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Popularity of IPA Day signals rise of American craft beers

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The steady growth of craft brewing continued in the first half of 2013, despite a decrease in overall beer sales. (Source: Wikimedia Commons) The steady growth of craft brewing continued in the first half of 2013, despite a decrease in overall beer sales. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

(RNN) - Thursday is the third annual IPA Day and craft beer lovers around the globe are coming together to have a toast and celebrate one of the industry's most popular and flavorful styles: the India pale ale.

Three years ago, IPA Day was created to use social media to unite the voices of craft beer enthusiasts and brewers worldwide. Jump on Twitter and search #IPADay and you'll quickly find beer lovers from all over the globe celebrating this event through tastings, festivals, dinners or a simple shout out.

#IPADay is currently trending nationally on Twitter, and just a quick scan through some of the most recent tweets might expand your beer knowledge.

@Strong_Viking in New Jersey said, "Happy #IPADay — Drinking a Double Simcoe IPA by @weyerbacher at @twisted_elm — http://untp.it/13ELrQW #photo"

And across the country, @joegmorse in California said, "Celebrating #ipaday with a @NewEnglandBrew Ghandi-Bot and the latest issue of @BeerAdvocate, not a bad way to end a day."

IPA Day is just one sign of the rise of craft beer that has changed the industry.

According to a mid-year report by the Brewers Association, a nonprofit trade association that represents the majority of U.S. craft breweries, the steady growth of craft brewing continued in the first half of 2013, despite a decrease in overall beer sales.

During that same time, craft beer dollar sales and volume were up 15 percent and 13 percent, compared with 14 percent and 12 percent over the same period last year.

"Demand for beer produced by small and independent brewers has never been higher, as evidenced by increased production and the hundreds of new breweries joining the playing field each year," said Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association, in a statement. "Beer drinkers nationwide are responding positively to high-quality, full-flavored, diverse offerings from American craft brewing companies that continue to innovate and push the envelope."

This impressive growth shows that craft breweries are not to be underestimated; after all, they make up 98 percent of all breweries and have seen double-digit increases in sales and volume year after year. Some might say it's somewhat of an American (beer) revolution.

"More breweries are currently operating in the U.S. than at any time since the 1870s," Gatza said. "With each new brewery opening, American craft brewers are reinforcing the U.S.'s position as the world's most diverse brewing nation. It's a very good time to be an American beer lover."

Yes, a very good time indeed. This growing popularity begs the question: what makes craft beer so good? Well for one thing, it's brewed with more passion. Small and emerging craft brewers do what they do out of love for their product and take great pride in their work.

One example of that passion is exhibited through a little company called Oskar Blues Brewery, which was the first craft brewery in the country to brew and hand-can their beer in November 2002. And over the past six months, they have seen a 38 percent increase in depletion.

"Continuing to push the boundaries is what gets us up in the morning, it's what drives us ... we continue to do what we love, toss a can in your backpack for the backcountry or a grab a stovepipe (19.2oz.) at music and sport venues," said Oskar Blues founder Dale Katechis in a release.

The response to this love of brewing is clear, because the numbers don't lie: craft beers are growing quickly in popularity and Americans are turning more and more to grabbing an independent brew rather than the mainstream beer.

Because of passion and creativity, craft brewers come up with distinct, flavorful beers that are constantly evolving. And craft beer fans aren't complaining, with so many beers to experiment.

So this IPA Day, do yourself a favor and see what all the talk is about - head down to your local bar and ask for a craft brewed India pale ale.

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