Distilled: The Lupulin Shi(f)t: The hop-love has gone too far

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Back in the mid-aughts, Russian River Brewing Co. co-owner and brewmaster Vinnie Cilurzo coined the term “The lupulin shift.” Lupulin is a gland in hops that contains the oils and resins that give hops their hoppy essence and flavor. The stronger the lupulins, the stronger the hop intensity. (Think of it like the THC of hops.)

What Cilurzo was talking about — and predicting with uncanny accuracy at the time — was hop-heads continually need more hoppiness to satisfy what’s basically a higher hop tolerance. He was right.

We now have hoppier and hoppier brews — a crap-load of double IPAs, plus intensely and intentionally hop-heavy beers — and millions who love them. A good example is Founder’s highly sought-after seasonal release Devil Dance, as the brewery’s website states, “At an incredible 112 IBUs, it’s dry-hopped with 10 hop varieties.” Good for Devil Dancer, but the sessionable year-round All Day IPA is better.

While needing more hops may be the case for many craft beer drinkers, I have “shifted” in the opposite direction. Bell’s Two Hearted, a medium hoppy American IPA, was the beer that turned me on to crafts. I’ve come to paraphrase the Wu-Tang skit when referencing Two Hearted: “What’s up with your Speak ’n Spell beer? Fisher Price, my first craft beer. This s--- is old …”

If you don’t know the context of the skit, it’s basically mocking someone’s out-of-date style, footwear and clothes. I feel the same way about IPAs and the style’s pervasive, borderline invasive, popularity. It’s gotten old.

Look, I’ll enjoy a great IPA — Brew Kettle’s White Raja comes to mind — but there are too many subpar options saturating the market and burning me out on the style as a whole. Breaking news: Stone releases another IPA.

Too many bars calling themselves a “beer bar” (because they have 20 drafts) have more than half of those taps occupied by an IPA or similar beer. This does not make you a “beer bar.” Why can’t places branch out to more diverse and interesting options? Isn’t that what this whole craft beer movement is about? Trying something new and possibly better?