Sub-categories: English IPA, West Coast IPA, New England IPA, Double IPA, Triple IPA, Double Dry Hopped IPA, Session IPA, Milkshake IPA, Black IPA
ABV: 2.5% - 12+%
key characteristics: super hoppy, citrusy and bold
best drunk fresh. store cold. serve a little bit warmer than fridge temperature
When people think of craft beer, they probably think of IPAs. The IPA has been subject to constant reinvention and innovation, and breweries are experimenting with every aspect of the style; be it different hop combinations to achieve different flavours or various types of yeast – the IPA is ever-changing and malleable. Click here if you want to start exploring the world of popular hops and yeast strains.
The India Pale Ale began as a more assertively hopped Pale Ale – as hops are anti-bacterial and a natural preserver – that was shipped over to India for British colonialists in the 18th century. This origin is shrouded in mystery and is often disputed, but what we think of as modern IPA started with the early craft beer movement in 1970s West Coast USA. These beers were more bitter, hoppier and intense in flavour than anything before it, and everything after has been a reaction to these early West Coast IPAs. Here is a run-down of popular styles in the ever-changing style of IPA…
Fruity, floral and refreshing, the original style of IPA is the English IPA. Not as highly hopped and bitter as their American counterparts, they can range from gold to copper in colour and from a moderate 3.7% to 7% in ABV. These beers are usually a true showcase of English ingredients and give notes of marmalade and caramel with floral, earthy and mild fruity notes.
However, what we think of as modern IPA began with the West Coast IPA. These are ideal for those who like an assertive bitterness; they’re super piney, citrusy, crisp and have a nice malty backbone to balance it all out. They can sometimes be marketed as ‘American IPA’ or ‘Californian IPA’, and current examples can often be a bit hazier than the WCIPAs of yore, but the notes of orange marmalade, resinous pine, strong citrus fruit, and biscuity malt remains. These are a must-try for any IPA enthusiast or craft beer explorer.
If you like your IPAs to be a bit less bitter and juicier, then New England IPAs should be your point of call. This style has dominated the beer scene for the last ten years, and most beers labelled simply as ‘IPA’ will be of the NEIPA/Hazy variety. Made in response to bitter WCIPAs, NEIPAs are soft and juicy with low levels of bitterness. Through adding oats or wheat to the malt bill, and keeping the beers unfiltered and unfined, this style is characterised by its hazy, opaque, bright golden colour. With NEIPAs you can expect big tropical fruit vibes and low levels of hop bitterness.
Any IPA between the range of 7.5% to 9.5% ABV is usually considered a Double IPA. These are great for those wishing to take your love of hops to the next level. The easiest way to think about a DIPA is double everything: the hops, the strength, the flavour. Unless stated otherwise, most DIPAs will be New England style IPAs; sometimes, West Coast DIPAs are marketed as ‘Imperial IPA’. These beers can be outstanding – you can expect more intense hop bitterness, aroma, and flavour.
When a DIPA exceeds 9.5% ABV, it’s usually considered a Triple IPA. Like a DIPA, but even stronger and more flavourful, TIPAs are boozy, super hoppy and full. Due to adding more malt to get the beer up to the strength, these beers can be a little bit sweeter than a standard DIPA. Again, unless stated otherwise, these beers are usually amped up NEIPAs. If done well, TIPAs can be truly next level, and are a true showcase of what you can do with hops.
Any style of IPA can be a Double Dry Hopped IPA, as the technique of DDH is a catch-all term for adding most of the hops during active fermentation or after fermentation in the conditioning phase, but crucially not while the beer is boiling – and this ensures that only aroma is extracted from the hops, and not bitterness. A lot of beers follow a DDH technique without saying so, but those with the ‘DDH’ label are often more aromatic, dry and juicy than those that are not.
Session IPAs are perfect for sipping all day due to their lower ABV between 2.5% to 5%. Session IPAs can be any style of IPA but just less intense than their stronger siblings. They’re still hoppier than your standard Pale Ale, but the line between Session IPA and Pale Ale is often blurred, and the term Session IPA is almost exclusive to the UK. Expect a refreshing, hoppy and refreshing beer that’s great, as the name suggests, for long sessions.
There are few more controversial styles than the Milkshake IPA; they’re like marmite in the beer world, some revere them, some loathe the very idea. These are a modern invention and are usually just NEIPAs with added lactose sugar to sweeten the beer out, take away some bitterness and add softness to the mouthfeel. They’re usually in the 5% to 8.5% range and often have added flavours – anything from ice cream flavouring to fruit. These are great if you have a sweet tooth or just want to try something a bit out there.
Another controversial style is Black IPAs; they’re a complete paradox in themselves as India Pale Ales should, as the name suggests, be pale beer. This style has its critics, but Black IPAs can be delicious. Yes, they are essentially India Porters, but Black IPAs usually feature more current and popular IPA hops. If pulled off, Black IPAs can be a great bridge for fans of porters into the world of IPAs. Expect the citrusy hop flavours to contrast nicely with dark roasty malts.
The world of craft beer moves fast, and the style that moves that fastest is IPAs. Fifteen years ago, the idea of a hazy IPA was almost unheard of, and now they’re everywhere. This makes the IPA exciting as brewers are constantly experimenting with the style. They’re great if you want something a bit punchier than a pale ale, and they taste great alongside spicy and aromatic curries. Who knows what new styles of IPA we’ll have in fifteen years’ time?
Now you know all about IPAs, start your beer journey and shop for them here
credit where credits due. the majority of content in this part of our website has been written for us by Dan Lyons; a talented beer writer, homebrewer and all round beer enthusiast.