The Spectacle Blog

The Beer Spectator: IPAs vs. Lagers

By on 5.23.14 | 2:18PM

Most American craft breweries make an India Pale Ale. They’re difficult to master, but they allow brewers to distinguish themselves through personalization.  

With the explosive growth of IPAs since the 1990s, it’s easy to forget that craft beer only comprises approximately 8 percent of total beer volume in the U.S. Thus, many who do not follow the craft beer market closely do not realize its accelerating growth.

Those who don’t drink beer, or don’t care to explore any brews outside of the lager category, dismiss or ignore these releases as disgusting or elitist. Indeed, even feminist blog Jezebel, which prides itself on rejecting stereotypes, bills IPA drinkers as bros “rich enough to afford fancy beer.”

These views are errant, as even now the IPA category is expanding back to its birthplace.

The Economist is noticing a trend in Great Britain: British brewers are adopting American IPA recipes:

As the craft beer revolution has spread beyond America, so has the taste for IPA. Britain is undergoing a brewing revival alongside a foodie revolution, based on local produce and artisanal methods. Much the same is happening in other rich countries around the world, where breweries are springing up to serve up craft beers. Indeed, IPA has come full circle. Many British craft brewers are using new IPA recipes imported from America for their brews but again adapting them for local palates.

Clearly, the American craft beer market has successfully made an impact on the global beer market. I’m proud to live in a country where I can buy hundreds of different types of IPAs.

Interestingly, the Economist set up a somewhat false dichotomy between lagers and IPAs, as if the two were battling against each other for bar space.

Pale lagers dominate the world market, as they’re easy to drink in any season. Money follows the crisp, cold, and relatively tasteless brews of Anheuser-Busch InBev, SABMiller, Molson Coors, and a multitude of smaller regional lager brewers.  

Can IPAs challenge the dominant position of these three behemoths, along with all the others? Probably not. But it's wrong to consider the two types in competition when there is no real war. Cheap, light lagers appeal to all different kinds of drinkers, while IPAs are acquired tastes.

This is great news for American craft brewers and for drinkers of fine beer everywhere. But, just as it’s not wrong to enjoy cheap lagers, it’s also not right to convert every beer drinker to the side of IPAs. There’s definitely room in the middle. 

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