Above all other established styles, all of the trends, all of the brewer wishes, the India pale ale remains the best-selling craft beer style. Why is it so popular and seemingly unstoppable?
Beer Editor John Holl speaks with three people from this year’s 40 Under 40 list—Lisa Allen of Heater Allen Brewing in McMinnville, OR; Bill Shufelt of Athletic Brewing in Stratford, CT; and Doug Veliky of Revolution Brewing in Chicago, IL—about the good, the bad and the in between on all things IPA.
Settle in with a glass of your favorite cold one and get ready for a hoppy ride.
For more lupulin-fueled conversation, check out this episode for a celebration of IPAs and all things hoppy. If you’re a hop-head through and through, this buying guide for 10 top-rated American IPAs from session beers to hazies should help on your next beer run, or read up on the history of hops agriculture in the U.S. here.
Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting.
Lauren Buzzeo 0:08
Hello, and welcome to the Wine Enthusiast podcast. you’re serving of drinks culture and the people who drive it. I’m Lauren Buzzeo, the managing editor at Wine Enthusiast, and in this episode, the second in our three part series highlighting some of this year’s 40 Under 40 Tastemakers we dive into everyone’s favorite love it or hate it beer style, IPA, or India Pale Ale. Above all other established styles and all of the trends and all of the brewer wishes, the India Pale Ale remains the best selling style in the craft beer space. Why is it so popular? And why is it seemingly unstoppable? Beer Editor John Holl speaks with three people from this year’s 40 Under 40 list. Lisa Allen of Heater Allen Brewing in McMinnville, Oregon. Bill Shufelt of Athletic Brewing in Stratford, Connecticut, and Doug Veliky of Revolution Brewing in Chicago, Illinois, about the good, the bad and the in between on all things IPA. So settle in with a glass of your favorite cold one and get ready for a hoppy ride.
John Holl 1:18
Lagers get a lot of love from brewers and beer nerds and barley wine has a rabid following online. It’s almost impossible to avoid talking about hard seltzer these days. But above all else in beer circles, the India Pale Ale reigned supreme. The modern US brewing industry was built on the flavor and aromas of hops, and the category is firmly at the top of styles both in popularity, variety and sales. At the annual Great American beer festival held recently in Denver, the IPA categories are announced last just like Best Picture at the Oscars. That America and the world has embraced IPAs often referred to as hoppy or bitter, which is not always a great word—and we’ll talk about that—is remarkable. What has made the style so popular? Why is it unstoppable? My three guests this week have insight from different perspectives. There are also three of the four beer industry professionals who are named in the 2021 Wine Enthusiast 40 Under 40 Tastemakers, and they are Lisa Allen of Heater Allen Brewing. Bill Shufelt of Athletic Brewing, and Doug Veliky of Revolution Brewing. The fourth spot on that list actually went to Khristopher Johnson of Green Bench Brewing in Florida, who you might remember from a previous episode of this podcast about lagers. So first off, welcome to the three of you, and thanks for being here. And, Doug, I want to start with you because online, I often see a lot of excitement about your barrel-aged beers, but it’s the IPA that really has fueled revolutions growth over the last couple of years, right?
Doug Veliky 2:48
John Holl 2:49
Why is it that in some, in some cases, people want to focus on just barrel stuff and not like the IPA? I often think about like Dogfish Head where, in the early days, Sam Calagione and the staff was getting a lot of love for the offbeat ales that they were making, you know, oh, we spit into this one, or this one’s made with a wood from the rainforest, or, you know, people were getting all excited about that. But it was their IPAs that were actually paying the bills and keeping the lights on over there. Is there a disconnect between what beer fans get excited about, but also what keeps the lights on?
Doug Veliky 3:25
I wouldn’t say there’s a disconnect. I think our fans enjoy them both in the right occasion and in the right moments of their their lives. I think the barrel-aged beers represent that part of the industry to look forward to every year and representing those special occasions. You know, people love surprising their friend who’s maybe not so into beer and blowing their mind with what a barrel aged beer can be. But I think those same people want to enjoy beer throughout the week and want something that’s, you know, a little lighter on the palate, something they can have one or two of. And I think that’s a place where IPA is absolutely dominating in the industry right now is those daily drinkers what you would drink it at a ballgame or at a party. So I think they each have their place. And I think they share mostly the same customers just, you know, different times a year, and different times of the week, perhaps.
