Style Guide: India Pale Ales

Embark on a flavourful voyage into the history of IPAs, understand what sets them apart, and discover the reason behind their distinctive name.

With their bright hoppiness, diverse flavour profiles, and rich heritage, India Pale Ales, or IPAs, have carved a niche for themselves in the hearts of beer aficionados globally. But what’s behind their peculiar name? And what truly defines an IPA? Let’s hop into the past and discover the secrets of this popular brew.

The History of IPAs

The story of IPAs is a tale of innovation, serendipity, and of course, hops! Born during the 18th-century British colonial era, IPAs were created as a solution to a practical problem: preserving beer on its long voyage from England to India. Brewers discovered that adding extra hops to their ale not only prevented spoilage during the journey but also resulted in a distinctive beer bursting with flavour.

Why Is It Called an IPA?

Ever wondered why this brew is named India Pale Ale? The title is a homage to its origins. The IPA was an ale specifically brewed for English troops stationed in India during the British rule. The “Pale” refers to the use of pale malts in the brewing process, which resulted in a lighter color compared to the popular stouts and porters of the time.

Defining Characteristics

The hop is undoubtedly the heart and soul of an IPA. It’s the ingredient that lends this brew its characteristic bitterness, while also adding a delightful bouquet of flavours and aromas. From the classic English IPAs with their earthy, herbal hop profile, to the American-style IPAs teeming with bold citrusy and piney notes, the beauty of IPAs lies in their fantastic range of hop expressions. And let’s not forget the high alcohol content, another defining trait of IPAs, making them stronger and bolder than your average ale.

The Evolution of IPAs

As the popularity of IPAs surged, brewers began to experiment, leading to a slew of sub-styles each with unique characteristics.

Double IPA (DIPA)

Also known as Imperial IPA, the Double IPA is an amped-up version of a regular IPA. This supercharged brew boasts an elevated hop character, a more pronounced malt backbone, and a higher alcohol content, making it a favourite among fans of bold, strong beers.

Triple IPA (TIPA)

Taking things up another notch is the Triple IPA. This heavyweight champion of the IPA world often boasts an alcohol by volume (ABV) north of 10% and an even more aggressive hop presence. This is the ultimate choice for hop-heads seeking a potent and flavourful brew.

Double Dry-Hopped (DDH)

The acronym DDH stands for Double Dry-Hopped. This refers to the process of adding hops twice during brewing, once during fermentation and once after. This method results in a beer with an intense, aromatic hop character that stands out in the crowd. DDH beers are the way to go for those who love the allure of hoppy aromas.

New England IPA (NEIPA)

The New England IPA, affectionately called the NEIPA or Hazy IPA, is known for its cloudy appearance, softer bitterness, and a juicy, fruity hop profile. A darling of the craft beer scene, NEIPAs offer a unique take on the traditional IPA that’s well worth a try.

Session IPA

This style offers the hop-forward flavour profile that IPAs are known for, but with a lower alcohol content. This makes Session IPAs a great choice for those seeking a more moderate, easy-drinking beer that doesn’t compromise on flavour.

Milkshake IPA

This is a newer style of IPA that has gained popularity for its unconventional approach to the traditionally hop-heavy IPA. Milkshake IPAs incorporate lactose, a type of sugar that yeast can’t ferment. This leaves a residual sweetness that can balance out the hop bitterness, and also gives the beer a fuller, creamier body. They’re often brewed with fruit and vanilla to accentuate their smooth, dessert-like character.

Black IPA

Black IPAs use darker, roasted malts to achieve a deeper colour and a maltier flavour. This creates a fascinating interplay between the bright, citrusy, and piney hop flavours and the more roasty, toasty flavours from the malt.

Brut IPA

The Brut IPA, named for its resemblance to brut champagne, is a style characterized by its extremely dry finish. This is achieved by using an enzyme called amyloglucosidase, which helps break down complex sugars that yeast wouldn’t normally be able to ferment. The result is a beer with almost no residual sweetness, allowing the hop flavours to shine in a unique way.

The tale of IPAs is as flavourful and complex as the beer itself. This hop-infused brew has journeyed through time, survived sea voyages, and morphed in style, all while staying true to its defining character. So, whether you’re a hop head, a fan of fruity flavours, or simply on the lookout for something strong, there’s an IPA style out there with your name on it!