The Complete Guide to an IPA Beer

Published August 29th, 2018 by Todd Estrem

Do you love a good bottle of your favorite beer? When it comes to our taste in brews, some of us are adventurous and love to dig into new flavors and brew types whenever we get a chance, while others prefer to stick to the same brew we've been drinking for years. It's one or the other, and people's tastes in India Pale Ale is often just as polarized.

When you mention IPA beer, anyone you ask will usually have one of two emphatic reactions: either they can't stand it because of its excessive bitterness or they love it because it contains much more alcohol. While these are the most common conceptions of IPA beer, neither of them apply to all flavors and varieties, and there's a lot about IPAs that most people don't understand.

How much do you know about IPAs? Offering a variety of flavors for any beer lover, India Pale Ale is a category of brews worth exploring. Expand your tastes and your knowledge of beer! Here's everything you need to know about IPA beer.

What Is an IPA?

Classified as its own specific variety within the broader category of pale ales, India Pale Ale is a hoppy beer style originally brewed from pale malt. Gaining its name from the East India Company — which revolutionized trade in the 18th century — this export style of beer originated and gained popularity in England, eventually making its way to the United States and Canada, where it has a long history and evolution.

IPAs are available in many different styles, brew types and flavors, depending on where they're made.

IPA Vocabulary

When it comes to understanding IPA types, strengths and percentages, there are a few terms you should know — although these can apply to any kind of beer. Here's some vocabulary you might come across when trying to pick an IPA beer to try:

  • Session: This term denotes a lower alcohol content — usually below 5 percent — and a thinner body, meaning you can drink more at a time.
  • Double/Imperial: Both imperial and double IPAs boast a higher alcohol percentage, more malt and a higher hop concentration — packing a real punch!
  • Dry-Hopped and Double Dry-Hopped: Referring to the process of steeping hops in the beer as it ferments rather than adding them while boiling, dry-hopped and double dry-hopped beers have an especially strong aroma and emphasize the fruity, sweet or herbal notes in the hops.
  • Single-Hopped: Brewers often combine hops to bring out different flavors or create unique blended brews, but single-hopped IPAs are brewed with only one hop variety, giving them a defined, simple, strong flavor.
  • Fresh-Hopped: Only available once every year at the end of harvesting season in late summer, fresh-hopped IPAs are brewed from hops delivered directly to the brewery from the vine and boiled within 24 hours. They can also be called "harvest ales" or "wet-hopped."

IPA Styles

When it comes to IPA flavors, there are so many varieties brewed with different ingredients, techniques, textures and appearances — but certain types of IPAs are well-known and beloved. Here are some of the most popular IPA styles:

  • British IPA: Invented in Britain, these IPA beers are one-noted, malted and especially bitter.
  • West Coast IPA: These IPAs balance bitterness with a crisp, clean, fruity flavor.
  • New England IPA: As one of the most popular types of IPAs in the modern beer sphere, this IPA beer is unfiltered, fruity and low in bitterness.
  • East Coast IPA: Falling somewhere between the West Coast IPA and the British IPA on the beer spectrum, the East Coast IPA is known for its piney, malty flavor that's both solid and somewhat complex.
  • Belgian IPA: Bready and sweet, the Belgian IPA offers a warm flavor.

The brewing world offers so many more types of IPA beer flavors, from fruited and sour IPAs to lactose and oat IPAs. What's your favorite? Share your IPA preferences and knowledge on our social media pages.

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