What the heck is an IPA?
Are you dazed and confused standing in front of the beer cooler at your favorite store and staring at all those craft beers with the letters IPA. Well I will explain what IPAs are, and head you in the right direction for your next visit to the store.
I PA stands for India Pale Ale. The India Pale Ale was created out necessity by the British breweries in the early part of the 1800’s. The British were engage in fighting wars all around the globe but especially in India. To keep the morale of their troops up, the British government would supply their armies with beer. I wish I served in that army. During this period of time advances in the malting process made it feasible for the maltsters to produce lighter colored malt called Pale Malt. With those advances the brewers were starting to produce a beer called Pale Ale. Since Porter Beer was the most popular and produced beer at the time. Porter was not conducive to drinking in the hot and humid climate of India.
The brewers first sent their new pale ales on the long trip to India which usually took about three month to sail around the horn of Africa. The beer did not last and soured by the time it arrived in India. The sour beer did not make the troops very happy.
The breweries decided to make the Pale Ale with higher alcohol content and added a lot more hops. Now hops which is known as (Humulus Lupulus) gives beer its bitterness, flavor and aroma but also imparts an antibacterial property to the beer to help keep it from souring.
So the brewers started to brew this stronger and hoppy Pale Ale. But not only did they add the hops during the brewing process but also add them into the cask before shipping. The addition of hops at the end of the brewing process is called dry hopping and also gave the beer its aroma. Together with this new version of the Pale Ale and the long trip around Africa the beer matured to perfection. That is the beginning of the beer style known as India Pale Ale, becoming an instant success.
Now back to the present day. The British IPA’s are still brewed much the same as they were. The beer’s appearance is light amber to copper in color with a frothy off white head. There is a moderately high hop aroma with hints of floral, earthy, grassy and fruit, with a moderate caramel and toasty like malt sweetness. Also hints of low fruitiness and ester aromas from the yeast they use to ferment the beer. The flavor is a medium high assertive bitterness from hops a supporting malt sweetness with hints of caramel, toffee, toasty and biscuit bready complexity. The beer finishes with a clean dry finish with some examples that might have hints of diacetyl which is a buttery or butterscotch taste. The alcohol is clean with the content between 5% and 7.5 % A.B.V. Alcohol By Volume). To really get the most enjoyment out of this beer serve it in a clean dry glass at 46 to 52 degrees. Here are just some of the commercial examples to seek out Fuller’s IPA Bangle Lancer, Samuel Smith IPA, Belhaven twisted thistle, Yards IPA, Shipyard IPA, and Marston’s Old Empire IPA this is a very short list.
Now we swim to this side of the pond and the American IPAs. No we didn’t go to war with the East Indians. Instead we went to war with plant disease, genetics and crop cross breeding. With these new techniques the hop grower created new varieties of hops. The brewers have greatly enhanced the IPA beer style with these new hops which imparts higher bitterness levels, unique flavors and very interesting aromas.
American IPAs are only somewhat similar to their British counter parts. The American IPA appearance is gold to amber in color with a full frothy white to light tan head that leaves a beautiful lace behind on the glass. The aroma is full on floral, perfume, piney, citrus and grapefruit nose with just an underlining clean hints of malt sweetness. The flavor has high hop bitterness with a strong malt backbone, high hop flavor that should reflect an American hop character of citrus, floral, piney grapefruit fruitiness. The malt flavors should be low with some touches of caramel and clean malt sweetness. There should be a smooth, medium body mouth feel and moderately high carbonation which combines to render an over all dryness in the presence of the malt sweetness. The alcohol should be smooth with a good warming sensation. The Alcohol content is between 5.5% and 7.5% A.B.V. There are a plethora of great American IPAs to be had. This is a list of just a few Dogfish Head 60 Minute, Stone IPA, Greatlakes Burning River IPA, Ale Smith IPA, Victory Hop Devil, Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale, Samuel Adam’s 48 Latitude, and Hoppin’ Frog Hoppin’ to Heaven IPA. With all of these beers there are now Imperial and Double IPAs that are exactly that.
India Pale Ales pair well with BBQ foods and I especially love mine with spicy Mexican and East Indian food. It is no wonder the Brits stayed in India for so long. In my own observation the IPA beer style has brought a new beer revolution to America and the world. India Pale Ales will change your perspective on what beer is and what it will become in the future. So now go to the nearest store and get your self some IPA and let us fill our glasses and raise them up and give a toast to the men that fought to bring us this great beer. “Cheers”
Written By The Ale Guy