How do you introduce the largest blind tasting that Paste has ever conducted? I suppose the answer is “with a little context.”
We have blind-tasted IPAs (that’s “single IPA”) three times, at Paste. The first time was in 2015, and the 116 beers we received then seemed like a staggering, unfathomable figure. It was equally true in 2016 when we blind-tasted IPAs again and received a whopping 247 entrants. And it’s true once again here in 2018, with 324 of them—not far behind the 408 entries (also a record) at the Great American Beer Festival last year. Every time we do this, it seems like the previous mark will be impossible to surpass. Each time, we’re wrong.
The main reason why is the enduring, seemingly ever-strengthening popularity of India pale ale with American drinkers. As the beer geek market has matured, IPA has changed and matured along with it, branching off into numerous offshoots like capillaries splitting from an artery. Since the last time we did this tasting, trends have come and gone, and the pace of adaptation in the market has seemingly only accelerated. Even organizations that are resistant to change, such as the Brewers Association, have had to officially recognize some of these changes such as the normalization of hazy IPAs by stating that 2018’s GABF competition will for the first time divide the IPA field into “hazy” and “non-hazy” camps.
77. Funky Buddha Brewery Hansel IPA