IPA or India Pale Ale is a hoppy beer style that is part of the broader style pale ale. IPA is first known to be brewed in England in the 19th century, although the first time someone called it an IPA is in an advertisement in the Sydney Gazette in Australia. The term pale ale refers to an ale that is brewed from pale malt. This was obtained by breweries using fuel fired malt that produces less smoking and roasting of the barley. In the early 1800’s the beers were quite different than what they are today. They were much more lightly hopped than what we see today.
IPA taste, which some say is an acquired one, consists of wonderful fruit, citrus and floral notes. While bitter for some, IPA offers a complexity that few beers can match. IPA popularity in the U.S. has been exploding! This has led to breweries experimenting and producing several styles of IPA to appease the growing demand coming from the “hopheads” of America.
Some different styles are East Coast IPA, West Coast IPA and Double IPA’s. East Coast IPA’s typically have a stronger malt presence that balances out the hoppiness of the beer. Also, because of logistics, East Coast IPA’s tend to use more European hops which results in a spicier style. Great examples of East Coast IPA are Brooklyn East IPA and Victory Hop Devil.
West Coast IPA’s typically have a much stronger hops flavor up front and use nearby hops grown in the Pacific Northwest such as Chinook, Cascade and Simcoe. Not as well balanced, but not intended to be. It is all about featuring the beauty of American hops and deemphasizing caramel and sweet notes. The name originated because San Diego breweries were the first to champion this style. Now West Coast IPA’s are now brewed all over the country. Excellent examples of West Coast IPA are Green Flash West Coast IPA, Lagunitas IPA, and Ballast Point Sculpin IPA.
For people who can’t get enough of the bitter, citrusy flavors of hops, Double IPA or Imperial IPA has emerged onto the American market. Typically, these beers are a stronger and hoppier version of traditional IPA’s. Usually the alcohol is above 7.5%. This is needed in order to supply enough malt to help balance out the extreme hops. Examples of this style are Bells’ Hopslam, Surly Abrasive Ale, and Great Divide Hercules Double IPA.
American brewers, ever innovating, have even started making an IPL (India Pale Lager) Strong hops that is fermented like a lager make this a lighter, cleaner style that is intended to show off the subtleties and complexity of the hops. Sam Adams Double Agent IPL is a great example.
With the massive proliferation of IPA in the U.S. and breweries that are always pushing the envelope, the lines between different styles are getting blurred. If the beer you are drinking is getting blah, an IPA of any style may be that beer you need to invigorate your senses.