John Holl 4:26
What do you attribute to the popularity of IPA growing over the last 40 or so years and sort of becoming just this go-to beverage, you know, the weeknight, the everyday go-to? Is there something that you’ve thought about that actually leads to why this style and not others have become so popular?
Doug Veliky 4:44
Yeah, I mean, there’s a few things. So I think the large, large macro breweries waited a little bit too long to try to enter the space and they really created the window at the beginning of the last decade. Where, you know, I think of like, 2013, 2014 is a massive years for craft brewery openings, and where were the numbers really started shooting up and cities who didn’t have much in terms of a local brewery scene really started to take shape. And so much of it was built around IPA, and there was nothing else like it, there wasn’t anything you could get at the grocery store 10 years ago, with, you know, a few exceptions, depending on the city. So there is this just window created where thousands of businesses were started, and so many of them certainly not all, so many of them were built on the foundation of IPA. And then we’ve seen just how many different ways IPA can take shape. It’s become such a general term that it barely means anything because it can be so many different things from the strength of it, you know, is it a 4% IPA or is it an 11% IPA? These are very different moments and different people that would enjoy each and then, you know, they can be red, they can be black, they can be white, the yeast character, and whether they’re clear or hazy or some kind of hybrid. Then just the massive interest that consumers have taken and all the different hot varieties that can you know, express an IPA in a different way, there’s just been endless variation to them that’s allowed it to stay new in people’s minds. And then just when it might feel like things are getting a little stale or, you know, having trouble iterating we kind of during the pandemic went right back to the beginning of kind of how IPAs were being made 8 to 10 years ago, now we’re seeing a lot of those regain some steam and popularity—at least we are here in Chicago. So that’s kind of like the beginning of my thoughts on IPAs dominance.
John Holl 6:47
Lisa, I want to go out west to you because so much of the Pacific Northwest, it’s where most of the hops in the US come from right now. And when the IPA took off in the US 40 years ago, it really started out west and moved east. What’s it like—and I know your brewery focuses largely on lagers—but what is it like being firmly in a huge hop region as a brewer?
Lisa Allen 7:19
I mean, well, and we’re kind of in the season right now. I mean, I think one thing is, you know, fresh hop or wet hot season that’s currently happening right now. That’s if if you do brew a lot of IPAs, that’s kind of what you’re making right now. And so we have that advantage of is just kind of a really special thing that really can only be made, you know, one time during the year and it’s late August to early October, when they’re harvesting hops. Yeah, it’s kind of like this special advantage that I think the West has over other areas where as you can make fresh hop beers in other areas, but it’s, you know, they’re not quite as fresh. They’re not like driving out to the farm from I mean, from Portland the hop farms are like 30 to 40 minutes away. So you can mash in your brew for the day and then and then drive out, go pick up hops and have them ready, you know, by the time you need them. And like Seattle too, Yakima too, is a little bit longer, but I mean, super close. So we have that kind of advantage. And I think also, a lot of the breweries out here, because of the closeness to hop fields can get, you know, new hops that hot farms are like working on, new varieties, and can kind of play with those because you have like a close connection to the farms.
John Holl 8:46
You just opened up about four or five threads that I want to pull on. But I want to go to Bill first because for Athletic Brewing Company, specializing in non alcoholic, for a long time, the NA offerings in the US at least were variations on lagers or golden ales or, you know, something. And hops didn’t really factor into it. I know of at least two IPAs that you put out regularly. And I know that there’s other seasonals as well. When you launched athletic, knowing that you wanted to get into the craft space. Was there ever a time where you weren’t considering having an IPA on offer?
