Jillian: Why ZX?

Here is a picture of me with VIVE – the beverage we built during my summer in Zxlerator!

Here is a picture of me with VIVE – the beverage we built during my summer in Zxlerator!

I didn’t go to business school intending to start a business, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t tempted to become a founder almost immediately upon arrival at Wharton. It felt like everyone I spoke to was trying to start some sort of venture. I’ve always considered myself to be somewhat entrepreneurial in spirit, so I figured why not at least consider it. I started thinking about potential industries, spinning my wheels to identify the next ‘billion-dollar idea’ (like every single other first year MBA). It was a very humbling exercise. First, I lacked any in depth, industry-specific knowledge, which made it virtually impossible to identify salient pain points. Which brought me to another, potentially larger issue. Even if I were to identify a real problem to address, what right did I have to win? Prior to Wharton, I had spent 3 years working in Sales and Trading at a large investment bank. I had never worked in any of the sleeker industries like retail, biotech, or food and beverage. I had no pre-existing connections, no real networks to leverage. I would be starting from scratch… and frankly, starting from scratch is scary.

I have always struggled with the notion of ‘risk aversion.’ In business school, ‘risk aversion’ is perceived as a negative thing. But I argue that a healthy level of risk aversion can actually be incredibly valuable. I realized very early on in my Wharton career that while I may be entrepreneurial in spirit, I also carry a healthily degree of risk aversion. I do want to build my own venture, but I don’t want to have to start from scratch to do so.

Insert ZX Ventures. The perfect marriage of best-in-class industry knowledge, venture-led thinking, and high-performing teammates to de-risk the entrepreneurial process.

ZX Ventures offered me the opportunity to flex my founder muscle in a relatively low-risk environment. The ZXLerator MBA internship program gave me the team, the money, and the industry resources necessary to solve a real consumer problem and scale a viable business over the course of just one summer. ZX Ventures has one of the best MBA internship programs out there. I’m biased, but it’s true. Where else are you presented with a budget, a problem, and 11 fully-dedicated weeks to go solve it?

In my fulltime role here at ZX, I sit right next to a huge poster that reads: “Only invent if you need to.” ZX is not interested in recreating the wheel. We are interested in leveraging our resources, capabilities, and unparalleled industry expertise to push the beverage category further, fueling growth for AB InBev well into the future. If you’re like me - someone interested in building their own business, working with talented, passionate people, and gaining the tangible industry knowledge necessary to create solutions to address real consumer problems – ZX is the place for you. Because at ZX, you don’t have to start from scratch. You have the support of a $56bn global beverage leader behind you. Now that sounds like a pretty great set up for success.

Connor: Reflections

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I was first introduced to ZX Ventures in the Fall of 2016, a month into my first year at Columbia’s Business School. I was sitting in the library, trying to figure out this whole modeling/excel thing I’d heard so much about, when a friend swung by and asked if I was going to the ZX Ventures presentation. Honestly, a little unsure of what ZX was, my plan that day was to wrap up work and head home. Luckily, my friend said the magic words “there will probably be free beer,” which was good enough for me.

That afternoon sent me on brand new path. The ZX Ventures’ employees at the event, who were recent MBA grads, impressed me from the start with the challenges and roles they had already experienced in their brief tenure at the company, as well as the responsibility they were given early and often. Their passion for creating the future of an industry was simply infectious. They weren’t shy about emphasizing that ZX Ventures is a culture-driven organization, a company that believes in true ownership. I learned how ZX believes People are their greatest asset, and that the best environment for their people is informal and meritocratic, offering roles outsizing employees’ experience to give them challenges they have to stretch and grow into. As an added bonus, the beer was delicious. I was hooked.

