IPA Trilogy, Part Two – “Through Being Cool”
So, if the imminent demise of IPA is not due to the speed at which IPAs became the de rigueur hopped malt beverage to consume, could it be blamed on in humans observing out humans drinking them? Perhaps ersatz tastemakers are influencing us—us, the ruggedly individualistic craft beer lovers who boldly ford our isolated streams and dales—a bit more than we, the lonely rugged individualist, think possible?
As is always wise when contemplating such weighty matters, let’s return to science. Our adoption velocity friend from the Accumulated Knowledge review, Jonah Berger, distributed yellow Livestrong bracelets to residents of a regular, everyday Normal Stanford dormitory with his graduate advisor Chip Heath (this was 2004—far, far before the cataclysmic Reasoned Decision of October 2012 rattled pro cycling). They asked the recipients to wear the wristband and yellow for cancer awareness. After one week went by, Berger and Heath did the same thing in the neighboring Academic Dorm, where the members “had a reputation for being somewhat geeky¹.”
Another week of sublime college life in Palo Alto passes. Berger and Heath then bribe students from the Normal dorm with pizza to fill out an “attitude and ownership” survey. There’s a buried question asking how often the student wore the Livestrong bracelet in the past week. There was a significant 32 percent drop in Livestrong bracelet wearing in the (ooh-ah) Alpha Beta Normal Dorm after they observed the Lambda Lambda Lambda Academic Dorm wearing the little yellow rubber rings in their shared dining hall. Strikingly, students in a Control dorm across campus—far, far away from nerds in yellow wristbands to see and mock during lunch and dinner—only reported a seven percent drop in Livestrong bracelet wearage.
Dr. Berger, in a separate book chapter concerning the concept of self-identity and the influence of social pressure on conformity and rebellion², graphically represented the innate core of most of our sixteen-year old selves in a child-like, yet deeply profound, figure. It succinctly summarizes humans’ never-ending internal war to be cool:
Yeah. Nah. I’m calling foul on IPA poseur theory too; although, to be fair, poseur theory happens all the time in the craft beer world³ as well as the real world. The excitement and breadth of depth in IPA as a generic category is just too great for hoppy malt beverage abandonment. There are simply too many outstanding IPA targets—see the figure above—and not enough original groups to bring down the style.
Case in point: LADYFACE ALE COMPANIE’s Cataclysm, described as an “oatmeal imperial IPA” on Ladyface’s chalkboard. That’s a style I haven’t tasted before, plus—get this!—it’s on nitro! Ah, so an oatmeal stout-IPA hybrid, then? Nope. Pouring both hazy and lighter in color than both of Ladyface’s normal IPAs, plus the telltale nitro creamy bubbles, Cataclysm hit me first with piney hop flavor and moderate bitterness, lovingly opposed by the silkiness of nitro. An oat taste wasn’t detectable, but there was a thickness that could be extrapolated to eating the hoppiest bowl of oatmeal ever. Delicious, but, as with Modern Times’ Accumulated Knowledge, the amazing mouthfeel and lingering chewiness of Cataclysm were the highlights of the beer.
Cataclysm also hides its north of ten percent ethyl alcohol content through a complete lack of astringency and seamless melding of hop flavor, bitterness, and malt/oats. As it warmed, the mouthfeel became rounder and comforting like a warm blanket, with the initial blasts of bitterness receding into a structural component. 473 ml disappeared much too quickly, but beware: although it drinks at least three points or so below 10.6 percent, if you’re ordering a second, it would be best to linger over more fries or dessert and wistfully replay the bike ride (possibly sans Livestrong bracelet?) that brought you to this beautiful corner of the world below Ladyface Mountain.
Be assured that you’re still a cool kid in the original “taste adopter” group. Ignore your inner angst-filled sixteen-year old, put the tape on erase, and be through being cool… at least through your next Cataclysm. There’s plenty of time to worry about your poseur status later. —B.S.
¹Berger J. and Heath C. Who drives divergence? Identity signaling, outgroup dissimilarity, and the abandonment of cultural tastes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 2008; 95: 593-607.
²Berger J. Identity Signaling, Social Influence, and Social Contagion, Chapter 9 in Understanding Peer Influence in Children and Adolescents. Eds. Mitchell J. Prinstein and Kenneth A. Dodge, Guilford Press; 2010: 181-99.
³It’s happening with the global concept of craft beer itself, what with the takeovers and the buyouts and the double-digit declines in craft beer consumption and the abandonment of the independent brewers’ souls and such. Lo, be aware of this narrative, Dear Reader, but do not believe it as gospel just yet.
Find this beer at a store near you, or purchase on the internet:
- Limited to brewpub and select Southern California bars
- Direct from Brewery