Bill Shufelt 9:28
Oh, absolutely not. I was dying for an IPA. I guess I can really quickly take you on the flight path of my beer discovery, where like, growing up, most of the beer I experienced and knew was macro loggers and volume beers, mass beers. It took me going away to college to realize—I went to college in the heart of Vermont with like four or five of the like more pioneering regional craft breweries within driving distance—so it took me going up there to realize that wow, craft beer has all these nuances and like, really digs into like the terroir, the land, hops from all different regions, you can make any different style, and especially fell in love with IPAs during that period. As I went through my 20s, and my drinking leveled off, that was really the genesis of Athletic Brewing was, oh, wow, there are all these different times in the week where I want that craft beer experience that’s on par with like, a nice wine to pair with food, and something like that. And there was just nothing out there. And it was just a huge void in that landscape. And so Athletic immediately from the start, one of our two flagships was a very old school like West Coast IPA, that was actually really approachable. We turned down the hop bitterness a bit, our Run Wild. But yeah, that’s our most popular and most highly awarded beer right from the start. But of the, I think we’ve released 47 beers this year to date, over 15 of those are definitely IPAs. I know just in the last week, we’ve released a blueberry mosaic, a Mangonada, IPA, which is mango and habanero, our Closer By The Mile, and a couple others. So yeah, IPAs are definitely hugely prominent portion of our lineup. And, just like you said, it’s to meet that void that was out there. Previously, there had only been nonalcoholic lager and some mass beers. And we want to jump into something that really more closely embodied the incredible craft beer world out there.
John Holl 11:28
Are you all planning on wet hop or fresh up for this year as well?
Bill Shufelt 11:32
So John was actually up in Maine last week, but picking them up in person. So we definitely are.
John Holl 11:37
So Maine grown hops.
Bill Shufelt 11:39
Yep. There’s this incredible Maine hop grower called Crosby. They’re certified B Corps and John and a couple of our brewing team members went up there and pick them up fresh last week.
John Holl 11:50
Lisa, you brought up fresh hops season. And they typically go into IPAs, but do you use them in your lagers? Are you taking advantage of this season right now?
Lisa Allen 12:01
Um, we’re not. We have done a fresh hop beer before. For us, it’s kind of a little bit difficult just because of our turnaround time. Our loggers age for eight weeks. So by the time it’s ready, it’s kind of like and the end of fresh off season is here. Yeah. So it’s also kind of difficult to do in our schedule because, especially if you are picky, and like want to do a certain hop, sometimes the picking window changes. So you have to be able to be flexible with your brewing schedule. And a lot of the time I can’t be super flexible with my brewing schedule. So that makes it difficult too. I’m not never doing one again. I think it’d be kind of cool to do a sterling fresh hop Pilsner at some point, but not doing on this year.
John Holl 12:53
Doug, what about you guys? Are you having cops Fedexed out to Chicago?
Doug Veliky 12:57
We do our fresh up beers by getting the hops from Michigan. So a couple a couple hour drive to Hop Head Farms in Michigan. We’ve had to scale that brew back to be a brew pub brew. We have tried canning it and we’ve seen interest, at least in Chicago, die down a little bit on the fresh hop beers. There’s still definitely a crowd that likes them. But what I’m noticing more anecdotally is that some of the newer fans that have just gotten into craft beer the last few years, don’t seem to be as into them, or maybe appreciate the nuances, but a lot of our kind of original fans absolutely love them. But we do have one that will be coming out in I think a week. We call it Farm to Fist.
John Holl 13:42
Can you sort of talk about how the beer fan has evolved or changed or morphed or whatever word we want to use in its relationships with hops, and how they present in beers over the last couple years?
Doug Veliky 13:58
Yeah, I think you know, every brewery has had some chances to flex their creative muscles, not just on, you know, the types of IPAs they’re making and how they’re evolving, all the different ways they approached the style, but also in the storytelling that they do, which could be as simple as through the artwork on the label, or going beyond that on their website, social media and all that. But I view a lot of today’s beer fans as wanting to be in constant search of leveling up their knowledge and sometimes that can be done just by them understanding what is making this IPA different from that. And like, the most common way we see this is by saying, you know, this is—and we call it our IPAs heroes, like comic book heroes. So you know, this one is citra hero, this one is mosaic hero, and then consumers really get engaged by that because by having them, especially when you can have them side by side, being able to taste them both and say, ‘Okay, I understand the difference between citra versus mosaic.’ And then you can of course, go way down the rabbit hole of that conversation with your customer and always trying to use like rotating series to also level them up without going too far into the homebrewer realm, which might be a more limited audience. But, you know, making it simple, but also not trying to dumb it down too much and trying to teach yourself, teach your customers something along the way. I’ve seen that that ends up building a lot of loyalty for you. If your customers are feeling like they learned a lot by following a an IPA series of yours. So we try to embrace that as much as we can.
