IPA Trilogy, Part One – “Gut Feeling”
Merlot¹. Livestrong bracelets. Britney. India Pale Ale.
Hold up. IPAs make up fifty percent of my local beer store’s inventory. There are multitudes of breweries focused only on IPA variants, like West Coast/East Coast/No Coast, black/white/red, sour/session/quadruple, Belgian/Latvian/Indian. etc. You’re lying. IPAs can’t be as un-vogue as naming your daughter Britney in 2017.
The pink bar graph above depicts the bimodal popularity of the name Britney over the past 36 years, peaking in 1989 and (oops…I did it) again in 2000. By 2014, though, Britney fell off the top 1000 girls’ names chart in the US and A.
Perhaps IPAs, in a similar manner to the name Tricia in the mid-1960s, just got too popular too fast? Jonah Berger and Gaël Le Mens suggested in a 2009 PNAS article that the faster names become popular, the less interested expecting parents are in using them for their imminent bundles of joy—a velocity curve for popularity². Dr. Berger, currently Professor of Marketing at the Wharton School at Penn, and Dr. Le Mens, Professor of Economics and Business at Barcelona’s Universitat Pompeo Fabra, hypothesize that instant popularity in names encourages backlash. Could the same hold true for IPAs? Are IPAs a one-hit wonder in the beer world? Der letzte der 99 Luftballon, denk’ an IPAs und lass ihn fliegen?
Yeah, nah. I’ll call foul on the fad angle. IPAs have been around for a few hundred years—perhaps not exactly in the same styles as we see today, and perhaps not as the clever origin story mythos of the heavily-hopped ale to survive the journey from Britain to India. It’s not like John and Mary as baby names aren’t almost as popular today as they were when they ruled the charts in the 1880s. The rapid ascendancy of IPAs taking over your beer shelves was more likely a gradual buildup resulting from increased popularity of the style since the 1990s. At the same time, breweries in the San Diego environs figured out that, although malt plus hops were known to be meant for each other, malt plus even more hops were both crazy delicious and a perfect motif for experimentation.
Enter MODERN TIMES’ Accumulated Knowledge. An occasionally brewed beer from this almost-four year old San Diego brewery, it pours hefeweizen-cloudy-pale with a small white head. Grapefruit, lime juice, and lemon zest dominate the initial sips and sniffs instead of the bracing bitterness some expect from an IPA. The citrusy aspects might be due to Amarillo hops (the more piney Simcoe and Oregon Horizon are also utilized).
This is probably the point where I should blather on about the ‘juicy’ ‘hazy’ East Coast/New England/Vermont subgenre of IPAs. They often use other grains besides malted barley, specific hop strains that overemphasize citrus and minimize bitterness, and specific yeast strains that do not flocculate and stay in solution, but I’m going to keep on with describing Accumulated Knowledge because you, Dear Reader, know everything there is to know about East Coast IPAs.
Try not to not drink Accumulated Knowledge at fridge temp (a good rule for most beers). Give it some time—watch half an inning of baseball or see the breakaway form in whatever cycling’s on the telly. The tropical fruits start showing up when the beer gets warmer—key lime, feijoa, and passionfruit, plus macadamia nuts and oat bread.
The striking revelation about slightly warmed Accumulated Knowledge was how these flavors coated and remained my mouth, almost like a floral, creamy curry. Modern Times used both white wheat and oats in the brewing process, and I suspect that adding these (sorta) non-traditional ingredients completely change the mouthfeel of Accumulated Knowledge from good to absolutely delightful. Is it an East Coast beer brewed steps from the Pacific Ocean? Is it a new, hybrid, multi-hyphenate IPA? Do labels matter when it’s so good?
Accumulated Knowledge is also vegan (presumably because it wasn’t fined with isinglass from fish bladders?), and it’s on the lower end of the ABV spectrum, so you can enjoy this beer at Thursday night softball, during Saturday afternoon laundry, or during a marathon Magic: The Gathering game, with vegan curry or, as Modern Times suggests on the label, veggie pakora accompaniment.
All that said, avoid talking baby names with your partner while tossing back Accumulated Knowledge. Why risk being on the losing side of the popularity velocity curve? Just go with John or Mary. —B.S.
²Berger J and Le Mens G. How adoption speed affects the abandonment of cultural tastes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 2009; 106: 8146-50.
³Full disclosure: the East Coast IPA concept is pretty new to me. Like most anything on the internets, the East Coast IPA wormholes you can’t see light out the top from after plunging in too deep are infinite, pedantic, maddening, and, most importantly, do not fucking taste like beer, so close your screen and grab a drink.
Find this beer at a store near you, or purchase on the internet:
- Available exclusively at Trader Joe’s on the west coast of USA
- Direct from Brewery