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.
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:
- Sierra Nevada Torpedo
- Avery IPA
- Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA
- Samuel Smith IPA
- Left Hand 400 Pound Monkey
- Goose Island India Pale Ale
- Russian River Pliny the Elder
- Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA
- Bell’s Hopslam
- 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.