John Holl 15:46
Lisa, what do you see out in in Oregon, as far as the evolution of hops and beers. Not necessarily even just with IPAs, but even in the way I mean, internationally, I’m seeing traditional German brewers, traditional Czech brewers, of which many of the styles that you make, come from those well established countries. They’re even experimenting with hops these days. And they’re they’re adding more than they ever thought was humanly possible into into beer. Have you seen an evolution with the customers out your way where hops are grown, where hops have been part of the conversation for, I think, pretty much longer than anywhere else in the US for quite some time. Has there been an evolution in tolerance? Expectation? Excitement?
Lisa Allen 16:36
Yeah, I mean, it’s been. There’s a lot there’s a lot going on there. Um, so yeah, I guess. So I grew up in the Portland area, and kind of I like to say I grew up with craft beer because I was born in ’83. And that was kind of like, right around, I think ’85, ’86 or when the first craft breweries open in Portland. And I think first when IPAs, like I can think of like Bridgeport was one of the first that was kind of…
John Holl 17:13
Yeah, Bridgeport came to mind as one of the first ones.
Lisa Allen 17:15
Yeah. And you had them kind of doing a more traditional English style IPA. So you had kind of these more like floral, citrusy hops, and have more like a European kind of tradition. And then I think, as like, it’s evolved, I think then it went on the super citrusy side. And then I feel like the hops went to this place of like being really dank. And then it’s kind of gone super fruity.
John Holl 17:42
And dank, I just want to point out, dank is one of those those words that also means marijuana.
Lisa Allen 17:48
Yeah, yeah. And then kind of has gone to, I think more fruity like, more tropical with, I think a lot of the hazy or Northeast-style IPAs. And now I think there is somewhat of a call while the hazies are still incredibly popular, there is somewhat of a call to going back to those traditional hops. So I think you are kind of seeing more of this like citrusy, kind of dank IPA that’s pretty popular in the Northwest, at least from from what I’ve seen. It is kind of cool to play with some of the different hops as well that are out here and kind of see what they can do in a beer. We’ve been doing like a single hop Pilsner and kind of using some of those new really popular hops just to see okay, what is this, like, we just use it on the hot side, we’re not dry hopping and see, you know, again, like, as Doug was mentioning, kind of teaching the consumers something too and kind of being like, ‘Hey, this is what this hop is like.’ And also playing with them to to see like, ‘Oh, do I want to use this in a more traditional lager and, you know see what it can do with those those different flavors?’
John Holl 19:10
Yeah, because as much as we do talk about the IPA, a lot of it is hoppy, is what people are looking for. They’re looking not necessarily for, you know, the style of beer, lager versus ale. They just want the hop content to live up to their expectations. So when you’re messing around with new hops, and you’re putting them into the lagers that you make, is that part brewer experimentation? Or when the tasting room is open, did you have a lot of people coming through just assuming that you would have an IPA and you wanted something that you were comfortable making that also scratched that itch?
Lisa Allen 19:49
Yeah, I think it’s both honestly, it is We did have a lot of people coming coming in like asking for an IPA and it’s, you know, nice to come gonna be like, ‘Oh, we don’t have that, but we have this Pilsner we hopped with Comet and it might be more something up your alley.’ But I will I will point out that Pilsner, in general, is supposed to be a hoppy beer, which a lot of people because I think they’re used to the domestic pilsners, but especially like a bohemian-style Pilsner that we do, it’s on the hoppy side. So sometimes I can even steer people towards just a Pils if they come in wanting an IPA. It’s like, ‘Well, actually, this is decently hoppy.’ And one thing too, of the evolution of IPAs, that was also like the IBU thing. When people were just like obsessed with how many IBUs were in a beer. And I feel like that’s not the case at all anymore.
John Holl 20:47
I’m so glad that you just cut me off there because I was about to ask you an IBU question. So there was so there was a thing and I’ve dubbed it, I don’t know if anybody else did this, but the IBU wars, so international bittering units. How hops are measured in a beer is probably the easiest way to explain it. And I think it was so much of post-Prohibition, the brewers, the macrobrewers, the big brewers went as low as possible, and they didn’t really want to offend. And beer was essentially Wonder Bread. It was just kind of there. And when craft brewers or microbrewers came up, they wanted to run in the extreme. And so it was how much alcohol can we put into a beer? And how far can we push the hop content and the IBU scale tops out at what 100, I think? And people were claiming, you know, this has 312 IBUs in it and, and it was sort of a badge of honor, but that’s largely been forgotten. But I wanted to ask, though, because when you’re saying that your pilsners are hoppy to them? Where do they fall on the IBU scale?
