The Mystery of the Standout Tropical IPA

Eno Sarris, November 22, 2016

I had a few IPAs this weekend, and all of them claimed to be tropical. I mean, I guess they were. They had Mosaic and Galaxy and other hops that impart that stone fruit / tropical flavor to beers, and brewed by respectable breweries with followings, so yeah, they were tropical IPAs. 

I didn't like any of them.

Maybe I was just being Goldilocks, whining about how this one tasted too strong or too thick or too thin or too mellow or too intense. I try a lot of beer, maybe I whine sometimes when I don't feel I'm having the best. 

One part of me, though, wondered if there was a bit of a trend bubble that might be bursting. If the NEIPA is grassy and fruity, these were mostly pine or dank and fruity, or what we liked about the later versions of the West Coast IPA. I prefer the brightness that comes with a grassy and tropical beer, I guess, and that lines up with where the popular opinion might be headed. And it might be the third different way we've approached the new school IPA. 

For fun, I thought I'd check out Google Trends and compare the two titans of the West Coast IPA subgenre. Here are the search popularities, over the last five years, for the West Coast IPA versus the Tropical IPA as terms.

Well check that out. The incumbent still rules and the West Coast IPA is more often searched for. Tropical IPAs may be slowly gaining popularity, but they haven't passed the titan. 

This might be because there are more beers with "West Coast" in the title. We have 44 returns when you search for that term on BeerGraphs compared to 17 IPAs that have "Tropical" in the title. The most well known beer in either search -- Green Flash's West Coast IPA -- is an original gangster of the style and could move google searches by itself. 

But, speaking of google searches, look at that spike in Tropical IPA. Sure looks like one beer drove that little burst of excitement. I wonder what beer that was. 

Here are some new beers that came out around that time that could have been results for 'Tropical IPA':

  • Coronado Easy Up California Pale Ale
  • Clown Shoes Aurora Orangealis IPA
  • Harpoon Camp Wannamango Pale Ale
  • New Holland Tasmanian Hatter IPA
  • Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Tropical IPA

Oh. I guess we found our culprit. It's named exactly what we need it to be named, and it's released by a major brewery with national distribution that could totally move the needle on a google trends search. Sierra Nevada Tropical IPA! 

Our search also reveals itself as folly. These things are too literal. I'd hoped I'd be getting results that paired the word 'tropical' with the word 'IPA' somewhere in the description. It looks like we probably just looked at those literal searches that put those exact words in the same order. 

Eh. We'll have to find another way to examine the tropical trend.