beer with me

a case against india pale ale

I don’t get IPAs.

This is unfortunate because most people who know what they are love them, and those who have no idea what IPA means are the ones most likely to share my disgust.

Ah, the India Pale Ale, a complex beer both subtle and packed with flavor. Also: urine-colored, overwhelmed by the taste of hops, pretentious, bitter for the point of being bitter, and too fancy for its own good. People who love them remind me of the kind of people who love super-inaccessible, aggressive noise music: Sure, it’s technically good, but at what cost? Aren’t your tastebuds sad? Don’t your ears hurt?

I would love to love IPAs. They have a storied history, there are plenty of American breweries making them, and they have a higher ABV. Most importantly, ordering an IPA can be seen as a badge of honor—you have to be reasonably serious about beer to love them. It separates you from the uneducated masses, content to live the Miller High Life. To drink IPAs is to become a Beer Drinker, if not a Beer Snob, giving you entry-level access to the strange temple of paradoxical elitism that is the craft beer community.

The craft beer snob is a strange psychological creature: on one hand, praising the industry’s populist, anyone-can-do-it ethic, and on the other, fussily obsessed with hoarding knowledge about rare and expensive brews. Sure, most beer drinkers are down-to-earth people, but the hipster IPA connoisseurs start to tip over into the ridiculous side of the beer world. And don’t even get me started on homebrewers: Is there anything more local than your own bedroom, and anything more obscure than your own unlabeled homebrews?

Don’t get me wrong—I would love to join this world. I am willing to spend the time and effort required to make myself into a passable IPA lover. I want to have really intense and alienating conversations about hops varieties. To quote every cover letter ever, “I believe I am uniquely qualified for this position and that my experiences and skills are a great fit for this opportunity.” The only obstacle standing in the way of the beer snobbery career of my dreams is my immediate and visceral reaction to IPAs hitting my tongue. Namely, the feeling that the people who made this want my mouth to feel bad.

I’ve considered faking it, but is there anything as pathetic as forcing yourself to drink something you hate? There aren’t even enough snobs around me to impress, and, despite its pretentiousness, isn’t the beer community about loving what you drink at the end of the day? To be honest, vociferously hating them has become my own form of elitism. Sure, any college kid can pick up a critically acclaimed six-pack, but it must take a real master (read: me) to dismiss an entire genre of beverage.

Alas, I do not have enough easily offended snobs in my circle of friends to truly reap the benefits of my superiority. Even those most likely to sip on Sierra Nevada are lackluster in their dedication. When I asked the most serious beer guy in my life why he drank IPAs, he said, “I don’t know. It’s fun. It’s a cool thing to get into.” Where are the crazy hopheads of BeerAdvocate, the people who rant and rave and demand perfection from their beer?

Though I’ve met my share of homebrewers, they’re a different beast entirely, and I can’t properly scoff at their dedication to their own brewing the way I could scoff at ordering nano-brewed, hop-filled swill. I had to respect my boyfriend’s own IPA, which though disgusting to me, was probably not half bad as far as the style goes. And he had the grace and maturity to not be offended when I stuck my tongue out.

What I want is simple: to interact with people who care too much about IPAs so that I can make it clear how bizarre I find their tastes to be. So please, come one, come all: beer geeks, one-uppers, IPA drinkers. I would have thought that Brown had enough hipsters for my dreams to come true, but alas, I’ll have to wait until Brooklyn.