Unknown Speaker 21:56
Well, I mean, according to like, to an IPA, they’re not super hoppy. It’s around like 37 IBUs.
John Holl 22:06
So. Alright, so 37 IBUs. Doug, what is your lowest IBU, hop forward beer?
Doug Veliky 22:16
Probably in the 20s. So you’re lower than Lisa. Yeah, it’s almost gotten to the point where nobody asks anymore like nobody even cares. That used to be like one of the first questions you’d get from a fan is how many IBUs. I haven’t seen that question even asked by a fan of ours and forever, but I think 20 like a hazy, probably getting into the 30s. And then a lot of our—we make a lot of ones that are still very classical tasting, we make a variety pack where we always have to come up with new stuff for it. And those tend to fall in the mid to high 60s. That’s like our flagship would be in the high 60s and a lot of them but they can get really low in the hazy IPA world.
John Holl 22:57
Bill, I can hear you furiously googling in the background. Do you have the IBUs on your beers?
Bill Shufelt 23:04
I do. Actually, that’s me searching Google Maps and seeing how far Heater Allen is away. Their beer menu sounds absolutely incredible. But, yeah, Run Wild IPA is actually right in the same range. It’s like 35, I believe. And then our freewave which is much more of like a classic New England hazy IPA is in the 40 to 50 range, but it’s like much more of like Amarillo, like juicier type hops. Yeah, so many threads with what Doug and Lisa just said they’re like in terms of experimenting with single hops. We do have a single hop series and then a Two Trellisses series to to see how two different hop varietals like intertwine and mix in a beer. And we’ve tried, like breaking them up in all different fashions. And I’m definitely not too big to admit that as like a major customer of our brewery, I really love the single hop and Two Trellisses, and the ongoing education really is just something that’s so cool about the craft beer world. And I know I’m learning stuff from our brewers every day. It’s just so much fun.
John Holl 24:17
I love that we were able to bring the IBU back into the conversation though, because it is something that hasn’t even in my circles haven’t been talked about in quite a while. But for the Wine Enthusiast audience, I hope that they learned a little bit about it. And it’s not really there has been such a palate shift of in the beginning. You know, bitterness was a badge of honor. But it was also a tough thing for people to overcome because bitter is not a word that people really take too kindly. And so as the New England style IPA, the hazy, juicy IPA came into vogue, where you know, hops were added fermentation side, imparting more, you know, aroma and flavor but less bitterness, that IBU conversation really sort of skipped away. Bill, having breweries on the east coast and on the west coast, do you notice consumer preferences shifting from or being different on one coast versus the other?
Bill Shufelt 25:22
Oh, for sure. Yeah, we, we sell beer online too. And so like all over the country, there’s a different preference for beers too. Like our Mexican lagers or our goses is or, like, it’s so interesting to see like, where our hot weather beer goes, where our cold weather beers go in the winter, like a peanut butter porter or stuff like that. And in terms of, yeah, IBUs and bitterness too, because we are nonalcoholic, and a lot of our beers are tied to like weeknight meal occasions and like very often food pairings, we do have a lot of people asking us for lower IBUs or lower bitterness, something that’s not going to overwhelm their meal necessarily, which is kind of interesting, and probably counter to what’s going on at a fair amount of craft breweries where people are like really asking for those sessionable, crushable, approachable IPAs. And then obviously, there’s tons of requests for the other end of the spectrum. I think the other part of that too, in the modern dynamic could be there are all sorts of other non alcoholic occasions in the world falling by the wayside these days. And I think sugary sodas is a big one of those. But a lot of those occasions aren’t necessarily our populations or beer drinkers who are used to high hop content beers. And so I think that is why we’re seeing so much of the beer world having success with like, the hard seltzers and, like really fruited, more sweet offerings with like a low hop, too. So I think that dynamic could be at play as well.
John Holl 27:01
Doug, you sort of got us off on this tangent with seeing shifts go back to some of the the earlier styles of IPAs, and not necessarily just just the hazies? I know you talk with a lot of beer fans. What have you seen sort of push people back into some of the more traditional IPAs in the last couple years? Or the last maybe even just the last two years I guess it’s been?
