Style Profile – IPA

Posted on 10.23.07 2:21PM under IPA, Style Profile

Beer StylesThis is the first installment in my Style Profile series. There’s a bit of debate about styles, some people really like them, and some find them restrictive. No matter what your opinion about styles, they are there, and most of the world uses them. Beer style guidelines form the basis for a universal vocabulary about beer, and they are the criteria upon which our biggest competitions are based.

One favorite style of the new wave of beer enthusiasts is the IPA. In the high flavor world of craft beer, IPA is among the highest flavor specimens. IPA is an acronym for India Pale Ale. As legend goes, the British originally brewed this high-alcohol, highly-hopped beer for durability to withstand the difficult ship voyage from England to their colonies such as India. Increased alcohol inhibits bacteria and makes any beer age better. Hops also have preservative properties useful for the stated goal of IPA.

Today, there are two main branches of IPA. British IPA tends to be a bit more malty and less hoppy, and is brewed with traditional British hops, typically casting a bit more of a grassy or even relatively restrained hop profile. American IPA puts the spotlight squarely on hops. American hops exhibit a distinctive grapefruit character, and you also can get strong piney notes from American hops. Some even accuse American IPAs of being one-dimensional, because the hop bitterness and flavor are so intense. Of course, these are generalizations and there can be crossover between the two branches.

There are also a set of Belgian IPAs coming on the horizon. These are Belgian style ales with loads of hops. Belgian beers are normally fermented high (alcohol) and dry (mouthfeel and body), and show spicy yeast characteristics. Add on IPA hops, and you get something really cutting-edge.

I would be remiss were I not to mention Imperial IPA and Double IPA. Imperial and Double both basically mean the same thing: “extra strength”. Normally, they are more like 150% strength, not quite double trouble, but they are always strong. These days, everything has an Imperial or Double version, but one of the originals is Imperial IPA.

So, in summary, IPA means India Pale Ale. In terms of flavor, this means expect higher than average alcohol, a faint to moderate malt base, and plenty of hops. If you’ve never had one, go pick one up. Commercial examples are Lagunitas IPAHarpoon IPA, Dogfish Head 60-Minute IPA, Victory Hop Devil IPA, and many others too numerous to mention. A search on BeerAdvocate yields 1,325 results. And that’s not necessarily all of them.

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  1. Posted by Brainard Brewing » Blog Archive » IPA: A Range of Intensity on 01.14.08 6:01 PM

    […] wrote a bit about the IPA style back here, and I thought it time to revisit the old friend […]

  2. Posted by Brainard Brewing » Blog Archive » Setting the Record Straight on 01.06.11 10:05 PM

    […] of parroting the whole 18th-century-British-soldiers-in-India creation myth for IPA. I even did a style profile article on it in the early days of this […]