“Can I try the IPA?” is a question you may hear often at breweries from a crowd of apparently beer-savvy drinkers, and it’s an automatic way to look like you know what you’re talking about at a bar. IPA beer is the single most popular and common style of craft beer offered at bars, it’s extremely trendy, and statistics show that that isn’t changing any time soon.
Whether you have a certain prowess in the art of brews or not, IPA beer is a popular choice among beer drinkers, and we’re here to explore the ins and outs of this long-reigning trendy brew.
5.) IPA 101: What is it?
First off, what is this beer? To begin, IPA stands for India Pale Ale and is a style of beer that is mostly characterized by its abundance of hops. Hops are defined as the flowers of the hop plant that is used as a flavoring and stability agent in beer. Basically, hops are what give a beer its bitter, zesty or citric flavors. IPAs differ in “hoppiness” and taste overall, but you can generally expect to taste a bit more bitterness than other types of craft beer. Another common trait of your standard IPA beer is higher alcohol by volume or ABV. The average brew has about 5 to 7.5%, so expect to feel buzzed if you choose to down a few of these on a night out.
4.) IPA History: Where Does It Come From?
Where does this beer come from, and how did it arrive to the reputation to many as the king of craft beer? The history of India Pale Ale dates back to the days of the British Empire’s time in India. The demand for beer was high among the British, but the Indian climate made it difficult to brew. In the late 1780s, a London brewer named George Hodgson created a strong pale ale that would survive the long journey from England to India. The exported beer packed more hops and a higher alcohol percentage, which allowed it to keep longer. As exportation of this hoppy beer increased, other breweries began to catch on and create their own versions, and the beer became the preferred choice of the English colonies. This beer became known as the India Pale Ale.
The arrival of IPAs to the United States didn’t happen until the surge of the craft beer movement in the late 20th century. In the late 1970s, microbreweries began to pop up around the country and with that came revisiting old styles of beer that were new to the American consumer. Professional beer writer and educator David Nilsen marks this as the time that IPAs rose to their present position as the mascot of American craft beer.
3.) Different Types of IPA
Hops are what make an IPA an IPA, and some brews are jam-packed with more of them than others. During its rise to fame, breweries began to seek ways to make IPA more elaborate and truly set it apart from other styles of brews. This resulted in several different styles of IPA all differing in hops, alcohol content and bitterness levels. Some of the most common ones are listed below.
American vs. English
According to beer history, without the English, we wouldn’t have the craft beer champ that is known as IPA beer today. While American breweries are the ones to credit for the beer’s modern-day popularity, English breweries still make their own. The biggest difference between the two is the presence of intense hops in American IPAs verses the toasty malt flavors that are usually in the English ales.
If you’re obsessed with the taste of hops like many people are, then a Double IPA should be on your tab next time you’re at a brewery. The double or Imperial IPA is like the IPA on another level. Think extra hops balanced with citrus-y and bitter flavors. This style is most standard in West Coast breweries, and you can expect a bolder, stronger aroma and flavor in these beers.
Session IPAThe great and bad thing about IPA beer is that it’s usually on the stronger side, meaning you’ll definitely be feeling it after a few. Session IPAs take care of that “problem” by having the same bold flavors of an IPA but with less alcohol content, so you can still be standing after enjoying a few. They usually start at about 3.8% and don’t get any higher than 4.7%. Session IPAs are for true IPA lovers who are looking for that delicious taste without all the alcohol. Beers like Founders Day IPA (4.7%) are one of the most highly rated beers and continue to be a top choice for those who love enjoying a refreshing session.
2.) IPAs To Try
If you’re lost on where to begin with the world of IPAs and craft beers in general, you can start here. There are hundreds of breweries boasting delicious IPAs and it can be hard to know which one to try. A good place to start is going to your local brewery or craft beer spot and asking for a flight of beers. Because IPAs are the most popular beer to order, most bars carry more than a few IPAs on tap, giving you a range of flavors to try.
For Nilsen, Bell’s Two Hearted Ale and Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA are some of the most classic IPAs you can find and are generally a good place to start for aspiring beer connoisseurs.
“They definitelyaren’t the most extreme examples anymore, but they are classic, well-made IPAs that helped build the movement and are still tremendously popular.”
1.) Other Popular Beers To Try If You’re Into IPAs
The craft beer world is an exciting and expansive one, and you probably shouldn’t limit yourself to only IPAs, even if they are good. According to the Brewer’s Association, there are 100+ styles of beer out there. Once you’re acquainted with the bitterness of an IPA, you may be looking to venture out and try a different style. Here are some interesting styles of beer to sip on if you’re all IPA-ed out.
Drinking a sour beer is a unique experience even if the name gives away how it will taste. The sourness and acidity can still be shocking and it can seem a bit off, but it’s a unique style of beer worth trying. Breweries give sours their unique taste by introducing a unique yeast during the fermenting process, yielding a vinegary, acidic taste. Just like IPAs, sours are a trendy choice among craft beer lovers who are constantly seeking the next best quirky brews to get behind.
Porters and Stouts
Porters and stouts are dark beers that are similar to each other, but have slightly distinct tastes. A porter is a London-originated dark beer that is usually hoppy and made with malted barley. Stouts are dark beers made with roasted barley and roasted malt and usually range between 7% and 8% ABV. Both are hearty, delicious beers that usually have chocolate-y and roasted coffee notes. You can find beer drinkers typically enjoying these during the winter.
Which IPA do you want to try first? Tell us in the comments! Want to incorporate beer into your life even more? Check out Uses for Beer Other Than Drinking.