Tuesday 12 October 2021

What is an IPA Beer and what does it mean?

IPA stands for India Pale Ale - and is an increasingly popular style of craft beer that has become very much mainstream over the past few years - along with the explosion in popularity of craft beer in general.

But what does IPA actually mean? The term India Pale Ale dates back to the late 18th century - when breweries in London, England were exporting beer to India for their colonists abroad. In order to help the beers survive the long sea voyage (as long as 8 months!), a large amount of hops were added to what were simply 'pale ale' style beers at the time. The hops were added as they were known to provide a preservative like quality when added to the beer due to their natural antibacterial properties. 

The result of adding large amounts of hops to beers is an increase in either bitterness, or floral, fruity, piney, or spicy flavours and aromas - depending on what sort of hops were added and when they were  added to the beer.

Consumers in India loved these highly hopped ales - and soon enough the people back in England were lapping them up as well - which lead to the birth of the style - India Pale Ale. This new style was a refreshing change from the brown ales and porter style beers that were the norm at this time.

Moving forward to today, IPA is considered it's own style category by the official Beer Judging Certification Program (BJCP). General characteristics of the style are specified as hoppy and bitter with a dryish finish and hop forward flavours. Alcohol content is generally quite high - anywhere from 5.5% to 7.5% ABV to help match and balance the high levels of other flavours.

It's one of the most popular craft beer styles at the moment. Checking out the craft beer selection at any bottle shop will undoubtedly present loads of different IPA varieties to try. On top of that, there are also IPA sub-varieties such as American IPA, New England IPA, English IPA, Double or Triple IPA, Black or White IPA, East Coast or West Coast IPA - the list goes on and on. We'll cover IPA sub-styles in a future blog post.

What was the last IPA you tried? Let us know in the comments section below

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