As a summer intern in the 2017 Zxlerator, I learned the “ZX Operating System,” a methodology for bringing a company from ideation to launch by actually doing it – rolling up my sleeves with a team and getting out in the real world to solve real consumer problems. I started to see firsthand that people at Zx didn’t just talk the talk about culture, I was surrounded by ownership. Employees of all levels would take the reins on massive challenges, bringing passion and creativity to launching new businesses with an obsessive customer focus. I lived the highs and lows of entrepreneurial life in the accelerator, and started to believe in the methodology that so defines ZX’s approach: identifying an opportunity, dreaming big in its potential, and figuring out how to efficiently execute the mission.

I knew if given the opportunity, I would join ZX Ventures full-time, but I was unsure about what my first role would be. Should I lean towards something in my wheelhouse, and leverage my previous experience? After the expedited learning curve forced on me into the new role of an entrepreneur over the summer, I decided to aim for my next role to be completely outside my comfort zone to continue this rapid growth. I ended up joining the Finance team this June, and have been working on ZX’s strategic planning and resource allocation processes ever since.

ZX Ventures is the kind of place that encourages these types of challenges. I’m often reminded of Pedro Earp’s comment at one of our school events, “we want to push people out of their comfort zone so that they are in a position to grow. We want to find that job that you may be uncomfortable in for six months, good at for six months, then great at for six months. Then we’re going to find the next job you’re uncomfortable in, and cycle goes on and on.” I’ve seen firsthand how this ethos combined with a meritocratic reward system empowers employees to drive their own career path, attacking new and exciting challenges that peak their curiosity and passion.

I’m just beginning my journey in this company, and while the innovative exponential growth challenges are amazing, the people inspiring, and the culture empowering, this idea of Sisyphean dedication to improving yourself is what makes me most excited to get to my desk in the morning.

From my position, I’ve seen the large challenges we’ve set for ourselves in 2019. We’ve continued the practice of dreaming big, and expect great results from our teams around the world. And while I don’t know what comes next for me personally, I can’t wait to find out which road I’ll need to rise to meet next.

Kendra: What’s an Intrapreneur?

Any derivation of the word “entrepreneur” coupled with a company that brings in over $50 billion in annual revenue probably seems like a divergent concept.

At least, that was my impression when I first heard about the opportunity at ZX Ventures.

I was in my first year of business school at MIT’s Sloan School of Management and had just stepped away from being an entrepreneur for close to three years. I had founded a company called Spice & Spoon, a cocktail services platform (think cocktail classes executed by mixologists for private parties and corporate team building/events).

I was bitten by the entrepreneurship bug and felt strongly about ownership, building new things, and solving consumer problems. On the other hand, I was exhausted by the struggle for resources, access to the right people, and financial limitations.

Coming into my MBA program I was hyper-focused on food & beverage innovation and looked across opportunities in various companies. If I had to summarize what drew me to ZX, it would be three things:

  1. Opportunity to learn (from people and process),
  2. Real authority and ownership (in a major way that I did not see elsewhere), and
  3. Big dreamers (a reflection of the passion and enthusiasm you might not expect from an industry giant).

Fast forward two years and here I am, working to build a startup within an existing company. When people ask what I do, I sometimes say “intrapreneur,” other times I’m a “founder,” a “global manager,” or that I work in “new product innovation.” All of these titles and associations are true. As amorphous as this may be, the way I describe what I do is the perfect characterization of what my job entails – constant evolution and bringing together dichotomous mindsets and processes.

At its core, I am an employee of Zx Ventures, the global growth and innovation group within Anheuser-Busch InBev, paid a salary like any other company employee; however, I’m given the freedom and decision-making rights of an entrepreneur.

I control my product, from recipe to design; I own my execution strategy; I pitch to raise money internally, just like an independent founder might pitch to a VC. Funding is in no way guaranteed, and there’s a burden of proof. I have ownership, I’m building something new, and I’m solving a consumer problem.

Overall, this job sounds pretty awesome right?

And it is. It is awesome. When operating within this kind of structure, the benefits are countless: from deep industry knowledge, to distribution, to best practices, not to mention the greatest asset—access to the best and the brightest people. However, I’ve had to learn how to overcome different types of challenges from the ones I overcame in my days as an entrepreneur. The constraints are real, and the expectations are high.

