rant of the day: triple ipa

Triple IPA

It’s only fitting that we christen this blog with a rant; for those of us who drink craft beer are full of things that piss us off and what better way to tell the whole world about these things than over a pint of beer. So friends, let’s crack open one and get to it.

For those of you in the Austin beer community who know me, you all most likely know that there’s one thing that’s been pissing me off lately. Something so horrendous and asinine that it’s finally time for me to discuss it in all of its ugly and disgusting glory. So here I am to finally do just that.

Let’s get something straight first. I enjoy all kinds of beer, from malty sweet bombs to puckering sour beers, from bubblegum hefeweizens to barnyard, funky beers. I especially enjoy my IPAs though, with their citrus notes, dank resins and bitter profiles that range from mild to mildly toxic.

But there’s one new trend that’s been going on with IPAs in our American beer culture lately that has started to truly irritate me. This trend, which is undoubtedly and very evidently American, exploits basic principles and agreed upon guidelines for the sake of marketing and making money.

For those of you who don’t know the name of this trend yet, I’ll go ahead and spell it out for you: triple. Yes, such a simple, benign and ultimately arbitrary word can cause me such anger. For it’s with this word that comes the onslaught of other arbitrary words such as quadruple, quintuple, and, perhaps even one day, decuple.  But I’ll stop rambling about the future and bring this rant back to reality.

The recently coined term “triple IPA” represents what is to me, perhaps the most asinine, bullshit marketing campaign ever created for beer, and, what’s worse, it’s actually working. People are literally drinking up these IPAs in droves, and the use of the term shows no signs in stopping.

If you were to trace back the origins of the term back to its roots you’d probably discover that it had something to do with the existing term “double IPA” (which I really don’t want to get into right now). However, this rant isn’t meant as a history lesson and so I’ll leave you to figure out the history of the term yourself.

Regardless of the history and/or reasoning for coining the term “triple IPA”, the term to me is completely meaningless and serves as no basis for determining what style of beer I’m actually drinking. A “triple IPA” is in no way triple the strength of a regular IPA, nor is it triple the bitterness or triple the hops or triple any ingredient of a regular IPA. To me, the term and any future ‘tuple’ IPA terms serve as merely a way to break down a style of beer into many different types to better market to the masses, and that’s just sad.

Matt has a similar feeling when it comes to the term “session IPA”. Here’s what he has to say:

“Take for example the “session IPA” style that seems to be popping up everywhere. What exactly is a “session IPA”? Session beers are those that are 5.0% abv or below (American standard) while an IPA is typically a stronger and hoppier version of the pale ale. So, in essence, wouldn’t a “session IPA” really just be a hoppy pale ale?

Draft magazine wrote an article calling for a new name, table IPAs. You can read it here: http://draftmag.com/beereditor/the-case-for-table-ipas/.

But even then, pale ales can reach higher abv levels, even higher than the session standard so there is some incredible overlap between the two styles, which just makes it even more confusing. In the end, the term “session IPA” just seems to be more of a selling and/or marketing tactic than anything. And if we start calling it “table IPA” or “half IPA” then not only are we going to confuse newcomers but I’ll change the freaking name to Stay Malty instead.”

I’ll end this rant with a solution to all this mess the current beer culture has created. Instead of using a tuple to separate beer styles into meaningless abstractions or even using a meaningless word like “session”, let’s all agree to use two terms: IPA and Imperial IPA. These two terms are the only two terms adequate enough to describe the beer I’m drinking. There’s absolutely no reason to break it down further than that. And guess what, most style guidelines used to judge beer only recognize IPA and Imperial IPA as actual styles. You won’t find any “triple IPA” or “session IPA” in them.

But, just as with all things, history and the masses both have strange ways of changing things. Who knows, maybe one day “decuple IPA” and/or “session IPA” will actually be legitimate beer styles? But until then, and until we either change the definitions of words or the methods we brew beer, I hope for the sake of us all the term “triple IPA” goes the way of gruit beer and dies only to be revived again when I’m long dead.

However, if these beer terms ultimately help drive the popularity of the American beer scene and create a counter movement to the crap BMC produces, then I guess that makes all of us happy, even if it is technical bullshit.

So what do you think? Do you think “triple IPA” is a legitimate term to describe a beer and is a legitimate beer style? What do you think of the term “session IPA”? Do you think we’re just full of crap? Do you just want us to talk more about this horrendous subject? Let us know in the comments section.

Cheers, and stay hoppy!


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