The race is well and truly on for regional craft breweries trying to cash in on the idea of health-conscious, low-calorie beers, and unsurprisingly, IPA is proving to be the style of choice for the experiment. Ironically echoing some of the same types of beers that were produced during the first boom of “session IPA” as a style about five years ago, these beers are now focusing on concrete nutrition information numbers rather than the vague idea of being lower ABV. Latest to join the race? Canarchy’s Oskar Blues, which just announced a new, 100-calorie “hazy IPA” that is due to hit shelves in mid-September. Titled “One-y,” the beer is a mere 4.0% ABV, and according to Oskar Blues is “packed with citrusy notes of orange peel, tangerine and lemon zest,” which are “guaranteed to make you forget it’s only 100 calories.” The focus on One-y’s “hazy” status may likewise set it apart from other low-cal IPAs on the market, few of which have really played up the idea of being miniature NE-IPA’s.
One-y will be entering a market of lower-calorie hoppy beers that is quickly filling in as regional craft brewers jump into the queue. Just a few weeks ago, Bell’s Brewery announced the 3.7% ABV version of their iconic Two Hearted IPA, dubbed Light Hearted Ale, although the release oddly chose not to confirm the number of calories, despite calories being presumably the entire reason for the product’s existence. Those beers join existing, popular entries on the market like Dogfish Head’s Slightly Mighty IPA, Lagunitas DayTime IPA and original trendsetter Founders All Day IPA, all of which hover around the 100 calorie mark. It’s no coincidence that this is the same relative strength, in terms of calories, as the average hard seltzer, either, as these beers are no doubt being looked at as alternatives for those who have drifted in the direction of seltzer (and its perceived “healthy” qualities) in the last few years.
As a beer fan, I find the idea of these products both welcome and somewhat deceptive, at the same time. On one hand, the presence of more low-calorie, low-ABV options in the marketplace is by no means a bad thing. It’s nice to be able to reach for flavorful, hoppy session beers on a regular basis, especially when one is trying to reduce their alcohol consumption or count calories. These beers can be a valuable tool for promoting responsible consumption.
On the other hand, though, simply labeling sub-4% beers as “IPA” is a blatant marketing effort to attach the industry’s most popular beer style term (IPA) to beers that are clearly not “India pale ales” in any definable sense. Five years ago, beers that fit this description would simply have been called “session IPA,” which was already a term that was stretching the historical definition of those words. Years before that, we would have called any hoppy beer weighing in at 3.7% or 4% ABV a “pale ale” and simply moved on, but that doesn’t help sales in the same way as those magical letters, “IPA.” So here we are. Is it any wonder that pale ale continues to decline as a style, though, when the definition of IPA continues to be stretched in every direction?
Regardless, Oskar Blues One-y will be hitting store shelves nationwide in mid-September.