed with friends...).


Speaking of the UK, British craft and home brewers are now calling any hoppy American-style ale that they make American IPA, regardless of O.G.  Unlike American excise tax, British beer is taxed on the percentage of alcohol that it contains.
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Online troybinso

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Re: IPA: Beer style or marketing term?
« Reply #11 on: June 10, 2014, 10:46:50 AM »
Go to the UK and have a Greene King IPA, just a Bitter in my book, and not very bitter or hoppy as far as Bitters go.

And an ordinary bitter at that!

GREENE KING IPA, 3.6% ABV

Lots of people say they like this fine ale because it's well balanced with a refreshing, hoppy flavour and a clean, bitter finish. We create the hoppy aroma and flavour using two varieties of English hop – Challenger and First Gold. Our brewers adds the hops to the copper by hand, just as we've always done, and by blending in pale, crystal and black malts he balances the hops with the richness of the malts. The refreshing flavour of Greene King IPA makes it a great accompaniment to spicier foods and curries (though it's always nice simply enjoyed with friends...).


Speaking of the UK, British craft and home brewers are now calling any hoppy American-style ale that they make American IPA, regardless of O.G.  Unlike American excise tax, British beer is taxed on the percentage of alcohol that it contains.

Right, and I forgot about the Canadian IPA - Alexander Keith, which isn't very hoppy. I suppose I was referring to American craft beer, but it is interesting to see what is happening internationally too.

Offline hoser

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Re: IPA: Beer style or marketing term?
« Reply #12 on: June 10, 2014, 10:58:07 AM »
Black IPA makes no sense to me whatsoever. The beer is basically a hoppy Porter.  Belgian IPA is another style that I find to have a poorly-chosen name.

With that said, I agree that appending "IPA" to beer styles that having nothing to do with IPA appears to be a marketing gimmick just like "Amber" was the marketing gimmick of the nineties. The craft beer market is much more of "me too" market than craft brewers are willing to admit.

A hoppy porter and a black IPA are not the same thing.  There should be little to know roast character in a black IPA with medium high to high hop aroma and flavor.  Whereas, a porter is defined by dominant malt character and roast character in flavor and a aroma.  The bittering can be high, but hop flavor should be medium but not dominate the malt character which is different than an black IPA. Also, a porter should be balanced towards the malt whereas a black IPA by it's very nature as an "IPA" is not.

Offline hoser

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Re: IPA: Beer style or marketing term?
« Reply #13 on: June 10, 2014, 11:05:31 AM »
The ingredients and proportions also used in both styles are inherently different.

I prefer to look at the styles as "labels" so that I know exactly what kind of hoppy beer I will be getting. 

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Re: IPA: Beer style or marketing term?
« Reply #14 on: June 10, 2014, 12:09:58 PM »
A hoppy porter and a black IPA are not the same thing.  There should be little to know roast character in a black IPA with medium high to high hop aroma and flavor.  Whereas, a porter is defined by dominant malt character and roast character in flavor and a aroma.  The bittering can be high, but hop flavor should be medium but not dominate the malt character which is different than an black IPA. Also, a porter should be balanced towards the malt whereas a black IPA by it's very nature as an "IPA" is not.

There no generally-accepted standard for what is and what is not a black IPA at this point in time.  I have tasted black IPAs that taste like highly-hopped strong porters as well as black IPAs that taste like colored IPAs.
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