“I don’t think (the rise in IPLs) will be a quick flash,” Rockwood said. “The beer consumer is opening up to lagers, and what they bring to the table.”
And what do they bring? Think of a cleaner, lighter pale ale or IPA, with bright hop lushness and bitterness, but with a lager’s clean finish. Rather than end malty, sweet or cloying as some IPAs (or imperial IPAs) can, IPLs segue from their hop burst to a tidy crispness that makes them perfect for pairing with barbecue, ending the night as a refreshing palate cleanser or simply sipping on a summer day.
With a lower alcohol content, they can also be consumed repeatedly without leaving the drinker in much of a fog. In that way, IPLs are similar to another current craft beer trend: session (or lower-in-alcohol) IPAs.
It could be argued that just as craft beer was a reaction to mass-marketed beer, IPLs are a reaction to the last 20 years of craft beer, as bigger and boozier beers — especially among stouts and IPAs — increasingly came into style. Suddenly there’s a place, for lighter, cleaner beers so long as they don’t sacrifice flavor.
It’s little wonder that hops ended up as the key ingredient to a lager trend.
“The industry certainly is not done exploring hops,” Rockwood said. “That hop-forward profile is still desired.”