I recently had a conversation about how some people who previously disliked IPAs now enjoy them.
Being a guy who knows a lot of beer fans and hangs around in a lot of bars and breweries, I happened to be friends or acquaintances with a few people like this. So I decided to reach out to them to see what changed their minds. Tastes and palates change over the course of one’s lifetime, and I’m always interested when this occurs. This is especially true when it comes to beer styles.
Longtime or regular readers of this column will be acquainted with my friends “The Two Michaels.“ Coincidentally, they are both heavily involved in the world of wine and experts on the subject. But they both have plenty of beer knowledge as well. While neither one of them ever hated IPAs, they could be ambivalent about them, especially the later ones where the hop quotient increased to sometimes questionable levels.
Michael Ferry, who works for the Martignetti Companies, had long drank old-school IPAs like Ballantine IPA and Genesee 12 Horse IPA, which were around as far back as the 1980s.
“They were interesting and balanced,” he said of the older brews. “Brewers got obnoxious with hops trying to outdo each other. Some people liked that. I thought the brews suffered.”
Ferry likes plenty of newer IPAs but still prefers balance.
“Building 8 makes a balanced IPA, as you can enjoy the malt character as well as the big hop bite,” he said. “I’ll enjoy a nice mild IPA. Synergy. That’s the magic in beer – and life in general.”
The other Michael, Michael Quinlan, will be familiar to many readers as the fine wine buyer at Table & Vine in West Springfield. He said he had a love/hate relationship with IPAs for many years. But he figured out the problem.
“I would try an IPA and love it, and then the next time I had the same beer, I didn’t like it very much,” Quinlan said. “Of course that was when craft beer was just beginning its ascent, many of those were larger production IPAs that were traveling quite a ways. In recent years I have grown to love IPAs, it seems to me that buying fresh and local IPAs that don’t travel too far from the brewery to my glass is key to my enjoyment. I do like the West Coast style best.”
Ellen Redman, flautist with the Springfield Symphony Orchestra (and also a great Irish tin whistle player) said that her husband, being a craft beer enthusiast, was always offering her a taste of West Coast IPAs.
“I never really cared for them because of the bitterness and piney quality,” she said. “I’ve always gone for the more malty stouts and particularly imperial stouts.”
What flipped the switch for Redman was also the “local” factor, but also the ascendancy of the New England style IPAs.
“When we went to Tin Bridge in Westfield in about 2017, I tried their Mosaic NEIPA and loved it! It had a crisp, refreshing citrusy taste, but also with a lot of body and mouthfeel,” she said enthusiastically.
Oddly, Redman has now also learned to like double and triple IPAs, but still doesn’t enjoy everyday West Coast IPAs.
Old pal Ray Mann, guitarist with Janet Ryan and Straight Up, said that as an old-school beer fan, there weren’t many options when he was young besides mundane mainstream beers like Budweiser, Miller, and Schlitz.
“I worked my way up to Heineken in the late ‘70s–early ‘80s, which was pretty much a huge step up in taste to me. I think Harpoon was the first IPA I sampled, and it was such a different taste experience from the lagers I grew up with,” he said. “I didn’t really enjoy it at first, but I kept returning to it as there was something there that my taste buds were getting acclimated to. IIPAs are now my go-to.”
You have to ove Ray’s perseverance and open mind about trying beers.
Last but not least is my dear friend Nicole Graziano, who (unfortunately) has had the weirdest journey with IPAs: She hated them, then learned to love them, and now dislikes them again. Why? COVID seems to be to blame.
“But I remember exactly when and where I liked my first. I was with [our mutual friend] Shaun Hickson at The Foundry. It was a Brick and Feather NEIPA, and I loved it and then loved them for years,” she said.
Then for some reason, she started liking them less and less, although she would partake if she happened to be at a brewery that does them well and was with friends.
“After COVID though, anything bitter tastes horrid, so I’m not drinking them now. Now I just like lagers like Miller High Life and Japanese beers,” she said. “I suspect it was due to the Paxlovid which made everything taste bitter. I typically drink black coffee, but now I have to put loads of milk and sugar in it. I was joking that I was going to have to start drinking sweet drinks like Sex on the Beach because all alcohol just tasted bitter.”
I’m just glad Nicole is on the mend from COVID-19.
So there you have some stories behind people’s shift toward IPAs.
If you were anti-IPA but now enjoy them, drop me a line with your story at email@example.com.