I can also say what I do as an intrapreneur is not unique to the rest of the company; at least not at the heart of it. My fellow MBAs have started building careers across our many functions, from marketing, to finance, to strategy. We call ourselves a company of owners – so no matter the function, we are all constantly challenged to be drivers of our change. It may not be in everyone else’s job description, but from my perspective, at Zx Ventures we’re all intrapreneurs.

Kendra, GMBA Class of 2018, a pitching on Demo Day during her Zxlerator internship. She’s now a full-time “intrapreneur” as a member of the Explore team.

Kendra, GMBA Class of 2018, a pitching on Demo Day during her Zxlerator internship. She’s now a full-time “intrapreneur” as a member of the Explore team.

Jessica: My Trek to Patagonia’s Best Kept Secret

Read from Jessica Douglass, GMBA Class of 2018, on a journey to Patagonia as part of the GMBA Deep Dive!

Read from Jessica Douglass, GMBA Class of 2018, on a journey to Patagonia as part of the GMBA Deep Dive!

As a GMBA program participant working within ZX Ventures, I have invaluable opportunities to learn about many different parts of the company through our sessions and regional “Deep Dive” programming. A Deep Dive is a week where the entire GMBA cohort travels to an Anheuser-Busch InBev zone to hear from executives and experience the local ways of doing business. My cohort just returned from an incredible trip to Argentina that brought the company to life in a brand-new way.

The first half of the week was in the city of Buenos Aires, learning about the local marketing challenges, how they’ve successfully repositioned some major Argentinian brands, and how that’s translating to a sales strategy on the ground. We visited the Quilmes brewery and experienced a beer pairing with (delicious) local foods. But I think my entire class would agree that the most impactful part of the trip came towards the end of the week, during our trip to Patagonia.

When we stepped off the plane in the town of Bariloche, I could hardly believe my eyes: the sun was setting behind a vast stretch of mountains. The next morning was even better, waking up to the glistening lake waters nestled between snow-capped mountains. But of course, the best moment of the trip was arriving at our Patagonia microbrewery, situated at the top of a hill overlooking the expansive scene I just described. Sipping a 24.7 Session IPA while surveying one of the most beautiful landscapes I’d ever seen was a moment I’ll never forget.

It really drove home what an incredible insight the Patagonia brand team has landed upon: once a craft beer establishes a discernable place and face, everything else is easy. From the logo, matching the outline of a classic Patagonia mountain range, to the story of their pine ale created by a brewer who wanted to capture the feeling of being at the brewery, every initiative seems to flow naturally from that exact spot on earth.

As part of the Specialties team at ZX Ventures, I can attest that we try to bring this insight to our brands every day. We’re constantly centering around the core truths of our brands—their founding teams, original brewery location, and authentic stories—in setting brand strategy. Whenever we come up against an existential conflict, we always come back to the place, face, and story of the brand to lead our way.

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Alex: Behind the Scenes of Zxlerator

Read a behind-the-scenes take on the experience of running Demo Day 2018 from Alex Savona, new member of the Explore team and former Zxlerator intern!

Alex Savona, GMBA Class of 2018, pitching to internal investors at Demo Day 2017 as an intern.

Alex Savona, GMBA Class of 2018, pitching to internal investors at Demo Day 2017 as an intern.

June 11, 2018 was a day of firsts. It was my first day of work at ZX Ventures, and it was also the first day of the third Zxlerator program, which brought together 27 MBA and undergraduate interns and 26 intrapreneurs. But this wasn’t your normal first day; the buzz around the coworking space and “problem statements” was very familiar. That’s because this was my second Zxlerator.

