India Pale Ale or IPA is the most popular craft beer category on the market today. Almost every brewery in the country has some sort of IPA as part of their line up. It is the most coveted award category at both the World Beer Cup, and the Great American Beer Festival. There are typically over 275 entries at each competition in the IPA category. During the Great American Beer Festival there are sub competitions for the “most bitter” and “most hops” used in an IPA.
India Pale Ale or IPA is the most popular craft beer on the market today. Nearly all breweries in the US have some sort of IPA beer as part of their line up.
With all of the different IPA’s that are available on the market today how do you know which one is which? What is the difference between a West Coast style IPA and a traditional English style IPA? How many different styles of IPA are there? Never fear, this article will help shed some light on the different IPA’s that are available! Most of the following IPA styles are official categories at the competitions, there are some IPA’s on the market that are variations on the accepted categories.
American Style India Pale Ale
American Style IPA is by far the most popular craft beer category. This beer is very bitter and has an excellent hop aroma to it. American Style is known for its strong floral, fruity, citrus, and piney characteristics. This style is usually not high in malt and is lighter in color. The bitterness is very dominant in this style and satisfies the tastes of many craft beer lovers.
West Coast Style IPA
West Coast style IPA is a version of an American style IPA that is usually more piney and citrus like in flavor. It has strong aromas of fresh cut pine trees! This style is very bitter and has a delicious citrus flavor with a subtle pine finish. West Coast IPA is very drinkable and delicious.
San Diego Style IPA
San Diego has a very large concentration of breweries. These breweries have been known to produce some of the best IPA’s you can find! It only makes sense then, that San Diego has it’s own category of IPA! San Diego style IPA’s are very dry and full of hops. This combination creates a nice bitterness and phenomenal aroma. San Diego Style IPA uses very little malt, this helps to showcase the aroma of the hops. The light and dry malt character in this beer help showcase the different hops used to create these tropical finishes. This style of IPA is quickly becoming a new favorite among craft beer lovers.
Session IPA is a version of the American IPA style however it is lower in alcohol. This version is under 5% alcohol by volume, it doesn’t lose any of the flavor though! Session IPA’s are quite bitter and have many cirtus aromas. These beers are very refreshing and easy to drink! A fast favorite at many breweries!
English Style IPA
This is the style that started it all. English Style IPA was first produced in the late 1800’s. This beer was dry hopped to survive the voyage from England to India. Hops are a good natural preservative which made the beer capable of lasting for such a long voyage. This type of IPA has a very strong malt base. Traditionally this very malty and sweet beer has a golden copper color. English style IPA employs the use of traditional English hops that are earthy and herbal in character. The hops used in this style produce more of a subtle hop bitterness that is balanced with the sweetness from the malt! An English style IPA will be perceived as a very sweet beer compared to the American style IPA’s.
Australian Style IPA
Australian style IPA is between light to medium malt character. What sets this style apart is the use of Australian hops. There is a growing desire for different styles of hops and Australia is supplying more new styles of hops for brewers. The aroma and flavor in this beer is reminiscent of tropical fruit such as mango, passion fruit, and pineapple. This style really showcases the new hop varieties that are coming out of the southern hemisphere.
International style IPA
International style IPA employs all of the varieties of hops that have not been mentioned in the previous styles. Just like the Australian IPA style, these beers have light to medium malt character. They use hops from New Zealand, Germany, or any other growing region that has not been mentioned in any other category. They can range in flavor from tropical to earthy, and they have a nice white wine type finish depending on the styles of hops used. There are not that many International style IPA’s on the market.
Imperial IPA or Double IPA
Imperial or Double IPA is a stronger version of the American style IPA. They usually run upwards of 9-10% alcohol or higher. The one thing that is emphasized with this style is that it is NOT HARSH! When you increase the alcohol content and the hops there can be a tendency for the beer to become quite harsh in flavor. This style can use up to triple the hop quantity of Traditional style IPA. When done correctly this style can be very bitter but smooth! These beers are really big in body and flavor. They are not for the faint of heart and they have a sort of cult following!
While this one post won’t teach you everything you need to know about IPA’s, it will give you a strong base to start from. The world of IPA’s is always growing and changing so no matter if you are a beginner or a tried and true IPA lover you can always learn something new!