Types of IPA: A Complete Guide to the India Pale Ale

- May 8, 2022
types of ipa

The IPA is everywhere, dominating the craft beer scene.The last couple of decades have seen a surge in the popularity of the India Pale Ale. There are now so many types of IPA beers on the market that keeping track of all of them is one way to induce a mild headache.

Here’s everything you need to know about what an IPA beer is, its history, vocabulary you should know, and the different types of IPA.

What is an IPA?

The IPA (India Pale Ale) has its origins rooted in the British colonization of India in the 18th century. English breweries would transport beer to British troops stationed in British colonies. However, shipping to troops in India took months, and the beer would invariably go bad.

To withstand the voyage, pale ales were given a higher ABV, a maltier backbone, and infused with a ton of hops. Hops acted as a natural preservative which prevented spoilage and kept it fresh. A new pale ale was born. Over time, the hot climate in India led to expats switching from  darker beers such as stouts, bitters, and milds, to the lighter pale ale.

An IPA can, as a result, be described as a hoppier, high ABV pale ale. India Pale Ales are refreshing, and have either a fruity or bitter taste, a high hop flavor and a strong aroma.

IPAs usually fall within 5.5% to 7.5% ABV. Session IPAs have low ABV, while Double IPA have higher.

IPA Vocabulary

Here is some IPA-related terminology to brush up on before we make the plunge. Keep in mind that these terms aren’t restricted to IPAs – they apply to any style of beer. That being said, understanding how one IPA differs from the next will make experimenting with different styles fun, and should help you pick your choice of IPA with confidence.

Types of IPA

American IPA

The American IPA is a variation of the English Indian Pale Ale, with American craft brewers switching it up thanks to the wide variety of hop styles available in the United States. The result was a strong hop flavor and high hop aroma that added floral/citrusy/piney/fruity notes to the English IPA, a medium-high to very-high hop bitterness, and a clean, biscuit/caramel balancing malt backbone.

American IPAs have mild-to-noticeable alcohol content at around 5% to 8% ABV, and color varying between golden to copper/reddish/brown. This type of IPA pairs well with spicy meals Buffalo Hot Wings, Mexican food, and anything that packs the right amount of heat without overwhelming the flavor.

The American IPA has grown into a dominant force in the marketplace. It is currently a top-selling craft beer across liquor stores and supermarkets across the United States and is influencing craft brewers and beer cultures the world over.

The West Coast IPA – Big, Bold, and Bitter

The West Coast IPA is another type of IPA that is known for its  distinct bitterness, a high hop aroma, and a dry, crisp profile. West Coast IPAs typically have an ABV of around 5.5% to 7.5%

The name “West Coast” was given thanks to breweries in various states along the Pacific Ocean brewing West Coast IPAs. These breweries also used hops that were mainly sourced from this area.

This IPA is brewed using a ton of hops, which gives it its signature bitterness. Hops are added in during the boil, and this heat extracts the bitterness from the hops (much like brewing tea). and contributes to its bold and citrus and piney flavor profile. West Coast IPAs are also characterized by fruity notes and aromas, but these aren’t as pronounced as, say, East Coast IPAs. The main highlight is the bitterness, with the citrus, piney flavor profile taking a backseat.

The East Coast IPA

The East Coast IPA is a relatively new type of IPA that’s based off the West Coast IPA. This IPA typically features a smooth and more balanced bitterness compared to other types of IPAs thanks to a slight twist: the yeast. 

In a bid to highlight the flavor profile and aromas, brewers use clean, flavorless yeasts. These yeasts produce a host of scents and flavors – typically banana, tropical fruit and citrus. More flavor means brewers can use less hops, which then makes this type of IPA less bitter.

Additionally, unlike West Coast IPAs that have the majority of their hops added at the start of the boil, East Coast IPAs have most of their hops added later in the brewing process, which results in fruity beer that’s not as bitter as a West Coast IPA is. As a result, East Coast IPAs strike the perfect balance between malt sweetness and hop bitterness. This type of IPA is light amber in color, fruity, hazy and easy to drink, leaving almost no aftertaste. ABV is around 4% to 6%.

NEIPA (New England IPA) – Juice Bomb

Another type of IPA is the NEIPA, or New England IPA. This popular take on the American IPA is currently the hottest type of IPA on the market, thanks to its smooth and creamy texture. The NEIPA is distinctly juicy courtesy of its fruity/citrusy flavor profile that almost tastes like biting into a citrus would. 

The NEIPA is dry-hopped (fruit-forward hops are added later in the brewing process, which delivers a fruity, tropical aroma and flavor without making the IPA as bitter as, say, a classic or West Coast IPA. 

NOTE: Some brewers may use adjuncts like lactose or fruit purees in their NEIPAs to create an even more diverse profile of flavors and aromas.

Unlike other beers that undergo extra filtration to produce a clear beer, NEIPAs are unfiltered to give them their characteristic haze, and while preserving more flavor & aromas.

Imperial (Double) IPA

If you’re looking for an IPA with a strong and intense flavor, then you may want to try an imperial, or double, IPA. This type of IPA is brewed using a large amount of hops which gives it a darker, highly bitter, bold flavor and high alcohol content in the 9% to 13% range. Additionally, many imperial IPAs are dry-hopped, meaning that they are brewed with additional hops after fermentation, to create even more hop flavors and aromas. So if you’re looking for an IPA that packs a punch, then an imperial IPA may be the perfect choice for you!

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