At first glance, it would appear that these types of brews are at opposite ends of the spectrum. After all, hard sodas are intended to taste like regular soft drinks, while citrus-infused IPAs are enhanced versions of a “real” craft beer style. The former is so clearly faux while the latter is genuine beer. But in my opinion, there’s really not much difference between these products because their selling point is the same: alcoholic beverages that doesn’t taste like traditional beer. Or, more precisely: alcoholic beverages that taste sweet, overtly faux, and completely pedestrian. That sounds a lot like another style of adult beverage that’s been around for a while now, namely; Flavored Malt Beverages or “Alcopops.”
You can now find these products at Walmart and other such stores. This is rather ironic if you consider the big picture: craft beer could barely get any shelf space at these venues for decades, but within the last year small and big businesses alike have been making room and even setting up separate displays just to carry so-and-so’s “hard” root beer or ginger ale or whatever. The juicy IPAs aren’t quite as common at the big box stores, but liquor stores and bottle shops definitely are making a fuss about them.
But what about all these juicy IPAs; surely they are “real beer,” no? I suppose that argument can be made, but as is often the case in the American craft beer scene, they’re just a trendy variation of a popular style. In recent years we’ve seen session IPAs, red IPAs, black IPAs, white IPAs, etc. Even the BJCP recognized these off-shoots as established styles with their 2015 guidelines. Will they include these super citrusy IPAs in their next overhaul? Should they? I’d say no, and for several reasons:
Secondly, fruit juice-infused IPAs are just so damn trendy that they seem like they’re marketed for the masses rather than for genuine beer enthusiasts. Fruity beers sometimes blur the line between real, genuine zymurgy and lowest-common-denominator alcopops.
Is “Not Your Father’s Root Beer” beer?
When is a beer not a beer?