Last summer I was a GMBA intern on the TAPT venture, where I spent 13 exhilarating weeks launching a start-up alongside other interns and ABI employees. The experience culminated in a pitch at Demo Day, which is the moment when each of the Zxlerator teams show off the product of their summer’s efforts. It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with ZX’s ways of doing things, the ZX Explore team, and the Zxlerator program – it was all unlike anything I had ever seen before. From the start I knew this was something I needed to be a part of. I was over the moon when I received my full-time offer back to the ZX Ventures team and the opportunity to help with the coming year’s Zxlerator.

Now I was seeing the program from a completely different angle – as someone helping to run the Zxlerator rather than a participant. I immediately jumped into Bootcamp, helping our coordinators refine content from last year and collecting examples of work done to show our new class. But most importantly I was going to be an Explore Partner for three of the teams, serving as a mentor to help these ventures throughout the process.

As a brand new team member equipped with one summer of Zxlerator experience, I wondered how much value I could offer to seasoned employees of the company and my MBA peers. But then, just like last year, I decided to trust the ZX operating system. I leaned on my experience as a prior “consumer” of the accelerator to guide my teams and offer them tips for running experiments, validating hypotheses, presenting to VPs, and preparing for Demo Day.

Not only was I able to leverage that knowledge myself, but the rest of the Explore & People teams running the accelerator leveraged it too. They so innately felt that “the consumer was the boss” that they quickly and openly accepted my suggestions to the program, continuously building, measuring and learning, to bring our strong program satisfaction score even higher, up to 94%. Perhaps most excitingly as a new hire, the team lived up to the ABI principle that the company’s people are its greatest asset. They trusted me off the bat to help shape the program and mentor three of the teams - the most of any Explore Partner. It was incredible to see how much one could learn in one Zxlerator and how the experience fundamentally changed how people thought about problem solving. Alums of past accelerators wouldn’t miss Demo Day for anything; they even showed up wearing their ventures’ swag! It gave me hope for how this program could become even bigger, with former participants sharing this mindset back in their countries, business units, and future accelerators.

As Demo Day concluded and I took off my headset in the AV booth, I was sad to see the program end, but I realized this was just the beginning both for my career at ZX and the Zxlerator. There were funding decisions to be made, recruits for next year to find, feedback to implement, and opportunities to take the program even further in 2019.

Meet Alan Audi, VP of Legal & Corporate Affairs

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Tell us a bit about your career path. How did you end up at ZX Ventures?

When I graduated from law school, I joined a big law firm, mostly because I saw it as a great way to learn and figure out what kind of lawyer I wanted to be. The law firm career path helps you your confidence and develop nuts and bolts legal skills, but I quickly figured out it wasn’t the right long term career choice for me. So after a few years I moved to a role in the pay-TV industry as an in-house lawyer, which was a fantastic growth experience. At the time the industry was under a lot of pressure from changing consumer habits, especially because of cord-cutters — young consumers who prefer watching content “on-demand” on platforms like Netflix instead of paying for traditional cable or satellite TV. I saw firsthand how even the most profitable industries need to adapt and innovate if they’re to thrive in the long run. So needless to say when an opportunity at ZX Ventures came up I jumped on it. What could be more exciting than helping AB InBev — the world’s largest brewer — get ahead of changing consumer trends and position itself for long-term growth?

You’re new to ZX, but not to ABI! How do you think your time at ABI prepared you for ZX?

It certainly helps to have built a network of friends and colleagues across the ABI organization. While ZX and ABI are independent, sometimes we need to rely on ABI’s resources to be effective. Knowing who to call goes a long way.

Since you’ve worked at both ABI and ZX – how do you see the ZX culture playing a part in your new role?

The great thing about both ZX and ABI is that both organizations really have strong corporate cultures that they live by. I think it’s fair to say a lot of organizations have aspirational statements about their people: who wouldn’t say that they’re a meritocracy, that they only want to hire the best people, and so on? But what’s interesting about ABI is that the culture really is lived here, and it permeates everything. You hear people say the one lasting competitive advantage ABI has comes from its people, and it’s amazing to see how much of our senior executives’ time is spent recruiting and nurturing talent. So when we talk about ZX culture, we really are talking about ABI’s culture. That doesn’t mean that ZX doesn’t do things differently. If we’re to stay true to our mandate for disruption, we need to be even more agile, faster and leaner than ABI. But the focus on people, meritocracy, and ownership are constants across the entire organization.

