Welcome fellow beer lovers, in today’s article, we’re taking a closer look at one of the most popular beers out there – the beloved IPA.
If you’ve tasted an IPA, then you would be aware that it’s not for the faint-hearted. It’s strong and bitter, the way a good beer should be. With that said, IPAs are not for everyone. So, what’s an IPA, where was it created and what makes it so popular? We’ll answer all these questions and much more.
Let’s start with the basics.
IPA – INDIA PALE ALE
While India played a vital role in the creation of this favourite brew, it wasn’t actually invented in India. Sounds intriguing, right?
Let’s step back a few hundred years in history, to check out the beginning of IPAs.
THE HISTORY OF THE IPA
Just like all other great inventions, the IPA was invented out of sheer necessity. It was at the time of the British monopoly over the seas and India was one of the most significant outposts of the British Empire. Englishmen were particularly fond of retiring with a cold glass of beer at the end of a long tiring day.
Unfortunately, the British posted in the Indian sub-continent couldn’t quench their thirst with beer. The hot, humid climate of India made it unsuitable to brew beer. And, sending beer from the motherland to India was out of the question. Most beers couldn’t survive the six-month-long journey over rough seas. By the time, beer from Britain reached the shores of India; it became perishable as beers didn’t have preservatives way back then.
This is where Hodgson, an enterprising London brewer came up with a brilliant business idea. During the 1780s, he brewed a strong beer with hops. He named this beer “October Ale” and shipped it to the Great Eastern Empire. His idea was a huge success.
Not only did the beer remain fresh, but it also tasted great. In fact, the beer aged like wine and after the six-month sea journey tasted even better and had more pronounced flavours.
As time went on, and with increasing demand for this new beer, more and more brewers began to manufacture it. The flavours were altered to suit the hot, humid Indian climate and thus the IPA was born.
IPA LOSES ITS FLAVOUR OVER THE YEARS
Sadly, with evolving times and changing tastes, IPAs began to lose their distinct flavours. With time, IPAs became less weak and were nothing more than pale ales.
ENTER THE AMERICANS
This is where the Americans came to the rescue of the IPAs. They restored the IPAs to its hop-heavy flavours, and this favourite beer began to gain back its lost glory.
Today, IPA is one of the most preferred beer styles not only in Britain and America but all over the world.
TYPES OF IPA
According to the Style Guide published by the Beer Association in 2015, there are four distinct styles of IPAs. Let’s take a closer look at each type and identify the different characteristics of each.
❖ ENGLISH STYLE IPA
This is what started it all. This variety is less hoppy when compared to American-style IPAs. It varies from medium to strong bitterness and flavour. The colour of the English style IPS ranges from gold to copper. The ABV in English-style IPAs ranges from 4.5% to 7.1%. Usually, crisp and dry, it comes with strong fruity flavours, and is quite refreshing.
❖ AMERICAN STYLE IPA
This is the brew that was revived by the Americans. Strong hop flavours, high bitterness, stable malt backbone, citrus or herbal flavours are the characteristics of this brew. Some of the common flavours include floral, sulphur and pine. When it comes to fruity notes, American-style IPAs can have moderate to strong flavours. The colour varies from copper to gold with a distinct hoppy haze. The ABVs lies from 6.3% to 7.6%.
❖ IMPERIAL IPA
Also known as double IPA, these brews set your taste buds on fire. If you think American-style IPAs are bitter and strong, then wait until you taste an Imperial IPA. Strong flavours and high bitterness are the characteristics of this brew. But, that doesn’t make it harsh. It’s still pleasant to drink.
Apart from the high bitterness, you can find strong fruity flavours. When you drink a good Imperial IPA, you should be able to enjoy the fresh flavours of the hops along with a nice alcoholic kick. The ABVs of this brew range from 7.6% all the way up to 10.6%.
❖ SESSION IPA
Since IPAs are so popular and refreshing, craft brewers came up with new ones that have low ABVs. This makes it ideal for those who don’t want to get sloshed out. You can sip on a session IPA all day without the fear of getting drunk.
They are less intense compared to the other styles of IPAs. The bitterness ranges from medium to high, and they usually have low to moderate fruit flavours. The maltiness is kept from low to medium with a strong hop flavour. The colour as usual ranges from copper to gold, but session IPAs have a top haze. The ABV values are usually low and range from 3.7% to 5%.
FUN-FACTS THAT YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT THE IPA
- ■ Historically, IPA was drunk ice-cold. It was more refreshing when drunken cold as the flavours were more pronounced.
- ■ Though invented in Britain and made for the Indian sub-continent, the IPA was called an IPA for the first time by an Australian newspaper.
- ■ Good IPAs are difficult to brew and requires expertise. It’s all about the balance. You don’t want to end up with a too bitter beer that’s unfit for consumption. On the other hand, keep it down, and you end up with pale ale.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE STYLE OF IPA?
Have you tasted IPA and what’s your favourite brand? Let us know in the comments.
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