Where are IPA’s headed?

by Sean on March 9, 2016

Where will hops go next? That is a question I have had swirling in my mind since I saw the Facebook invite for the Mohawk Bend IPA Festival this weekend. There have been Session IPA trends, single-hop IPA trends and this year fruit IPA beers are big.
Then I saw this Beervana piece (which itself was commenting on another piece from Willamette Week newspaper) and found myself wondering how these trends start and how they move around the country. Is it really from one area? Does a can of Heady Topper hopscotch from brewer to brewer until that beer becomes emulated from coast-to-coast or is it sales number that drive every last brewery to introduce a grapefruit IPA?

Adding another “Or” to the mix is the hop supply. I remember when there simply wasn’t enough Citra hops to meet the demand, and then to add another layer, Mosaic and other new and exotic hops showed up on the scene blunting a full-fledged Citra take-over.

How does a certain IPA sub-style grab the attention of both brewers and craft beer fans alike? Obviously it has to catch the zeitgeist of craft beer fans but my personal theory (without hard Nate Silver data to back it up) is that for a trend to take lasting hold it needs to have an unobtainable avatar of the style as well as well-regarded local and easily available options as well. Much like a hit movie, it needs to have lines for tickets but also be on enough screens for the curious who might walk away from the ticket window if the line is too long. But that rollout from whale to common needs to happen in a short window otherwise the momentum dies on the bine and the beer stays as Moby Dick and doesn’t enter the popular conversation which is on a different plane and only tenuously connected to blogs and industry chatter.

This is why Sour IPA’s haven’t taken flight nor have coffee IPA’s. Yet. They have been oddities or taproom specials but have not gone nationwide. They may have caught the fancy of the early and adventurous beer consumers but have not reached a critical mass of breweries and beers to push into mindsets and store shelves.

Which leaves me back at the start. Is there a new hop lurking and about to create a national stir? That is a wait and see game.

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