Doug Veliky 27:32
Honestly, I think the IPA evolution was, you know, had tried a few last ditch efforts that were not landing like the sour IPA was one that, and don’t get me wrong I’ve had a few pretty interesting, tasty sour IPAs, but a lot of breweries tried that and that wasn’t going over. It’s just like, what is the next frontier to go toward. And I think that almost just hit the reset button. And then when the the COVID trends of, you know, wanting to watch reruns of, you know, Seinfeld and friends, that kind of the same thing happened with with beer, where we were thinking back to like, our favorite classic beers. And then all of a sudden, those started selling really well again, and it became a topic of conversation that made people say, ‘You know what? I haven’t bought this beer and X number of years, so I’m going to go back to it.’ And so I think in a way IPA, I still think there’s tons of ways for it to to evolve and there’s all kinds of cool things happening that the hop farms are driving with all these new types of products as a way to really enhance flavors and beers. But I do think there was this desire to revisit what we were drinking. And I always like to point back to like 2013, because that’s like a big year for breweries and also when my interest in beer exploded. So there is this desire to go back to what we’re drinking then, but also use all the new knowledge that’s been gained and shared over the eight years since that, and basically run it back again, but with this whole new dynamic of now 9,000 breweries in the country sharing information, collaborating, and just everybody being in a way better spot to nail some of these recipes. So seeing what people could do with today’s information. I think going backwards was the logical way to go.
John Holl 29:29
There obviously been a lot of innovation happening. And you mentioned sour IPA, and there’s been all of this, it seems like pretty much every other style of beer has been fused with an IPA at some point along the line. We have the the India Pale Lagers. There’s been Brut IPA, which used an enzyme which was normally used in Imperial stouts, you know, the sour IPAs. There’s been cascadian dark ales or black IPAs that have sort of come and gone over the years. Whereas it seems like the two dominant styles the West Coast IPA and the New England style IPA, and then their various strengths they’re in a seem to sort of rule the roost. Bill, when you’re thinking about new IPAs to put out to the marketplace, are you trying to keep up with the alcoholic versions? Like what’s trendy at the moment? You know, with the alcohol versions of IPA? Or are you looking at different metrics to see what your customers might be interested in?
Bill Shufelt 30:42
Yeah, so it’s totally a credit to our brewing team and just curious minds and talented people. We do have the luxury of it’s like our ecommerce platform is very much like national taproom in some ways. And we have, we have brewing systems from three and a half barrel—we have a three and a half barrel pilot on the East Coast, a seven barrel pilot on the West Coast 20 barrel brew house on the East Coast, a 100 and 200 barrel brew house on the West Coast. So we can kind of make all different size batches things. And so our brewers tinker with everything. Like just last week, I mentioned our ginger IPA, but one of our brewers, I walked into the West Coast brewery here and he was processing just a bunch of ginger and he was gonna try a ginger sour and a ginger IPA on the small brew system and kind of see what sticks. And then we get feedback from our customers and from ourselves too. Like, we’re all customers of our beer at the end of the day, and see what we like on a super small scale. And if people love it, we bring it back, either the following season or find a spot for it the following year’s release calendar. That’s exactly how like our like our summer fruit stand series, for example, evolved that way. It was originally just like farmers market fruits by the local brewery. We’re putting them in different batches and different beers and everything from Blackberry Berlinerweisses to raspberry sours. We did a blueberry mosaic IPA that actually released today. So it’s really just led by our team and our community and kind of just keeping an open ear to customers really not just being stuck in our ways and putting out what there might not be asking for the most.
John Holl 32:30
You’re saying being stuck in their ways. And now now I’m gonna ask Lisa question who is making traditional lagers all the time. And I mean this in a good way. Lisa, are you happy to not necessarily have to be, you know, keeping up with the Joneses when it comes to new IPA styles?
Lisa Allen 32:50
Yes. To put it simply.
John Holl 32:53
Are you stuck in your ways?
Lisa Allen 32:54
Yeah. Um, no, I mean, I try to kind of, you know, experiment within the realm of like lagers as well. And, you know, we, we make the single hot Pilsner that I was talking about earlier. And then we’ve also done a, we’ve done like a couple of dry hop lagers we’ve done you know, kind of higher kind of our version of what an IPA would be, but with lager yeast and lager malts, and all of that sort of thing.
John Holl 33:29
So how does that present for somebody who enjoys drinking lagers but who also might have a curiosity about IPAs? Do the longer flavors come through?