How is innovation a part of your role at ZX, both on the legal side and on the corporate affairs side?

Everyone at ZX is focused on being ahead of change, especially on the technology side, so it’s natural for us to approach our day jobs as lawyers and communications professionals with the same mindset. On the communications side, the traditional toolkit doesn’t necessarily make sense when you’re trying to reach a tech-savvy, socially-committed audience. And on the legal side, I think it’s fair to say that the legal profession is going to undergo a lot of change in the coming years. ZX is the perfect laboratory within ABI to test out the innovations coming through the pipeline, especially on the legal automation and artificial intelligence side.

What’s your favorite part about working at ZX Ventures?

I’m never more excited about my job than when I can get out into the field and see the frontlines of the ZX family of companies. Whether it’s visiting one of our fantastic new breweries or going on a trade visit to see how our new product offerings are being positioned, what’s working, what isn’t, staying close to the business is my favorite part of the job. The Legal & Corporate Affairs function can only be effective if we’re aligned with our internal clients, if we understand their challenges. There’s no substitute for getting out of the office and into the field, whether it’s the warehouse, the brewery, the market or the pub!

Chief of ZX Ventures, Pedro Earp on #ASKGARYVEE Show

Gary Vaynerchuk recently hosted our Chief of ZX Ventures, Pedro Earp on the AskGaryVee Show, an unconventional entrepreneur’s guide to leadership, social media, and self-awareness. Pedro and Gary discussed ZX as an innovation arm within a large corporation - including the current consumer goods market, passions vs. skill sets, disrupting the beer market, and more. Check it out below.

Zxlerator Demo Day

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August 24th marked the culmination of this year’s Zxlerator – Demo Day. The cohort of 50 ABI intrapreneurs and summer interns tackled 14 huge challenges facing our business. Last month, they had the chance to get on stage and pitch the businesses they built this summer in pursuit of investment.

Zxlerator is an 11-week program where existing employees and summer intern’s work together to identify a real problem, validate a solution, and build a viable business model. Basically, they start a business. These ventures are early stage – often starting from just an idea – so we start out with an intensive two-week boot camp. This is a crash course in how to start a company. Teams then gain access to a slew of internal and external mentors to call on, and programming designed to help them leverage our core business. We couldn’t be more impressed with the work they completed!

Read on to find out what some of the brilliant innovators and creators had to say about the program:

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Jessica Douglass, a member of the Chameleon Canning team, which is working to find a solution for expensive product labelling in the beer industry through canned beers.

Did you enjoy the Accelerator program? “I absolutely did—it was an incredible opportunity to build a business from the ground up, and get to work with a team with such different backgrounds. We really came together, knowing nothing about each other on day one, to being super close now, and having built something that really speaks to the consumer. It was an incredible experience.”

What would you say was your biggest challenge or reward? “We had a lot of challenges, but I think it’s more fun to focus on the rewards. Our biggest reward was hearing from the customers we ended up selling to just how much this would mean for their business. We were able to supply cans to beverage companies, and they told us how much it would really transform the way they do business, the way they were able to sell, and the way they were able to present their brand. It was so incredible hearing how this would affect their lives.”

Would you recommend the program to others? “I totally would. I think it’s the perfect balance of being able to work at a large company with getting that startup feel, seeing how it is to build a business from the ground up.”

Kimberly Montgomery, was a member of another team this summer and a full-time entrepreneur at ZX Ventures. Her team was addressing casual drinking occasions.

Did you enjoy the Accelerator program? “I loved it. It was such a great program. It was an amazing opportunity to get outside your day job and try something new. To explore a problem and find a solution.”

