Exploring the Craft of IPA Beer: A Guide

Exploring the Craft of IPA Beer: A Guide

The India Pale Ale, commonly known as IPA, holds a pivotal role in the craft beer movement. Revered for its bold flavours and deep-rooted history, the IPA’s journey began in the 18th century when British brewers sought to ship beer to India. By adding extra hops, they not only extended the beer’s shelf life but also imparted a distinctive bitter profile. Fast forward to today, and IPAs enjoy global acclaim, with variations such as the piney and citrusy West Coast IPA and the juicy and tropical New England IPA captivating the palates of beer enthusiasts. Embark on this IPA tasting adventure as we unravel the rich history, diversified styles, and unique characteristics of this celebrated brew.

Key Takeaways

  • IPAs play a significant role in the craft beer movement, known for their bold flavours and rich history.
  • The 18th-century British brewers added extra hops to IPAs for preservative qualities.
  • IPAs now include a range of styles, from piney West Coast IPA to tropical New England IPA.
  • The distinct bitter profile of IPAs is derived from their rich hop content.
  • IPAs have gained global popularity, making them a staple in the modern craft beer industry.

What is IPA Beer?

To truly understand what is IPA beer, one must delve into its rich history and distinguished characteristics. Originating in the 18th century, the India Pale Ale was crafted by British brewers who utilised additional hops for their preservative qualities, allowing the beer to withstand long sea voyages from England to India. This innovation led to a uniquely bitter and robust flavour profile, defining the IPA style we savour today.

Definition and Origin

The term India Pale Ale encapsulates a beer style that is defined by its prominent hop flavour and higher alcohol content. These traits arose out of necessity, as British brewers needed a solution to spoilage problems during lengthy maritime trade routes to India. By incorporating more hops, known for their natural preservative effects, IPAs were born. Over time, these beers garnered a reputation for their bitterness and fuller taste, significantly distinct from other beer styles of that era.


A hallmark of IPAs is their varied hop profiles, which can exhibit floral, citrus, piney, and resinous notes. These flavours are often complemented by a noticeable bitterness, making India Pale Ale a vibrant and complex choice for beer enthusiasts. Contemporary IPAs can range from the bold and piney West Coast versions to the juicy, tropical flavours of New England IPAs. Regardless of the style, the elevated hop content and distinct bitterness remain central to the IPA experience.

Popularity in Modern Craft Brewing

The modern craft brewing popularity of IPAs has seen a remarkable rise, with craft beer aficionados particularly drawn to the diverse and innovative approaches to this classic style. Today’s brewers experiment with various hop combinations and brewing techniques, producing an array of IPAs that cater to different palates. From double IPAs to session IPAs, the versatility of the India Pale Ale ensures its continuing appeal within the vibrant craft beer movement.

The History of IPA Beer

The lineage of IPA beer stretches back to the British colonial era when brewers faced the challenge of preserving beer during long maritime voyages. The extra hops not only enhanced the flavour but also acted as a preservative, ensuring the beer’s longevity en route to far-flung colonies, especially India.

Origins in 18th Century England

In the 18th century, George Hodgson of Bow Brewery became instrumental in developing the IPA beer history by shipping his highly hopped ale to India. The beer’s robustness and the preservative qualities of hops made it a hit among the British expatriates, cementing its place in beer lore.

Evolution Through the Years

As the British colonial era waned, the global expansion of this beer style continued. British brewers sent their IPAs to diverse markets, each adapting the recipe to cater to local tastes. This evolution saw regional variations emerge, each with unique interpretations of the original IPA.

Influence of American Craft Brewers

In recent decades, American craft brewers have profoundly influenced the IPA beer history. Drawing inspiration from the traditional British recipe, they have introduced audacious and innovative hop profiles, propelling IPAs to new heights of popularity. This rebirth in the United States has catalysed a global IPA renaissance, underscoring bold flavours and inventive brewing techniques.

Types of IPA

IPA beers have blossomed into a variety of styles, catering to diverse palates and preferences. The West Coast IPA is celebrated for its bold pine and citrus notes, offering a quintessential hop-forward experience. In contrast, the New England IPA, also known as a Hazy IPA, is revered for its juicy, tropical flavour profile and cloudy appearance.

For those who prefer a lighter beer but still enjoy the hop character, the session IPA offers a lower alcohol content while retaining the hoppy essence of traditional IPAs. On the other end of the spectrum, the Imperial IPA, also referred to as a Double IPA, packs a punch with its higher alcohol content and intensified flavours.

This incredible variety within the types of IPA ensures that every beer enthusiast can find something to suit their taste, from the refreshingly crisp to the robustly intense.

Popular IPA Brands

With the remarkable rise of the craft beer movement, IPA brands have established themselves as front-runners in the beer market. Their diversity in flavour, coupled with innovative brewing techniques, has garnered an enthusiastic following worldwide. From intensely hoppy creations to fruit-forward, hazy concoctions, the best IPA brands offer something for every palate.

