The Great Hop Debate

The Craft Beer Community is in Crisis

Hop Tattoo

Photo stolen from Google, who probably stole it themselves anyway

Is that a catchy enough headline? A similar exaggeration is what caused this whole debate in the first place, though it had been picking up steam for a while before the recent boil-over.

A lot of people, myself included, have been making a bit of a stink about IPAs (my favourite beer style, incidentally), with the following central argument:

The IPA is now the most popular style of beer after pale lager, and more successful than any other craft beer style. This is, in some ways, unfortunate, because a lot of people don’t like hop-centric beers. They’re polarizing.

That’s from an article I wrote for The Windsor Independent which more or less covers the same ground as Finding Beer Balance. A few days after submitting the article, Slate published the now-infamous, unfortunate-titled “Against Hoppy Beer.” The first thing I noticed was that the subtitle, “The craft beer industry’s love affair with hops is alienating people who don’t like bitter brews,” made the same point as my article.

I can’t say that I was surprised at the hostile reaction to the Slate article. It wasn’t presenting a new idea – people have been irked by the popularity of IPAs for so long that BrewDog has been poking at the issue since 2011 with their “IPA is Dead” series of single-hopped beers. But in a beer culture where putting the word “hop” in the name guarantees a sales advantage, where IPAs are, by a significant margin, the most popular beer style other than what is often laughingly called pilsener, the suggestion that there might be negative side-effect to the status quo has really hit a nerve.

Keep reading…