| IPAs Best on Draft
by James Browning
The single most popular craft beer style i the USA is IPA. In fact almost one of every four craft beers
consumed falls in the category. However there are a few clouds creeping in its ever sunny success
story. A good IPA is so loaded with delicate hop oils that can really only go a few weeks without losing
some of its complex, dank, citrusy aroma – maybe even less time if it’s a supper hopped brew.
In general IPAs are just better when they’re super fresh. While you might think no surprise there
consider the fact that bottles and cans drive the beer market. Since Americans drink 90% of their beer
out of those containers there's a good chance they're not getting the real flavor of the style. But what if
those same IPA lovers opted to head to their local pub and enjoy a fresh, vibrant, draft IPA? It just might
be an even stronger love affair with the style and revitalize the local bar as well.
Interestingly some statistics indicate this might already be happening. Draft sales of craft beer are far
ahead of the overall draft beer market . According estimates from the Brewers Association, fully a third
of craft beer is sold is on draft and in states where ctraft beer is strongest - Vermont, Oregon, Colorado,
Maine, Washington and Montana - draft craft beer dominates. In some states sales of craft beer
constitute a staggering two-thirds of all the beer sold on draft.
The kind of beer people drink depends in part on how it’s packaged. The U.K. offers the clearest case:
sessionable ales are consumed in far greater proportion in pubs—on cask—than they are in cans and
bottles purchased in stores. Cask ale was designed to be drunk in pubs, and pub-going sustains this
range of beer. It’s true in Germany as well, where delicate helles lagers and kölsch are consumed
heavily in the pubs.
So might it turn out that as American drinking tastes change more and more to craft beer that pubs will
reap the benefit and begin to grow once again? Most consumers are probably not aware of the many
technical reasons their favorite IPAs sometimes do not taste "fresh" from a can or bottle. However it's a
safe bet that they do recognize that the same beer tastes better at the brewery and a reliable taproom.
Think of it another way - there is no surprise in the fact that people of an earlier generation didn’t feel the
need to hurry to a pub to get a fresh beer since it didn't really matter with their Miller, Coors, or
Budweiser. It tasted just about the same everywhere. But that's not true about craft beer. So the
question is what happens when more and more people move to craft beer?
As someone who loves a good pub I'm hoping that the craft movement in general and the great
popularity of IPAs in particular will bring people back to the bar. And indeed, IPAs are starting to
dominate tap lists at pubs.
It should also be noted however that brewers recognize their bottled IPAs have to survive longer on the
shelves, so they engineer them differently. Even more, some put fhe date the beer was brewed or a
fresh-by-date on the bottle. Those are positive steps but even with that the experienced drinker will still
recognize that consistent freshness only comes with draft beer.
A few caveats should be mentioned. For many people draft prices will have to become more
reasonable for them to go back to the pubs for draft beer. The $7 and $8 pint is becoming an
unwelcome standard in some areas along with a decrease in serving size. That type of draft pricing is
much more of a problem than the more and more common $10 six pack (which seems to be headed to
a four pack for some breweries.). In addition to price ever more stringent DUI laws makes it hard for
some to justify heading to the pub for beer though proper self control will eliminate that concern.
Why not conduct a taste test of your own to see if my general hypothesis is correct? Pick up a four or six
pack of your favorite hoppy IPA. Drink one can every five days or so and write down tasting notes.
You''ll see a noticeable decoration in flavor. After you last can head to your local pub and have the same
beer on tap. You'll not only see the difference freshness makes but you'll probably be back to the pub
Based on an article by Jeff Alworth in the Draft mag.
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