What would you say was the biggest challenge or the best part of the program for you? “It’s intense. It’s an 11-week intensive program. You come in on day one, you get sent this challenge, and you need to go away and solve it. For me [the biggest challenges were] the scale of what you needed to solve and how quickly you needed to work. You need to start making decisions, finding answers, and challenging yourself to leave the office and put yourself in uncomfortable situations. It’s also one of the most rewarding parts, because you start the day feeling really nervous, and then by the end of the day you realize that you’ve learned so much, talked to so many people, gotten so many new ideas, and discovered so many new perspectives. So, I think that’s the most rewarding part as well.”

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Ronnie Palejwala is a member of the Cooler Insights team, which worked to create state-of-the-art sensor technology that will help businesses more easily meet the needs of their consumers.

Did you enjoy being a part of the Accelerator program?

“Yeah, absolutely. This summer was a whirlwind, but it was so much fun. Getting the autonomy and the independence that we got from the ZX team. I’ve had other internships here before, and they don’t even come close. This was a really special experience.”

What was your biggest challenge in a program like this, knowing that it’s competitive and so much is on the line?

“The biggest challenge is that there’s so much independence that you don’t really know how you’re doing at any point, and at some points there’s so much ambiguity that you don’t know what path to take. Making those decisions and figuring out which is the best path to go down is hard. I’d say the way we overcame that is we just came together as a team, we had conversations, we talked about different viewpoints, and we made decisions together as a team at those tough moments. Working through them was tough. I think, in the end, where we were able to get was great.”

Would you recommend the program to other people?

“Yeah, absolutely. I would be hard pressed to find a summer program where you could do more and have more impact and do something cooler than what we did here.”

It was a summer of exciting new start-ups, unique challenges and fresh ideas. We can’t wait to see where year three takes the Zxlerator program and watch the continued success of this year’s interns and ZX intrapreneurs.

Product Management at ZX Ventures

Last week we kicked off the ZX Product Leadership Development Program (PLDP), an ongoing training initiative to strengthen the product management skillset within ZX. Twenty-two attendees from businesses in seven countries attended a three-day Product Summit in NYC.

We began the session by discussing the role of Product @ ZX and why Product is important within our company.

  • Customer focus – Product starts with the customer and the market context in everything we do and we develop business cases from the outside in.
  • In-house product & development – In the digital businesses we’re building at ZX, product & technology is a core competency and a main source of our competitive advantage. By having top tech talent in-house, we believe we get to better solutions through deeper knowledge of the customer, retain that knowledge, and build an important skillset for the company. 
  • Agile approach – We set a big dream, but start small and lean to learn and deliver value quickly.
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We then introduced eight competencies that represent the critical skill areas for development of our product team.

  1. Know the User
    • Our role as Product Managers (PMs) is to understand the consumer’s needs, pain points, and motivations. To understand them better than they know themselves.
  2. Understand the Opportunity
    • Understand the market, who the direct & indirect competitors are, and how to price and position a product based on the current market. An excellent PM looks into the future and creates a mental model of where the market is going, and builds their product with the future in mind.
  3. Define a User- and Market-Driven Vision
    • Demonstrate that the user problem, market opportunity, solution, and benefits to our business are aligned and significant, thereby unlocking additional resources / support for the project.
  4. Clearly Communicate Goals and Progress
    • Proactively keep each stakeholder informed on project vision, progress vs roadmap, current performance, and plans to close gaps; adapting messaging, communication method, and cadence to each audience.
  5. Contribute to Product Organization Development
    • Actively seek ways to elevate the role of product within the organization and be seen as thought leaders across multiple competencies.
  6. Define a Compelling User Experience
    • Go beyond benchmarking and literal translation of user feedback. Redefine standard for addressing user needs by rethinking user steps to complete and applying innovative user interaction approach and/or technology application to solve.
  7. Effectively Prioritize & Execute Roadmap
    • Translate vision into a roadmap to execute against business objectives on time and within budget.
  8. Establish & Utilize Feedback Loops Effectively
    • Build feedback loops into the product (e.g. capture demand information, validate/refine algorithms, personalize experience based on user input, etc.).

