If you’ve dabbled in the world of craft beer, chances are good that you’ve tasted a few IPAs. IPAs, short for “India Pale Ales,” are by far the most popular craft beer style in the United States. Every bar you visit is bound to have at least a few on tap. But what exactly is an IPA? And how are they made? IPAs are taking over the beer world, so it’s important to get your facts straight about this incredibly popular ale.
What is an IPA?
An IPA, or an India Pale Ale, is a hoppy beer style within the broader category of pale ales. IPAs are fairly bitter due to the hop’s presence and higher in alcohol than the average beer. Bitterness is usually undesirable in food and beverages, but the bitter flavor makes IPAs unique and beloved. While IPAs are extremely popular within the craft beer movement, they’ve been around for quite a long time.
The first IPAs were developed by George Hodgson’s Bow brewery in the 1800s. During this time period, British soldiers stationed in India were desperate for a taste of home. Still, their favorite beers wouldn’t survive the six-month boat journey. The beer often arrived stale or bad. Hodgson developed an incredibly strong, pale beer loaded with just-picked hops to keep it tasting fresh. This first batch of ale arrived in India in January of 1822 and instantly became popular. This is where the name India Pale Ale came from.
Contrary to popular belief, not all IPAs taste the same. There are many different styles of IPAs that have been developed over the years. Some are hoppier, some are lighter, some are more bitter. We’ve broken down the most common styles and their traits below.
The British IPA is a derivative of the original ale George Hodgson shipped to India all those years ago. The hops were added to the beer to keep it fresh, and since the hops fermented inside the beer for so long, they lost their fruity flavor and left a bitter-tasting beer. British IPAs are usually malty, bitter, and fairly one-note.
A great example of a British IPAs is Meantime English IPA.
West Coast IPA
West Coast IPAs tend to explore the fruity notes hops can provide, rather than the bitterness. They still carry some of the bitter flavors IPAs are beloved for. Still, this bitterness is balanced by a crisp, clean body, high carbonation, and big tropical fruit notes. West Coast IPAs are characterized by fruity, floral, and citrus flavors.
New England Style IPA
New England Style IPAs are probably the most popular style right now. They’re unfiltered, which gives them a haziness, and they have extremely low bitterness. They’re made with a blend of hops and offer intense, fruity flavors. New England IPAs are often dry-hopped and tend to have lower carbonation. They tend to have very fruity aromas and will taste like fresh fruit cobbler.
East Coast IPA
The East Coast IPA isn’t an official style of IPA, but these beers don’t quite fit into any other category. East Coast IPAs are seen as a stepping stone between the British and the West Coast IPA. They’re characterized by a piney hop flavor and a solid malt backbone. They’re not quite as bright as a West Coast IPA but are more complex than a British IPA.
Oat IPAs are much softer than other types of IPA. Contrary to a West Coast IPA, which is clean, crisp, and sharp, Oat IPAs are soft, hazy, and smooth. They can either be brewed with flaked oats or oat milk. They usually offer some fruity hop flavors as well to cut through the creaminess.
Maplewood, Son Of A Juice Hazy IPA, is a great example of this style.
Lactose or Milkshake IPA
Milkshake IPAs, also known as Cream IPAs, don’t usually contain any actual milk. The name Milkshake comes from the fact that they usually have milk sugar added for extra sweetness. They’ll often also have fruit or vanilla flavors added to enhance the sweet, creamy, milkshake-like effect. They usually have low carbonation and are incredibly smooth.
A great Milkshake IPA to try out is Odell Brewing’s Cloud Catcher Milkshake IPA.
Although Belgium is usually known for Duvels or Witbiers, they also make a mean IPA. The most prominent flavor in a Belgian IPA comes from Belgian wheat, which adds sweet, bready, warm notes to the beer. They taste somewhat similar to a British IPA but with the flavors of a Belgian tripel.
If a West Coast IPA isn’t quite fruity enough for you, try a Fruited IPA. Brewers intensify the IPA’s existing fruit flavors from the hops by adding pureed fruit during the brewing process. For a fruited IPA, you definitely want one with fruit puree added, not fruit juice. It creates a much stronger fruit flavor.
How are IPAs made?
Hops are the most important component of brewing an IPA. The hops are carefully selected depending on the brewed style and the flavors desired in the final beer. For example, if an extremely bitter taste is desired, higher alpha hops are used. Different types of hops are used in combination with each other to develop complex flavors and aromas.
IPAs begin their brewing process the same way any other beer does. The production process begins with malting, milling, and mashing before the hops are added and boiled. At the beginning of the boiling process, the selected hops are boiled with malt. Hop bursting, or the practice of adding generous amounts of hops during the final 15 minutes of the boil, adds intense hops flavors and aroma without the harsh bitterness. Beers are then cooled and aerated, then fermented. Finally, the beer is aged, matured, and packaged before it finds its way to you on the shelf of your favorite liquor store.
Best IPAs to try
With so many great IPA styles out there and so many brewers to try, it can be overwhelming to select just one. We’ve compiled a list of some must-try IPAs, all of which can be delivered to your door with Saucey.
Hailing from California, the Lagunitas IPA is classically hoppy and bitter. It’s well-rounded and highly drinkable, with Caramel Malt barley added to provide richness. This richness perfectly mellows out the bitter twang of the hops. Lagunitas IPA has a strong hoppy aroma, bold citrus flavors, and a sweet yet dry taste.
Stone Brewing IPA
Stone Brewing IPA is hoppy, malty, and bright. This IPA delivers on the hoppiness promised from an IPA, exuding tropical, citrusy, and piney hop flavors and aromas, all balanced by subtle malt character. It’s incredibly crisp, extra hoppy, and super refreshing.
Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin IPA
Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin IPA is incredibly fruity, with a lovely, citrusy hop character. The aroma is bitter grapefruit and lemon zest, followed by apricot, peach, lemon, and mango flavors. However, this beer isn’t sweet, like some may expect. It’s fairly dry and bitter, which is what many are looking for from an IPA.
Golden Road Brewing Point The Way IPA
The Golden Road Brewing Point, The Way IPA, is a great choice for those looking for a very hoppy, very citrusy IPA. It offers a light malt body, the perfect canvas for pine, grapefruit, and tropical fruit notes. The brewers are very generous when it comes to dry hopping, so this beer is incredibly aromatic. This IPA is smooth yet strong and extremely well-balanced.
Bell’s Brewery Two Hearted Ale IPA
Made with 100% Centennial hops from the Pacific Northwest, Bell’s Brewery Two Hearted Ale IPA bursts with hops aromas, ranging from pine to grapefruit. This is due to the generous hop additions in both the kettle and the fermenter. This IPA is very balanced, with a malt backbone and a very fruity aroma. This is a very sippable IPA, incredibly drinkable and smooth.
It’s no secret that IPAs are here to stay. They’ve taken over the craft beer world, and their popularity doesn’t seem to be fading any time soon. IPAs come in a variety of different styles and flavors, and there are endless varieties to try.
To get a six-pack delivered straight to your door, you can count on Saucey. We offer an incredible variety of wines, beers, and spirits that you can get at your convenience. Shop our extensive selection of IPAs, and pick yourself out some today.