One of the best things about living in San Diego, CA is all the local craft beers that are coming out of this sunny city. The rise began as Stone, Ballast Point, AleSmith and Karl Strauss started to get national recognition not too long ago. Now San Diego is home to over 100 breweries, and that number continues to grow.
I believe this trend began with the sudden increase of popularity with the IPA, or Indian Pale Ale, a hoppy, palette-wrecking gift from the beer gods. A beer that now has hundreds of different variations and styles out there, blindly followed by a raging fan base seeking the next best one. IPA originated a few hundred years ago when monks were making their way east out of Europe and into India. These missionaries traveled far and wide to spread the good word and everywhere they went they would want to bring their beer. However, they found it didn’t travel well. Some of these monks had already created a beer that was originally designed to sit in the cellar and age. They soon discovered that that very same cellar beer was the answer to their beer problem. Their cellar beer was brewed with added hops which allowed the beer to age without going bad. That’s when the proverbial lightbulb went on above their heads. This cellar beer lasted through the long trip to India and then some. The monks were now able to enjoy their beer. Thus the Indian pale ale was born. They inadvertently created a beer that would help to revolutionize the beer industry for a hundred years to come.
This beer-volution has paved the way for some interesting experiments with craft brewing and has resulted in the continued production of a myriad of different IPAs. The most notable of these Frankenstein experiments was the Double IPA. The DIPA is an IPA with double the hops and nearly double the alcohol level. This little project was born and raised by the Blind Pig Brewery out of Temecula, CA in San Diego County. Since then, it has been widely embraced by other breweries throughout San Diego and is now referred to as the “San Diego pale ale.” They didn’t stop there. Now there are Triple and Quadruple IPAs, because doubling the hops wasn’t enough.
The newest IPA trend is creating IPAs infused with fruits and/or peppers. Recently craft breweries have been adding notes of different citruses, peppers, pineapple, and more to their IPAs. They are experimenting with flavors, looking for the next big idea, seeking the next billion dollar beer. Unfortunately, I don’t think the fruit infusion will be it. Budweiser tried and failed at this sometime ago with Bud Light Lime, which may or may not have something to do with it tasting like bubbly lime juice flavored horse piss. But I’m no expert. Honestly the beers that I have tried out of this most recent trend are not disappointing in anyway, in fact they’re quite good and refreshing. However, they lack the “wow” factor that IPA and DIPA had when they came into the recent beer market. These infusions have no personality in them. It’s like the idea came from someone squeezing an orange or grapefruit into their IPA – which is likely what happened. Not a lot of ingenuity in that, and it seems to me like a personal preference, just like adding a lime to your Corona or Bud Light. Doesn’t mean it’s worth brewing.
We will see. I have been wrong before. The trend of craft breweries has turned into a multi-billion dollar industry, and we are likely to see more interesting and outlandish ideas come out that will be bottled and sold. I am sure something in the near future will capture that hearts of millions of beer drinkers worldwide. Until that time comes, enjoy your beer of choice, whatever that may be.