Lisa Allen 33:43
I think they do. It’s not, you definitely get a decent amount of hop flavor and aroma, but it’s definitely I feel like not as bitter, and I just feel like lagers in general, kind of, the yeast and and the aging time I think kind of smooth out some of that bitterness. So they don’t come across like quite as bitter. I mean, I know quite a few people that are like concerned about trying, you know, one of our hoppy lagers because they’re like, ‘Oh, I don’t like IPAs,’ and then they try it and they’re like, ‘Oh, this is actually really nice and not too bitter and smooth.’ And all of that sort of thing. But I think one of the things too, just kind of on the subject. I think one of the reasons we chose not to make an IPA was because, you know, there’s so many breweries in our region that make really, really good IPA. So it’s kind of like, well, let’s just make really good lagers and concentrate on that and let the people who, you know, do you want to you know, keep up with the Joneses and stuff in a sense and let them, let them make the IPAs.
John Holl 35:00
Can I ask you what your opinion is of what a really good IPAs should taste like?
Lisa Allen 35:06
Oh, man, um, I am definitely I mean, again, as I grew up in the craft beer world I’m more of a like kind of West Coast IPA fan. So I do like a decent amount of bitterness. I kind of do lean more towards kind of the citrus heavy hops. And, yeah, it like if there’s a little bit of caramel malt in there. I’m totally cool with that. I’m not afraid to admit it. And, yeah, I like a decent amount of malt flavor to it. Even though I want that bitterness there, I always want balance. I mean, I think if you have a beer that’s, you know, out of balance, it’s just hard to drink.
John Holl 35:55
Doug, I want to ask you, because you’re making a lot of different IPAs, and you’re out there with with general beer consumers all the time, as well as introducing your product to new-to-beer drinkers? How do you start that conversation with people who may only be thinking about beer or IPA in the, ‘Oh, it’s too bitter? I’m not going to like it’ bucket, is there a way that you’ve sort of come around to educate people on the beauty of IPA, the fun flavor of IPA?
Doug Veliky 36:35
I think the key for that for us, you know, we’re lucky we have brew master and brewers who are always happy to jump in front of the camera and let us record some social social media content. And for me, there’s no better way than getting Jim, our brewmaster, in front of people to tell him to tell them why he gets excited about our approach to IPA and the way we make the majority of ours. I mean, we make a lot of different kinds. But if it’s something like getting today’s consumer excited about a more West Coast leaning IPA with, you know, fairly intense bitterness, to me, there’s no better way than having the person who makes it and can really articulate the nuances of it. Having them and putting them in front of the camera. I always tell people, too many breweries say they don’t make this style, because nobody will buy it. I think if you take the time to tell your customers why you’re so excited about it, I think they will in turn, get pretty excited about it, too, and want to try it. So I try to not let that get lost. And let the people who are creating the recipe and coming up with why it tastes the way it does, let their words work their way into these dialogues we have with our customers.
John Holl 37:54
Bill, not promoting one of your brands and I know that you’re not necessarily having full strength beer these days. But is there one or two IPAs that come to mind that if somebody had the opportunity to try, you’d encourage them to do so?
Bill Shufelt 38:14
That’s definitely a super interesting question. I typically point people back to more classical beers if they’re just coming into the category. And people have been doing it well in a really consistent high quality fashion for a long time. And that could be Sierra Nevada. It could be, you know, really any of the older breweries. And like in the Northeast, I do think Nightshift, Two Roads, a lot of the bigger regional breweries do make really nice IPAs and are really well known for it. As well as Lawson’s probably. But yeah, I totally love what Lisa was saying too, about. Like, there are such domain experts of great beer styles, too. And I think Heater Allen is definitely that on the West Coast, for sure. And complimentary on the East Coast, like the Suarez family for similar beer styles too.
John Holl 39:13
Lisa, you know, IPAs are, we’re sort of saying they’re unstoppable. They’ve been at the top of the craft beer landscape for so long now—food chain for so long now. There’s always been various conversations of, you know, oh, is X going to be the next IPA? Meaning, you know, can it actually supplant IPA? Do you think that that’s possible in our lifetimes? And if so, what’s the style that’s going to do it?
Lisa Allen 39:47
Um, I honestly don’t know. I mean, it’s just such a popular style. There’s, I think, as we’ve talked about throughout, that there’s just so many variations as well. I mean, I would like to say that Pilsner would, but that’s gonna happen.
