It’s hard to walk past the craft beer section at a bottle shop and not see three specific words: India Pale Ale. For the uninitiated, India Pale Ales (IPAs) are craft beers that can be bitter, flowery, earthy, citrusy, piney, and fruity beers, all in one.
IPAs differ according to the ingredients used in their brewing process, these all contribute to the flavour and appearance of the ale. As a result, you may constantly associate a given style with a certain taste. Craft beer drinkers around the world enjoy the IPA beer style. So, what exactly qualifies a beer as an IPA? Where did the style originate from, and how what differentiates them?
What is an IPA?
India Pale Ale’s abbreviation is quite simply put, IPA. The IPA beer is a robust, hoppy ale made using English malt, yeast, and hops. IPAs can be categorised into several varieties, including English IPAs, American IPAs, Hazy IPAs and then broken down into Specialty IPAs, that include styles such as Double IPAs and Red IPAs.
IPA beers fall within the Pale Ale variety. Typically, IPAs have a higher ABV than most other Pale Ales. However, beers that fall within the IPA category can range from a dark, black ale (such as a Cascadian IPA) to a more golden style such as a West Coast IPA. This can be confusing and perplex many, including self-proclaimed beer connoisseurs and enthusiasts!
The History of IPA Beer
IPA beer originated in England in the 1700s during the British Empire. The shipments of Pale Ale to the British colonies were not lasting the long, hot journey from England to India, so more hops needed to be added to preserve the beer. Hops not only helped to create a more interesting flavour profile, but they also acted as an anti-microbial and kept the beer from spoiling.
Before the IPA was created, something needed to change drastically as a British community without beer is certainly not a happy community. George Hodgson, an extremely significant brewer and exporter to India, devised a strategy to produce and distribute hopped beer. Hops boosted the alcohol content and acted as a preservative. The beverage, sometimes known as the “October” ale, survived the voyage and did not spoil upon shipment to the sweltering Indian climate. The long journey actually helped to alter and enhance the flavour of the beer. The term ‘India Pale Ale’ wasn’t coined until 1830, when there were trade disputes with the East India Company.
This hopped beer has served as a basis for the modern India Pale Ale. With the development of fridges and freezers, the local brewing of the IPA beer began to fade. However, Americans rekindled their fondness for IPA beers in the mid-twentieth century. It is now a popular drink not just in Britain or India but also in the United States of America, Australia and around the world.
The Process of Making an IPA beer
Hops dominate the flavour of brewed IPA beer and are crucial in determining the flavour, depending on its style. English-style IPAs, for example, generally use hops such as Northdown, Willamette, Goldings, Cascade, Centennial, Fuggles, and others.
Generally, at the commencement of the IPA brewing process, malts and hops are boiled down. Finishing hops can also be added later to further enhance the flavour profile. Several hop additions help to create a varied and rich flavour in the IPA beer.
The bulk of the grain bill in English IPA is pale malt, whereas most of the grain bill in American IPA is 2-row American malt. Brewers tend to favour caramel and crystal malts when brewing an Amber or Red IPA. Malted oats, rye and wheat are generally used for NEIPA or Hazy IPAs which tends to add a more cloudy appearance to the ale. Darker IPAs, such as a Cascadian, Black IPA or Double IPA may use Maris Otter malts to achieve a darker brew. Flaked barley, wheat and carapils are also frequently added in smaller amounts to make the body appear richer. The IPA grains are then mashed and heated to allow for the complete breakdown of the complex carbohydrates, which enhances the flavour of the hops in the IPA.
Like all beer, yeast is the shining hero that ferments India Pale Ale. Ultimately, to differentiate an India Pale Ale from the other beer varieties, it boils down to the core of the brewing procedure, and the inclusion of hops.
Why Choose an IPA beer?
Long drink menus can sometimes be overwhelming, but if your tastebuds had the choice, they would probably choose something bursting with hops like an IPA, much like many craft beer enthusiasts. In recent years, craft beer has seen a massive rise in popularity. IPAs are no exception to this and their rise in demand has seen more and more breweries creating their own styles and varieties, each with their own special flair to them.
India Pale Ale is renowned for its distinct and rich colour, making it a stunning sight in both bottles and glasses. IPA beers have a refreshing bitter-sweet flavour that is pleasing to the palate, and their aroma can be reminiscent of a blend of fresh citrus and pine. The popularity of IPAs has added another feather to the beer popularity cap, and through constant reinvention and innovation, IPAs continue to please and excite beer drinkers new and old. Craft IPA beers have been dominating the market and are becoming a permanent fixture on many brewery offerings, all because of their distinct yet interesting flavours.
At Prancing Pony Brewery, we offer a wide selection of IPAs, including Red Double IPAs, West Coast IPAs, Double Black IPAs (seasonally), New England IPAs (NEIPAs) and Cascadian IPAs. You’ll be able to taste the wide flavour profile that India Pale Ales can offer. And if there’s one thing we can guarantee, it’s that Prancing Pony’s IPA beers are exceptionally delicious and undeniably hoppy!