As the weather warms up, the important question is: Which beer will you drink this spring? We suggest a bold, hoppy, refreshing IPA.
Our quick guide will give you some background on India Pale Ales — the history, the different types of IPA, and the flavour you should expect when you pour yourself a glass.
A brief history of IPA
Back in the 1700s the East India Trading Company began shipping a heavily hopped strong pale from London to British colonists in India. The voyage was long (up to eight months) with big fluctuations in temperature as the boats travelled down around Africa. That pale ale, sitting in giant wooden barrels got an intense conditioning along the way — the result was a a big hit.
Not only was IPA a more refreshing brew for the hotter climate than the brown ales and porters often exported to the Raj, the heavy dry-hopping helped keep the beer from going off, as hops are naturally antibacterial.
India Pale Ale remained popular until the dual punch of rationing and temperance movements in WWI-era England caused the once mighty IPA to fall in quality and then, out of favour. Fast forward to today and — thanks to craft brewers — IPA is now one of the most-brewed styles of craft beer on the planet.
What does IPA taste like?
In one word: hoppy. Almost every IPA is dry-hopped (adding a second dose of hops to the already-fermented beer). The resulting aromas are big and can range from piney resin, to citrusy tropical, to grassy earthiness. IPAs tend to be dry, bitter and for that reason, very refreshing.
While we would never fault anyone for drinking straight from the bottle or can, using an IPA or tulip glass can support a foamy head and enhance the aromas so you can appreciate every note the hops have to offer.
What are the different types of IPA?
Depending who you ask, there are between three and twelve types of IPAs. Getting to know five of them is a good start.
The original IPA is a less bitter ale thanks to the more earthy British hops and yeasts. The English style has a stronger malt flavour.
You can divide American style IPAs in two categories: West Coast and East Coast. West Coast is all about big, bold hop flavour and strong bitterness. The malt fades into the background. East Coast style tends to split the difference between a West Coast hop bomb and the milder English IPA.
Boozier than the American or English style, the Imperial IPA (or Double IPA) has a stronger hop flavour which balances its stronger malt profile. This is where hops go to shine.
Also called a Cascadian Black Ale, Black IPA is brewed with dark roasted malts, like you’d find in a stout. There’s still a lot of hop aroma and finish which combines intriguingly with the chocolatey coffee flavours.
For those who love the hop profile of IPAs but don’t want quite as much alcohol, the Session IPA is for you. The ABV is usually around 5% so you can enjoy a few different examples and keep your legs under you.