John Holl 40:12
That’s the sound of 10,000 brewers crying out.
Lisa Allen 40:19
Exactly. I do think that it’s kind of one of those styles that is here to stay. I think it’s a style that gets a lot of people into the craft beer scene. It’s a style that got honestly got me drinking and a lot of craft beer, pale ales and IPAs. And so I think that even if people maybe go to start drinking other beers, I think a lot of people and I think Doug, you know, talked about this, as well as, like, people kind of go back to what they started with, and go back to kind of drinking, you know, what’s comforting and that they’re familiar with. So I think that IPA is here to stay for a while, at least.
John Holl 41:06
Doug, you you kicked us off by sort of mentioning, you know, all of the various styles of IPA that are out there. And we’ve talked about a few of them along the way. Is there something on the horizon that you think could potentially grab the general consciousness IPA wise for at least five or 10 minutes, which is an eternity and beer these days? Is there something on the horizon that’s new, or maybe something that is coming back around, you know, around the sun again that could capture palates and attention?
Doug Veliky 41:45
Um, so one thing I’m very fascinated by is how the hot farms are innovating. And you know, when they come out with a new product beyond just a new hop variety, you know, it, it tends to hit two different chords. For one, they of course, have to sell this to breweries. So a lot of times these hop products make the brewery more efficient in their use of hops, and therefore, it saves the brewery money. But that alone, of course, isn’t good enough to even gain traction, but of course, engage the customer. But these products often, you know, help create aromas that could have never been achieved with pellet hops alone. And so like the most popular one, I think, is cryo hops. And that’s just like more of an extract form of hops, where, you know, the parts of the hop that give off the most flavor, you’re getting more of that and less of the excess parts of the plant. So it’s a new product that they wisely, you know, came up with and trademarked a clever name, cryo, because there’s so much fun you can have with that, from a branding standpoint, to get someone excited about your packaging, which, like it or not, is a huge part of what gets consumers eyes and gets them excited about wanting to follow along with the series. So there’s a lot more things like that that the hop farms are working on and sending us samples of to try that really boosts the flavor profile of what these hops can do by giving it to the brewery in a more concentrated way. So that will of course require them to continue branding these really well and coming up with, you know, names and ways that the brewery can then work that into the marketing of the IPA. But I think it can result in some, you know, new flavors or a way to make the hops shine like we’ve never seen before. And that to me is the thing I’m looking out for just in the immediate term, like in the next year, I’d say.
John Holl 43:58
I will point out that in the 40 Under 40 issue of which you three are featured prominently, there’s also an article on hop farms and the hop harvest, written by yours truly, which offers a little bit more about what Doug was just touching on. Being mindful of all of your time, I really want to thank all three of you for being on the show today. And I’m gonna encourage everybody who’s listening to go and certainly drink the IPAs from Revolution and from Athletic and then go drink delicious Pilsners from Heater Allen Brewing Company, of which their Pilsner was awarded 100 points, a perfect score, in our buying guide just just a few months ago. It’s one of two beers, and all the years that we’ve been doing this that have gotten that number, so go check out all of those various beers. And again, my thanks to you three for for spending some time talking about IPA and all its brought to the beer world, IBUs and all.
Lisa Allen 44:55
Thanks for having us.
Doug Veliky 44:57
Bill Shufelt 44:58
Thanks, John. Thank you so much.
Lauren Buzzeo 45:04
I definitely learned a lot today about the rise of IPAs on the American craft beer scene. But the best part of all to me, whether you’re a hophead through and through, or a hater of all things hazy, there’s definitely a part and a place for everyone to contribute to this juicy lupulin fueled conversation. And when it comes to drinks dialogue, the more the merrier. Subscribe to the Wine Enthusiast Podcast on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you find podcasts. If you like today’s episode, we’d love to read your review and hear what you think. And hey, why not tell your wine and beer loving friends to check us out too. You can also drop us a line at podcast at wine mag comm for more wine and beer reviews, recipes, guides, deep dives and stories. Visit Wine Enthusiast online at winemag.com and connect with us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @WineEnthusiast. You can also read more about all of our 40 Under 40 Tastemakers of 2021 online or by picking up a copy of the October issue out now. The Wine Enthusiast podcast is produced by Lauren Buzzeo and Jenny Groza. Until next episode, cheers.
Last Updated: June 5, 2023