IPA Crash Course

by Billy Broas



It’s hard to argue that there is a more popular craft beer style than the India Pale Ale, or IPA.

You asked for it, so I’m kicking off my beer style crash course videos again. And what better way to start it than with the coolest kid in school.

What does this beer taste like? It’s a bitter beer with a very strong hop flavor. It’s also higher in alcohol content, ranging from 5.5-7.5% for standard IPAs and up to 10% for imperial IPAs.

To better understand this beer which gave birth to the term “hophead”, let’s go into the history.

Background

This is a nugget of history every beer fan should know. In the early 1800′s the British troops in India had trouble attaining beer – a terrible predicament. India was too hot to brew beer and the proper ingredients weren’t available. Beer shipped from England wouldn’t survive the long journey and landed in India spoiled and flat. But you know what they say, necessity is the mother of invention.

Hops are a preservative, and by brewing highly hopped beers the beer would arrive in India unspoiled. Brewers also boosted the alcohol content  to help fight off bacteria. The British troops had their beer, and the demand for these new “India Pale Ales” spread back to England.

When the style came to America, we had to use homegrown ingredients. That meant American hops, which are higher in alpha acids (more bitter) and have intense citrus and pine flavors compared to the more restrained earthy and herbal British hops. American IPAs also tend to use neutral American yeast strains while English yeast strains are known for imparting a fruity character.

The English version is far less common now, especially in its homeland. America really took the style and ran with it. It grew to new heights of bitterness and alcohol and eventually a new sub-style was born, the double or imperial IPA.

Other sub-styles were created as well. Below are some commercial examples of IPAs:

American IPA:

  • Sierra Nevada Torpedo
  • Avery IPA
  • Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA

English IPA:

  • Samuel Smith IPA
  • Left Hand 400 Pound Monkey
  • Goose Island India Pale Ale

Imperial IPA

  • Russian River Pliny the Elder
  • Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA
  • Bell’s Hopslam

Belgian IPA

  • Flying Dog Raging Bitch
  • Terrapin Monk’s Revenge
  • Houblon Chouffe Dobbelen IPA Tripel

Black IPA/India Black Ale/Cascadian Dark Ale/Whatever you want to call it

  • Odell Mountain Standard Double Black IPA
  • Victory Yakima Glory
  • 21st Amendment Back in Black IPA

Do check out the video to find out a few things not mentioned in the post. For the foodies, watch my video on what cheese pairs best with an IPA.

Hope you enjoyed this and learn a little something. Let me know if you want to see more of these types of videos.

Talk to you hopheads later.

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Jimmie the Mum January 6, 2011 at 12:28 pm

Another excellent educational video. Billy, you should post this video and others on our cigar forum.

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Sheppy January 6, 2011 at 1:39 pm

Well done video and writeup. I would assume that your blog audience would already know everything you covered here, but maybe I’m wrong about that. Either way, it is still good information. Excellent job.

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Jorge January 6, 2011 at 2:47 pm

Great video…

I’ve also heard a variation of the story that trade ships loaded with spices and silks were going to England, and since India didn’t “need” anything coming from England, the ships were returning empty…

Because of this freight rates from England to India were low, and the Bow Brewery in East London took advantage of this to start exporting their beer to India…

Regardless… beer was going to India and it’s one of the best styles ever created…

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Alex January 6, 2011 at 9:40 pm

Another great video! Wish I had seen this a few days ago. One of my roommates from California brought a Pliny the Elder back to DC for me and I wasn’t sure what to pair with it! This video would have been perfect! Went with a steak so at least I was on par. Thanks again for the great post!

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Ryan Conklin January 7, 2011 at 5:29 am

Great info on pales, the food pairings and history of this style with some great informational nuggets peppered throughout, served as a great last minute refresher for my cicerone test tomorrow. Looking forward to sitting, drinking and chatting beer and beer culture. Keep up the good work, hopefully next time will gather, it will be to celebrate.

CONK

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Billy Broas January 7, 2011 at 11:46 am

@Jimmie Why thank you. I’ll share it over there with the stogie guys.

@Sheppy I’m sure many of my readers and the more frequent commentors know this stuff but I hear from a lot of beginners behind the scenes that are trying to get the basics. Considering 90% of people still don’t drink craft beer it will be useful for them when the leave the dark side. Thanks for the comment!

@Jorge Ah hadn’t heard that story yet. Definitely interesting and thanks for sharing. I would kill to try one of those original IPAs.

@Alex Yea I love a big IPA with a steak. It’s more of a contrast than a compliment like a roasty stout would be, but I think it’s refreshing. You have a good friend bringing you Pliny! What I love about this beer is that it’s so good and only $5. Glad you liked the post!

@Ryan That’s right the big cicerone test is tomorrow! Hope I gave you the final push you need. Good luck buddy. I’m sure I’ll see you soon and we’ll be celebrating.

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Andy January 7, 2011 at 3:15 pm

Hi Billy,

Very nice educational bit–as expected. While I’m not an IPA lover at all (being 100% malthead, not hophead), you’re doing things right to enlighten us all. You know me: I’d love one on Scotch (or at least Scottish–you surely get the difference) ales, though I’ve read as much as anyone on them. Maybe one on English barley wines (Hardy’s, Lees Harvest Ale, Skullsplitter, et al.)?

Cheers, keep it up, and happy new year to ya.
Andy

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Billy Broas January 10, 2011 at 6:38 pm

Thanks Andy. A few people have asked about seeing a video on Scotch/Scottish ales so that will be the next one. I’m going to try to do one of these per month. I also love English Barleywines and would love an excuse to stock up on those. Not sure if you’re on the beer bucket list newsletter but the one I sent out today is actually one of the ones you listed. Thanks for the ideas. Cheers!

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Dale Miskimins January 12, 2011 at 5:48 pm

Hi Billy,
I just picked up an Odell Mountain Standard Double Black IPA and am looking forward to reviewing it. Odell is putting out some good beers (still looking for the Avant Peche). Another nice episode!
Dale

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Billy Broas January 13, 2011 at 11:08 am

Thanks Dale glad you liked it! I was really impressed with this beer at the beer bloggers conference and had to try it again. It’s still in my fridge, but maybe tonight? They really do put out some great stuff. Avant Peche is something I’d love to try too. Thanks for the comment!

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Julia Herz November 6, 2011 at 10:40 am

Billy thanks for taking the time to put this together. Great quick hit and comparison of the IPA styles! I’ll search for the stout video you mentioned too. Cheers.

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Billy Broas November 6, 2011 at 6:23 pm

Thanks Julia. Hopefully it’s a good balance of information and brevity. In fact it’s about time I break out the video camera again for one of these.

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Jimmie the Mum November 6, 2011 at 12:54 pm

Anyone going to the Dogfish Head Brewery tour on Nov 12th in Reoboth Beach.?

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Billy Broas November 6, 2011 at 6:23 pm

I wish! You going Jimmie? I bet my Dad would join you.

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Jimmie the Mum November 6, 2011 at 6:26 pm

This will be a game time decision for me.

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Josh May 5, 2013 at 2:01 pm

Great video! I’m on a mission to learn everything there is about IPA’s and this is the best find so far. I’ve heard white IPA’s are gaining in popularity. What make a white?

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