We hosted a series of external and internal speakers to cover topics aligned to the eight competencies above. Two key themes emerged from our conversations at the Summit:

  • Problem validation
    • Challenge all assumptions about the customer and their needs
    • Problem definition and validation are just as important as solution definition and validation
  • Experimentation
    • Fail fast -- test to learn, not just for lift
    • Test feature changes in individual tests to isolate & understand impact (and share learnings with the broader team!)

As a team, we found a lot of value in discussing our shared business challenges. To continue the conversation after the Summit, we will offer an ongoing speaker series.

What’s the Deal with IPAs, Anyway?

Thomas Hartman, Innovation Brewer at ZX Ventures, sat down with us to chat about IPAs.

Photograph Courtesy of  The Muse

Photograph Courtesy of The Muse

Let’s talk about the history of IPAs to get started.

The IPA, or India Pale Ale, was one of the first real bastions of American craft beer. At its beginning, craft beer was a revolution against “big beer” and “lite beer.” IPAs allowed budding craft brewers to produce intense flavors in a light-colored beer instead of a traditional heavy stout. In a typical enthusiastic all-or-nothing fashion, the craft beer pendulum swung rapidly toward over-the-top bitterness.

What’s the flavor profile of an IPA? How do we get there?

Craft brewers seeking to highlight American ingredients—and to differentiate themselves from macro breweries—put as many hops and as much flavor in their beers as they could manage. (Note that while hops have distinct flavors besides bitterness, hops are the easiest way to enhance a brew’s bitterness.) These styles evolved over time to showcase the intense flavors of local and specialty ingredients. Using different hop varieties, adding hops at multiple brewing stages, experimenting with lupulin powder (purified resins and aromatics from hop flowers), and dry-hopping are all methods to enhance the hop flavor and bitterness of IPAs.

Speaking of bitterness: a beer’s bitterness is measured in International Bitterness Units, or IBUs. The higher the number, the more bitter the beer. It’s widely believed that most drinkers’ palates cannot differentiate bitterness beyond a certain point, somewhere around 80 IBUs. Therefore, an imperial or double IPA logging 100 IBUs is probably overachieving, delivering more bitterness than most drinkers will detect (much less appreciate).

How do you see the IPA trends evolving over time?

I’m really glad to hear that the trend in IPAs today is toward lower ABVs and lower IBUs—less bitter beers with a more balanced flavor profile. Another great development in IPAs focuses on local hops or single-hop varieties. I’m particularly excited about rotating-hop recipes. For these, a single beer recipe is produced repeatedly, each time using a single hop variety but changing that variety from batch to batch. Each time the recipe is reproduced and a new hop is cycled in, the variations in flavor and mouthfeel reflect the hop used. For instance, Cascade hops bring a floral, citrusy flavor, emphasizing grapefruit. The same recipe brewed with Mosaic hops will tend to be more tropical and floral, whereas a third cycle using Simcoe hops will have more of a piney flavor. New hop varieties are in development all over the world today, including some that are truly out there! Perhaps there’s a hop variety that will appeal more to you.

Believe it or not, there’s an IPA style to suit nearly every beer drinker. If you want to dive back in and give IPAs another try, look for session versions, which are lighter and more palatable (one session IPA I’ve really been enjoying lately is Blue Point’s Mosaic). Avoid the hoppier West Coast styles and especially anything described as an imperial, double, or triple IPA—these are the “bitter is better” styles with double-digit ABVs and extreme IBUs. Also, consider trying some regional IPAs or specialty styles. From cloudy New England IPAs to roasty black IPAs, where the hops are most evident in the finish, to fruity or flavored IPAs, there’s something for everyone.