If you’re just joining us, you’ve found yourself in the midst of my series on beer recommendations. Be sure to check out my previous posts:
This post is part of a mini-series – See all posts in this series
#2: IPAs & Pale Ales
Today we’ll be talking about IPAs: what they are, where they came from, and some common lingo. Let’s get right to it!
I’m well aware that IPAs are not exactly a “beginner” beer style. They usually tend to be hoppy, bitter, and often aggressively so. If you’re looking for something to help ease you into the world of IPAs, do yourself a favor and start with a beer simply labeled as a “Pale Ale” (not India Pale Ale!), which can be described as a toned-down version of the IPA.
IPA stands for India Pale Ale and was first developed by the British to supply the market in India. High temperatures in India meant bad brewing conditions, so the British needed to create a beer that was hearty enough to survive the long six-month journey at sea. In the 1780s, a brewer from London named George Hodgson started exporting his beer via Bow Brewery, located near the Middlesex-Essex border by the East India Docks. The strong hop profile in these beers primarily served as a preservative which kept the beer fresh during the voyage. Other breweries began imitating Hodgson’s beers, and eventually the IPA evolved into a weaker, lighter version we know today as pale ales.
Since then (especially so in very recent history), the IPA has gone through a true renaissance, returning to a profile of massive hop flavors and plenty of experimentation. There are several distinct qualifying terms you will see and hear regarding the style, such as Imperial (or Double) IPAs, Triple IPAs, Black IPAs, West Coast IPAs, New England/East Coast/Hazy IPAs, and even Brett IPAs.
So what do these names mean? A West Coast IPA tends to be the hop-forward, filtered, dry ale most people associate the style with. An East Coast IPA, however, tends to have a hazy appearance, pronounced fruit aromas and flavors, plus a balanced, more mellow hoppiness. Also, these geographical names are primarily to describe where it was first made popular—it’s less about where the beer was made, and more about how. A few minor (but fundamental) tweaks to the recipe can easily turn your West Coast IPA into an East Coast, or vice versa.
Next up, the black IPA, is exactly what it sounds like: dark in color. The hop profile remains intact, but the typical lighter malt is substituted for a darker, more roasted variety. The Brett IPA is another twist on the original, which uses a wild yeast called Brettanomyces to bring funky characteristics into the mix, similar to some Belgian beer styles.
When considering the ABV, IPAs are usually classified as “single” IPAs. When you see an IPA marked as “Imperial IPA,” “IIPA,” “Double IPA,” or “DIPA,” you can assume that it will be higher in alcohol content, although not actually double that of a single IPA. The same can be said for Triple IPAs, which are even stronger, though not necessarily three times that of a typical IPA.
When it comes to recommending an IPA, the best one is ultimately the freshest one! Hoppy beers are always best drank fresh because they will lose the flavors and aromas imparted by the hops over time. Do not age, cellar or otherwise forget about your IPAs! Naturally, your best bet is looking for IPAs on tap right at their source: your favorite local brewery! Alternatively, check for a date stamp on the bottles or cans you plan to buy on your next beer run. If it’s more than 90 days old, it may be a good idea to try something else!
Now that you know what to expect from the ever-popular IPA, go try some of my favorites!
May I suggest…
- Tree House – Julius (East Coast)
- Russian River – Blind Pig (West Coast)
- Russian River – Pliny the Elder (West Coast Imperial)
- Bottle Logic – Double Actuator (West Coast Imperial)
- Monkish – Smarter Than Spock (East Coast)
- Latitude – 33 Blood Orange IPA (West Coast)
- Modern Times – Neverwhere (Brett)
- Anything from Stone (who specializes in IPAs)
Hop heads: leave me a comment below with your favorite IPAs! Cheers!
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post where I’ll reveal my number one recommended style! In the meantime, follow me on Instagram or subscribe below!