Brewers across the globe are reimagining IPAs every day with new techniques and flavor options. The creation of beer can be pretty complex, and the processes to do so can differ from one brewing company to the next.
From the ratio of malts to hops, or the number of ingredients used throughout the entire process, slight adaptations can result in significant changes in flavor and aroma. IPAs are prime examples of the diversity of ale and how one style of beer can influence future inventions.
What Is an IPA?
India Pale Ale (IPA) is a style of beer that accentuates the flavor of hops. IPAs can be bitter and bold, while others on similar types of menus can be light and fruity. IPAs cater to a wide selection of taste preferences, as there is a different flavor profile for everyone.
From Britain to India: Name Origin and History
During the British colonial era, sailors constantly traveled the sea, which meant that food and beverage preservation was essential. Sailors searched for a type of beer that would remain good enough to drink for extended periods of time.
While sailing from Great Britain to India, sailors made the discovery that beer with a larger quantity of hops was ideal for their lengthy trips. It’s possible for beer to expire, which negatively impacts the flavor (see: when does beer expire and how long does a tapped keg last). High temperatures in India also made it challenging to produce beer. So despite the name, IPA’s origin is of British descent.
Brewers worldwide have created countless adaptations of the IPA, and it’s a style that consumers continue to gravitate toward centuries later. There is a wide variety in beer price, flavor, and brewing process, so it’s essential to learn the differences.
IPA Flavor Profile
With IPA, you either love it or hate it–there’s rarely a happy medium. IPA is a hop-forward beer, which means that the brewers create a blend that enhances the flavors of the hops.
No matter which fruits or herbs go into the making of each IPA, brewing companies can guarantee that each beer will pack quite the punch. Many beer drinkers are fans of the potency of an IPA’s flavor and aroma, while others don’t see the appeal in its bitterness.
To ensure that you’re getting the whole experience, drink your IPA (or any other beer style) from the proper glassware. When you sip your beverage from a can or bottle, the exposure to its aromas is limited.
Instead, opt for a glass or mug with a wide top. The mixture of the scent and flavor from the IPA’s ingredients will make its consumption much more enjoyable.
Be sure to brush up on some IPA-related terminology before your next beer tasting or ordering something new at the bar (view our complete bartender's guide). Once you fully understand what makes one IPA different from the next, it will make experimenting with new beers so much more enjoyable and allow you to make choices with confidence.
Microscopic compounds from wheat grain proteins give hazy IPAs a cloudy appearance. Most wheat beers will have this appearance instead of regular beer, which usually includes barley as the main ingredient. Hazy IPAs aren’t as bitter as others, making them a more approachable option for those new to IPAs.
Double or Imperial IPA
If you’re looking for an IPA that consists of more hops and malts than a regular IPA, a double or imperial is a solid choice. Both consumers and brewers describe this IPA style as turned up a notch regarding aromas and flavors but not over the top in its bitterness.
If you’re already a fan of regular IPAs, then a double or imperial will probably be your new favorite. Also, keep in mind that “double” and “imperial” mean the same thing when discussing IPAs and can be used interchangeably.
IPA connoisseurs who prefer the flavor brought on by a large amount of hops tend to gravitate toward the dry-hopped style. Additional hops are added to the beer to create a more robust and aromatic experience for its scent and flavor profile.
The result of adding hops after the brew has come to a boil is a sweet flavor that has little to no trace of bitterness. If you feel uncertain about trying an IPA due to its reputation of being bitter, you’ll probably enjoy the dry-hopped style.
Instead of using a variety of hops when brewing this IPA style, only one is used throughout each stage of the brewing process. Other kinds of IPA use a wide selection of hops, which results in a unique flavor. When brewing companies opt for only one hop, the taste is more concentrated and bold.
Social drinking might mean that you consume more in a shorter amount of time. If you want to limit your alcohol consumption, session IPAs might be your ideal drink of choice.
IPAs typically have 7-10% ABV, while session IPAs only range from 4-5% (learn how to calculate ABV). Due to the lower alcohol content, session IPAs are most comparable to English bitters. The term “session” comes from the idea that you can consume more of this style IPA in a single time frame without the risk of extreme intoxication.
Which Beer Is Most Similar to IPA?
American or English pale ales will deliver the most similar flavor profile to IPAs, with less potency and a more bearable level of bitterness. To create pale ales, brewing companies use a similar balance of malts and hops as one would for an IPA. The higher quantity of hops in IPAs is the sole factor that gives IPA its robust taste.
Best IPA Brands and Favorites
Though the selection of IPAs can feel overwhelming, there is definitely one (or more) out there that you’ll find delicious. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most popular beer brands that produce IPA:
As one of the most highly ranked IPAs of all time, AleSmith is full of flavors such as grapefruit and other tropical fruits. The citrus flavors joined by its high-hops make for a crisp and refreshing drink. If you’re in the mood for an IPA featuring a perfect balance of hops and malts, we suggest AleSmith be your first choice. Plus, this IPA has won contests for nearly one dozen categories.
If you’re contemplating what food to order with your AleSmith IPA, remember that the famous West Coast style pairs well with blue cheese. Various types of chefs may suggest that fried foods pair well with the crisp, fruity ale.
Maine Beer Company
If you find yourself in a brewer’s tasting room along the coast of Maine, the popular Lunch IPA may be available to try out on tap. With pine, lemon, grapefruit, and orange flavors combined with tropical undertones of papaya and guava, Lunch IPA is a go-to favorite when you want to pour a beer with a meal. Lunch IPA pairs well with traditional fried foods, as Lunch IPA offers a balance of aromas and flavors.
Bell’s Two Hearted Ale
Two Hearted IPA is a longtime favorite amongst beer enthusiasts and new customers. The beloved drink bursts with the refreshing flavors of grapefruit, pine, and citrus.
It is also dry-hopped with 100% Centennial hops. The iconic IPA is an excellent match to various cuisines and is a spectacular choice for any occasion.
Ballast Point Sculpin IPA
Named after the Sculpin fish for the way the IPA “packs a sting,” it’s safe to say that Ballast Point’s IPA gives the whole category its reputation for tasting bold, bitter, and potent. After years of experimenting with different brewing techniques, Ballast Point began a five-stage hopping process. With apricot, peach, mango, and lemon flavor notes, the Sculpin IPA ranks as a gold medal winner, with over thirty awards.
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Frequently Asked Questions About IPA
How Is IPA Different from Beer?
First of all, keep in mind that beer is the beverage category, while IPA is a beer type. The major difference between IPA and regular beer is that IPAs tend to be much “hoppier,” resulting in a more distinct taste. IPA also contains a higher alcohol content than most regular beers.
Why are IPA Beers So Popular?
Many craft beers are similar, whereas IPAs are unique. Whether or not somebody is a beer enthusiast or casual drinker, many consumers seek enjoyment by trying something new. IPAs are available in a wide variety of flavor profiles and are rich in hops.
Another common reason why so many people choose IPAs over regular beers is the higher alcohol content. Not in the mood for an IPA? Here are some other drinks to know as a bartender and customer.
Is IPA Stronger Than Regular Beer?
Regardless of the brand, IPA typically contains higher alcohol content than other types of beer. Many types of alcohol with higher ABVs have the potential to affect you differently than you may be used to.
With this in mind, it is possible to feel intoxicated much faster than when consuming regular beer. As always, drink responsibly!