You’ll find it in almost every craft brewery in the country. The IPA is a widely popular genre of the beer industry, famous for its bold hoppy flavor and the seemingly endless potential to creatively manipulate and push a beer’s ingredients to the limit.
Born centuries ago during the age of British colonialism at its core the IPA is a regular pale ale that was overly hopped to add an influx of preservative oils that would keep the beer fresh on its way to India to quench the thirst of British expats.
Today it has seen a massive resurgence, but simply calling a beer an IPA is overly broad as the style has birthed many sub categories since its inception. We’re here to clear the air and give you a break down of our favorite styles of IPA.
The English IPA
The one that started it all and the roots from which all other IPA’s have stemmed. Traditionally they are golden brown in color and exclusively use British hops. Expect grassy and earthy notes with some mild citrus character. Typically you’ll find them at 6-7% ABV with a crisp body and bone dry finish.
The Rye IPA
You don’t have to dig too deep to figure out what makes this IPA style special. The addition of adding rye to the malt adds a spicier flavor profile while still maintaining that bold hoppy flavor. The added rye also helps amplify some of the more subtle flavor undertones like citrus and pine. It’s a style that hopheads who enjoy dominating strong flavor would favor.
The West Coast IPA
An invention of the Golden State this California born IPA is also golden in color with a clear clarity. Inspired by English IPAs it instead swops out the British hops for American ones, primarily Chinook, Citra and Cascade to give the beer big time citrus aroma with tones of pine and earth. The use of Crystal malt makes the West Coast less dry than its English counterpart. They are also notoriously hoppy with IBUs in excess of 80. The aggressive bitterness quickly made the style a favorite of hopheads everywhere.
The New England (East Coast) Style IPA
A newer and upcoming popular style on the beer scene the NE Style IPA mirrors its West Coast cousin but with a focus on the type of yeast used during fermentation. Instead of using the flavorless and flat yeast of other IPA styles the New England opts for complex and mutated yeasts. These produce major flavors and aromas while fermenting usually yielding nots of banana, citrus and tropical fruit. This yeasty flavor boost gives the brewer the ability to use less hops, usually added later in the fermentation process. The result is a hazy yellow brew that is buttery smooth on the tongue and exceptionally juicy with reduced hoppiness.
The Double, the Triple, the Imperial
For some the highly bitter profile of the West Coast IPA wasn’t enough. They clamored for more hops and so the hoppy arms race was on. Brewers responded in kind with the addition of more hops, the development of bolder flavor and stronger aromas. The hop plant was pushed to its limit and the result were some of the strongest, headiest, and driest IPAs on the market. The alcohol content of these also took a sharp climb, expect to put back a beer anywhere from 9-13% ABV. Many of them rose to be exclusively popular releases with beer fans flying many miles for a special one day release.
The Session IPA
On the flip side of the coin it was recognized that not everyone wants to drink themselves stupid after only a pint or two. Some folks enjoyed the hoppy flavor but found West Coasts to aggressive and Imperials as unnecessary overkill. People wanted to enjoy a summer barbeque without destroying their palate and their mind. So born was the Session IPA. Never usually topping more than 5% ABV brewers tend to dry hop them to death so as to obtain the greatest aroma with the lowest amount of bitterness. Results yield a happily balanced all day drinking pale ale.
The Black IPA
This crossover style appeals to the beer drinkers who enjoy heavier brews as well as the drier and hoppy pales. Part stout and part West Coast it utilizes Cascadian hops to create a full bodied crisp ale with dark roastiness on the tongue and bold hop flavor on the finish.