Renowned Craft Breweries

Some of the most renowned craft breweries have become synonymous with high-quality IPAs. Notable names include Omnipollo, Cloudwater, and Beavertown. These breweries have carved out a niche through their unique brewing styles and commitment to creativity. Omnipollo, for instance, is celebrated for its experimental approach, often blending unexpected ingredients to create innovative flavours.

Cloudwater, based in Manchester, has achieved acclaim for its consistent focus on freshness and hop-forward beers, notably their DIPA (Double India Pale Ale) series, which has captivated IPA aficionados with its vibrant and layered hop profiles. Beavertown, known for its bold branding and equally bold beers, offers a range of IPAs that include the popular Gamma Ray and Lupuloid, both of which have become staples among IPA drinkers.

Top IPA Picks

The market is replete with noteworthy IPA picks from these renowned craft breweries. From Omnipollo’s rich and aromatic Fatamorgana to Cloudwater’s fresh and juicy DDH Pale, the top IPA choices exemplify the breadth and depth of the IPA genre. Beavertown’s Neck Oil stands out with its sessionable profile, offering a lighter yet flavour-packed IPA experience.

Gamma Ray by Beavertown continues to captivate with its tropical fruit notes and crisp finish, making it a favourite among IPA connoisseurs. Each of these top IPA picks reflects the dedication and artistry that goes into crafting remarkable beers, contributing to the ongoing popularity of IPAs globally.

IPA vs Other Beer Styles

When it comes to comparing IPA vs other beer styles, particularly Pale Ale, the differences are unequivocal. IPAs are renowned for their intense hop character and higher alcohol content. These distinct features of IPA result in a craft beer that offers a complex array of flavours and aromas.

Comparison with Pale Ale

In the IPA versus Pale Ale comparison, the former stands out due to its bolder hop profile. While Pale Ales typically have a more balanced approach, blending malt sweetness with moderate hop bitterness, IPAs are unapologetically hop-forward. This hop-centric approach gives IPAs their defining bitterness and diverse aromatic qualities.

Distinct Features of IPA

Among the distinct features of IPA, the use of a wide variety of hops during different stages of the brewing process is paramount. This technique not only increases the bitterness but also enhances the flavour and aroma, ranging from pine and citrus to tropical fruits and herbs. Such diversity sets IPAs apart from many other beer styles.

Why IPA Stands Out

The reason IPA stands out among other beer styles can be attributed to its versatility and innovation. Brewers can experiment with numerous hop combinations and brewing techniques, creating a broad spectrum of IPA styles like the New England IPA, West Coast IPA, and Session IPA. This adaptability and potential for creative expression make IPA a favourite in the craft beer community.

IPA Brewing Process

The essence of crafting an exceptional IPA lies in meticulously following a structured brewing process that accentuates its characteristic hop profile and bold flavours. Understanding each phase of the IPA brewing process is essential for any brewer aspiring to create a memorable India Pale Ale.

Mashing and Boiling

The journey begins with mashing, where grains are combined with hot water to convert starches into fermentable sugars, creating a sweet liquid known as wort. This initial phase is critical, as the quality of wort directly impacts the beer’s final flavour. Following mashing, the wort undergoes boiling, during which hops are added at precise intervals. This stage is fundamental to achieving the desired bitterness and hop flavours unique to IPAs.

Hop Addition and Fermentation

Hop addition does not end with boiling. Each hop addition serves a purpose, from bittering to providing aromatic qualities. After boiling, the wort is cooled and transferred to fermenters where yeast is introduced. The fermentation stage sees yeast converting sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide, a process that usually takes one to two weeks, depending on the yeast strain and IPA style.

Dry Hopping and Packaging

To enhance the aroma without adding more bitterness, many brewers employ dry hopping—a technique of adding hops after fermentation. This step infuses the beer with vibrant hop fragrance, setting IPAs apart with their intense aromatic profiles. The final phase is beer packaging, where the carbonated beer is transferred into bottles, cans, or kegs. Ensuring proper packaging is crucial as it preserves the beer’s qualities and extends its shelf life.

IPA Tasting Notes

When delving into IPA brews, one encounters a vast array of aroma characteristics that tantalise the senses. Expect a melange of scents, ranging from citrusy bursts to piney accents, often accompanied by malty undertones. The flavour profile provides an equally expansive journey. IPAs can evoke tropical fruit sensations, herbaceous hints, and the sharp zest of citrus or pine.

Visually, IPAs often display a golden lustre, although certain variants trend towards darker hues due to specific malts employed during brewing.

IPA Beer Characteristics

India Pale Ales (IPAs) are noted for their distinctive and robust flavour profiles. Often celebrated for their hoppy character, these brews have become a cornerstone of the craft beer scene. Understanding the IPA beer characteristics can significantly enhance one’s appreciation of this beloved style.

Hoppy Flavour Profile

The hoppy flavour profile of IPAs sets them apart from other beer styles. This characteristic is attributed to the generous use of hops during brewing, which imparts a blend of bitterness and aroma. The hop varieties used can range from floral and piney to citrusy and tropical, providing a broad spectrum of taste experiences.

