India Pale Ale aka IPA, is the current reigning champion of craft beers, with nearly one-quarter of all beer sales nation wide belonging to this style of beer! Over the last five years IPA's have exponentially taken the world by storm! You cannot walk into a brewery or craft beer bar without having multiple variations of the IPA available to you. And I'm not complaining about that as a "hop head" myself! But it wasn't long ago when the country (and myself) couldn't stand the now-wonderful bitterness of hops. That almost seems like the Dark Ages to me!
IPA's come in numerous variations and every brewery tries to put their own spin on the style but traditionally there are three main types of IPA's: American IPA's, English IPA's, and Double IPA's. Within each main category are a plethora of sub-categories. And don't let the name fool you, this beer is not originally from India! Today I'm going to focus on the every-growing style of the American IPA but first a little history lesson.
English India Pale Ale is the original India Pale Ale! Born of another, less hoppy style.. the Pale Ale which originated in England. England was a big exporter of beer and story has it that shipments of their pale ales would go bad on their long trip to India. To keep the beer drinkable longer they decided to load the pale ale with hops because they inhibit the growth of bacteria! This new, hopped-up beer has grown into the IPA we know and love today.
English IPA's are characterized by their more grassy/Earthy hop aromas but tend to be less bitter and more malty than their American cousin. The malt base tends to bring out a bit of a biscuit/bready/caramel flavor. English IPA's are traditional and do not have very much variation... until they crossed the Atlantic!
American's love variety and they get it here! American IPA's have so many sub-categories that the line of what is actually an IPA is sometimes blurred by brewers. American brewers have experimented with IPA's because of the usual simplicity of the grain bill and the outlandish number of hop varieties now available!
Different from English IPA's with their extremely citrusy/piney/resinous "punch-you-in-the-face" hop aroma and a bitterness that could make your mother pucker up just watching you drink it! The rise of the American IPA has been outstanding in the last five years and it doesn't seem to be slowing down. The styles are changing though as seen with the new New England IPA that are being pumped out by breweries such as Tree House Brewing Co. and Trillium Brewing Co. These IPA's are known for their deep orange color and low bitterness as most of the hops are in the aroma.
I will admit, though, that I didn't always used to be a hop hunter. As with most people new to craft beer drinking an IPA can be like trying to choke down cough syrup that leaves a lingering aftertaste. But it grows. And it grows. And it GROWS! Until you are blind to every other style of beer on the menu at your local brewery or craft beer bar! Some people think this "craze" will die down but as long as there is demand, brewers will be pumping them out like there is no tomorrow and I'm just fine with that! Btw, it is always best to drink IPA's as fresh as possible!
According to my Untappd account (social media for beer geeks) almost 26% of the beers I have drank in the last few years have been IPA's! That's a lot of hops! Here's a look at what IPA's I highly recommend.
What are your favorite IPA's?!