What Is An IPA?

The IPA is a type of beer that has skyrocketed in popularity inside craft brew and hipster circles. However, this doesn’t mean the beer is fancy, pretentious or not for you. The right IPA can be a true delight, and it might even become your new favorite type of beer.

When you take apart what IPA stands for, you get a better idea of the beer. India Pale Ales (IPAs) are in the pale ale family of beers, except they tend to be a little hoppier than other ales. This typically means they’re more bitter in flavor, but flavor ranges from beer to beer.

The IPA was first created roughly 200 years ago with the intention of being super-hoppy since it would preserve the beer longer. This was important since beer prepared in England rarely survived the long journey to India (hence the name).

What Does An IPA Taste Like?

The easiest way to find out the flavor of an IPA is by trying one (obviously), but if you want to sound like a beer connoisseur, there are a few words you can use to describe your hoppy beverage:

  • Hoppy: The hoppiness comes from the hops in a beer. Generally speaking, the hoppier the beer, the more bitter it is.

Used in a sentence: “Wow, this beer is so hoppy. One could even say bitter, but not me because I drink beer.”

  • Juicy: A juicy flavor also comes from the hops used, but it’s less of a bitter flavor. If your IPA tastes slightly of fruit, it could be a juicy IPA.

Used in a sentence: “This is a juicy beer, now I don’t need to have my glass of juice before bed!”

  • Hazy: Kind of like juicy, but your beer is going to be much less translucent than others – sort of like a fogginess in your glass. Haze has a more malty flavor, but not everyone is a fan of hazy IPAs. In fact, many hazy beers are mistakes. But if you find a nice hazy IPA, it’s worth trying.

Used in a sentence: “This IPA is as hazy as pea soup.”

If you need more terms to describe your IPA, check out the Beer Buzz Words list.

Types of IPA

Yes, there are different types of IPA just to keep things fun and interesting, along with other various sub-styles. Here are some highlights.

West Coast IPA

One big differentiation between IPAs is the East Coast/West Coast IPA style. The West Coast IPA generally leans more into the bitter side of hops and has a clear color. While not as popular as it once was, the West Coast IPA is still a beloved staple among craft brewers.

East Coast IPA

The East Coast IPA generally uses malty flavors to smooth out the IPA. This makes it a little hazier and juicier while also making it less bitter. While many people would call this “hoppier” than a West Coast IPA, that isn’t really the case. Both West Coast and East Coast IPAs use plenty of hops — the only difference is the types of hops used and what flavors are pulled from the hops.

You’d be correct to call any type of IPA hoppy…except may Cold or Brut IPAs.

Imperial IPA

Imagine an IPA, but stronger. Bolder. More alcohol. You’ve just pictured the Imperial IPA. Often referred to as a double IPA, the Imperial IPA is just an IPA but turned to 11. Which would make a triple IPA and IPA turned to 12.

Brut IPA

To fly to close to sun. To be the Brut IPA. A fad that lasted about two weeks, Brut IPAs were a Frankenstein’s monster invention that saw the addition of amylase to a traditional IPA recipe. Much like Frankenstein’s monster, modern media portrayal doesn’t do the Brut IPA any justice. The monster could speak very well! And this beer speaks…sort of.

Kudos if you ever find a Brut IPA on tap.

Cold IPA

The Cold IPA — perhaps the darling of the show right now — tends to closely follow a typical IPA recipe, albeit with some brewing processes lifted from lagers. A Cold IPA will use a lower temperature during fermenting, akin to lagers. This gives the Cold IPA a sort of hybrid lager/IPA feel.

What’s the difference between a Cold IPA and IPL (India Pale Lager)? Who knows!

Hazy IPA

The belle of the ball. The Hazy IPA. The Hazy IPA is everything the Brut IPA wishes it could be. If you’ve ever been to a craft brewery, then you know what a Hazy IPA is. But what makes the Hazy IPA so hazy? That depends entirely on the brewer!

Thomas Short
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