When I first started drinking IPAs, the were commonly identified on bottle labels and menus as India Pale Ales. The beer style was created by English brewers in the mid-1800’s when extra hops were added to the traditional Pale Ale for long voyages of ships transporting goods… and beer… to India. The extra hops gave the beer a slightly higher alcohol content allowing it to retain its flavor and aroma by the time the ships arrived in India. Eventually India was added to the name and this kind of Pale Ale became known as India Pale Ale.
Now India Pale Ales are simply called IPAs and collectively make up the largest craft beer style sold in America. And while IPA is the name for this specific style of beer, it’s also the name for the beer category that is now made up of a lot of interpretations.
Here’s a look at some of the IPAs you can enjoy:
- Traditional IPA: citrusy or piney in flavor and aroma and typically bitter with an ABV in the 6-7% range.
- Double IPA: a wider range of flavor profiles and aromas due to more hops and more malts being part of the recipe. A Double IPA can be sweet or bitter, have a soft or a sharp mouthfeel, and also have flavors and aromas that can be hoppy, citrusy or piney. ABV is usually 7-9%.
- Triple IPA: very much like a Double IPA but with an even higher ABV, in the 8-10% zone.
- Imperial IPA: many brewers prefer this name for any higher ABV IPA, wrapping in both the Double IPA and Triple IPA sub-styles.
- Tropical IPA: fruit may or may not be added to the beer in the brewing process. But the result is a beer that has a distinct fruit profile.
- Black IPA: deep brown or black in color with a burnt malt flavor from the roasted malts added to the brew. Hops are still present in the aroma and flavor, but the roasted malts give this beer a distinct look and taste.
- West Coast IPA: yellow or straw in color and very hop forward. Many traditional IPAs are West Coast IPAs but just are not identified that way.
- New England IPA: low bitterness, hazy in appearance, juicy in flavor with ABVs from 6-9%.
- Milkshake IPA: lactose, or milk sugar, is added to give this IPA variation a sweetness and softness. As its name implies, it has a soft mouthfeel and can sometimes actually have a thicker body than other IPAs.
- Brut IPA: an enzyme is added to the beer, removing the sugars, and giving Brut IPAs a dry, champagne-like taste.
- Sour IPA: as with all Sours, a special yeast is added to the wort. The wort is the liquid that comes from the mash, which is, simply put, the ingredients that make all beer great. That special yeast turns the sugars in the wort into lactic acid and makes the IPA tart.
Well… now I’m thirsty! Time for an IPA! But which one…
The Craft Beer Guy