Exploring the Many Styles of India Pale Ale
The beer style known as India Pale Ale, or IPA, has developed over time to encompass a variety of iterations, each with a distinctive flavor and aroma character. There seems to have been an increase in the number of IPA varieties recently. American, New England, West Coast, Belgian, Black, Session, Double, Brut, and Cold IPA are some of the most well-known IPA styles, and I’m sure I’m forgetting a few others. Let’s quickly review each.
The English IPA style is the original version of the IPA and is characterized by a balance of malt sweetness and hop bitterness. This is the famed beer that was transported to India for the British troops stationed there, and where the beer gets its namesake. English IPAs typically have a moderate to high level of bitterness, with a hop flavor and aroma that is earthy, floral, and herbal. These beers are brewed with English hops, which have a different flavor profile than the American hops used in other IPA styles. English IPAs also have a moderate alcohol content, typically ranging from 5% to 7% ABV. English IPAs are a the classic IPA that paved the way for the many variations of IPA, and it’s probably the IPA style we were drinking around 25 years ago.
American IPAs known for their bold hoppy flavors and aromas. They typically have a mix of citrus, pine, and floral hop flavors, with a bitterness ranging from moderate to high. American IPAs are brewed with American hops, which give them their distinctive flavor profile. American IPAs also have a high alcohol content, typically ranging from 6% to 7.5% ABV or higher.
New England IPAs (NEIPA), also known as hazy IPAs or juicy IPAs, are a relatively new style of IPA that originated in the northeastern United States. They are characterized by their hazy appearance and juicy, tropical fruit flavors. NEIPAs are brewed using a large amount of hops, which are added late in the brewing process to preserve their aromatic qualities. They are also brewed with a type of yeast that produces a fruity flavor and aroma, adding to their juicy character. Omega yeast has quite a selection of genetically modified yeasts that accentuate these fruity flavors. I’ve found some to even taste like orange or grapefruit juice. New England IPAs have a lower bitterness than other IPA styles, making them a popular choice among beer drinkers who prefer a less bitter beer.
West Coast IPA
West Coast IPAs are another popular style of IPA that originated in the western United States. They are known for their bold, piney hop flavors and bitter finish. One of my favorites is Stone IPA in San Diego, CA. West Coast IPAs are brewed with a large amount of hops, which are added early in the brewing process to impart a strong bitterness. These beers also feature a dry finish, which helps to accentuate the hop flavors and bitterness. West Coast IPAs have a high alcohol content, typically ranging from 6% to 7.5% ABV or higher.
Belgian IPAs are a hybrid style that combines the hoppy bitterness of an American IPA with the spicy, fruity flavors of a Belgian ale. These beers are brewed using Belgian yeast, which imparts a spicy, fruity flavor and aroma. Belgian IPAs also feature a mix of European and American hops, which contribute to their unique flavor profile. Think Chimay, but much more hoppy. They typically have a moderate bitterness and a medium alcohol content, ranging from 6% to 8% ABV.
Black IPA (Cascadian Ale)
Black IPAs, also known as Cascadian dark ales, are a unique twist on the traditional IPA style. Cascadian comes from the heavy use of hops from the northwest United States region in the beer, although the beer is thought to have originated from Greg Noonan and Glenn Walter of Vermont Pub & Brewery in Burlington, VT. These beers are brewed using dark malts, which give them a dark, almost black color. Despite their dark appearance, black IPAs still feature a hoppy flavor and aroma, with a bitterness that ranges from moderate to high. They have a medium to high alcohol content, typically ranging from 6% to 7.5% ABV.
Session IPAs are a lower-alcohol version of the traditional IPA style. These beers are brewed with a lower starting gravity and less malt, which results in a beer that is less sweet and less alcoholic than a traditional IPA. Despite their lower alcohol content, session IPAs still feature a hop-forward flavor and aroma. They are an ideal choice for those who want to enjoy several hoppy flavored beers without the inevitable hangover you might get from a DIPA. They typically have an alcohol content of 4.5% to 5.5% ABV, and I really enjoy these in the summer!
Double IPAs, also known as Imperial IPAs, are a much stronger version of the traditional IPA style. These beers are brewed at a higher starting gravity with much more malt, which results in a beer that is more alcoholic and more sweet than a traditional IPA. Double IPAs also feature a higher amount of hops, which gives them a more intense hop flavor and aroma. They typically have an alcohol content of 8% to 10% ABV or higher. Double IPAs are a popular choice among beer enthusiasts who enjoy the bold, hoppy flavors of an IPA, but want a stronger, more intense beer.
Brut IPAs are another newer style of IPA that is characterized by its dry, champagne-like finish. These beers are brewed using an enzyme, Glucoamylase (or Amyloglucosidase), that breaks down the residual sugars in the beer, resulting in a very dry finish. Brut IPAs are also brewed with a large amount of hops, which gives them a hop-forward flavor and aroma. They typically have a lower bitterness than other IPA styles, making them a popular choice among beer drinkers who want a less bitter beer. Brut IPAs have an alcohol content of 6% to 7% ABV.
Cold IPAs are a newest style of IPA that was introduced in 2020, so new there’s still controversy if it is indeed a style. This style is characterized by its bright, crisp flavor and aroma, which is achieved by fermenting the beer at a lower temperature than traditional IPAs. Think lager IPA. Cold IPAs are typically brewed with a mix of American and New Zealand hops, which gives them a unique flavor profile that is both citrusy and tropical. These beers have a mild bitterness and a moderate alcohol content, typically ranging from 6% to 7% ABV.
IPA is a varied beer style that has evolved over time to include a wide range of flVORS. EVERY IPA style has its own unique flavor and aroma profile, making it easy to find a style that appeals to your personal taste preferences. Whether you prefer a bold, hoppy American IPA, a juicy New England IPA, or a crisp and refreshing Cold IPA, there is an IPA style out there that is sure to satisfy your thirst for hoppy goodness. Which is your favorite IPA? Is there one I missed?
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I am a avid homebrewer and winemaker. I’ve been making my own beer and wine for many years. I started making beer when I was in college (mostly because the drinking age in the United States is 21). My first few beers were horrible. The beers are much better now, and I often supply my neighborhood with free beer! It is a great hobby! If you’re into computer programming, you might want to check out my programming site, DeegeU.com.