Alcohol Content

The alcohol content in IPA varies widely, but it generally tends to be higher than that of many other beer styles. Standard IPAs might have an alcohol content between 5% and 7.5%, while Imperial or Double IPAs can go up to 10% or more. For those seeking a milder experience, session IPAs offer all the flavour with a more manageable alcohol content, usually under 5%. This diversity ensures there’s an IPA for every palate and occasion.

Visual Appeal

IPAs also captivate visually with their appealing colours. The visual appeal of an IPA can range from a vibrant golden hue to a deeper amber shade. Brewmasters often aim for a clear presentation, although some styles, like New England IPAs, are intentionally hazy to enhance the perception of their juicy flavours. Each glass of IPA brings not only a visual delight but also a promise of rich taste complexities.

IPA Food Pairings

The robust nature of IPA beers makes them excellent companions to a variety of dishes. Their bold flavour profiles and distinct bitterness can either complement or contrast with the foods they are paired with, accentuating the culinary experience.

Spicy Dishes

When it comes to pairing IPAs with food, spicy dishes are a natural fit. The bitterness of the hops helps to counterbalance the heat from spices, creating a harmonious interaction that tempers the spice while allowing the intricate flavours of the dish to shine through.

Grilled Meats

Grilled meats find a perfect partner in IPA beers. The caramelised, smoky flavours of the meat are heightened by the beer’s hoppy bitterness and malt backbone. Whether it’s a well-charred steak or grilled chicken, an IPA can enhance the savoury depth of these dishes, making each bite more satisfying.

Strong Cheeses and Citrus-Based Dishes

For those who enjoy strong cheeses, an IPA offers a delightful contrast. The beer’s bold profile can cut through the richness and creaminess of robust cheeses like Stilton or Cheddar. Additionally, IPAs work wonderfully with citrus-based dishes, as the beer’s citrusy notes complement and elevate the tangy flavours, creating a refreshingly balanced pairing.


What is IPA beer?

IPA, or India Pale Ale, is a type of beer known for its prominent hop flavour, heightened alcohol content, and pronounced bitterness. It was originally brewed in the 18th century by British brewers to endure long sea voyages to India.

What are the characteristics of IPA beer?

IPAs are characterised by a distinct hoppy flavour profile, which can include floral, citrusy, piney, and resinous notes. They also typically have a higher alcohol content and a pronounced bitterness, balanced by malt sweetness.

Why is IPA popular in modern craft brewing?

IPAs have surged in popularity due to their bold flavours and the creativity they allow brewers. The craft beer movement has embraced various IPA styles, from the piney West Coast IPA to the juicy New England IPA.

Where did IPA beer originate?

IPA beer originated in 18th century England. It was brewed with extra hops to act as a preservative for the long voyage to India, helping British brewers combat spoilage issues during these journeys.

How has IPA evolved over the years?

Over the years, IPAs have evolved significantly, driven by innovations in brewing techniques and hop varieties. American craft brewers in particular have introduced new styles and flavour profiles, expanding the IPA landscape.

What influence have American craft brewers had on IPA?

American craft brewers have had a profound influence on IPA, introducing styles like the West Coast IPA with its pine and citrus notes, as well as the hazy, fruit-forward New England IPA. They have pushed the boundaries of hop flavours and brewing techniques.

What are the different types of IPA?

The IPA category includes various styles such as West Coast IPA, New England IPA, Imperial IPA, and Session IPA. Each style offers a unique flavour profile, from piney and citrusy to juicy and tropical.

What are some popular IPA brands?

Notable craft breweries known for their IPAs include Omnipollo, Cloudwater, and Beavertown. These breweries offer a wide range of IPAs, from intensely hoppy to fruit-forward and hazy concoctions.

How does IPA compare with other beer styles?

IPA is distinct from other beer styles, especially Pale Ale, due to its more pronounced hop profile and generally higher alcohol content. The diverse hop additions during brewing result in varied bitterness, flavour, and aroma.

What makes IPA stand out?

IPA stands out for its bold hoppy flavour, higher alcohol content, and the extensive range of styles that offer a wide array of taste experiences. Its versatility and depth of flavour set it apart from other beer styles.

What is the IPA brewing process like?

The IPA brewing process involves mashing grains to create wort, boiling with varying hop intervals to develop bitterness and flavour, and fermenting with yeast. Dry hopping is often used post-fermentation to enhance aroma without additional bitterness. Final carbonation and packaging ensure the beer’s renowned taste.

What are IPA tasting notes?

When tasting an IPA, expect aromas ranging from citrus and pine to tropical fruits and herbs. The flavour profile can include hints of malt, a variety of hop-driven tastes, and a balanced bitterness. The beer’s colour can vary from golden to darker hues depending on the malt used.

What are the characteristics of IPA beer?

IPAs are known for their hoppy flavour profile, often with a balance of bitterness and malt sweetness. They typically have a higher alcohol content and a visual appeal that ranges from golden amber to deeper hues.

What foods pair well with IPA?

IPAs pair excellently with spicy dishes, as the bitterness counters the heat. They also complement grilled meats and robust cheeses, and can enhance the flavours of dishes with citrus accents.

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