Aww the IPA, it’s usually a love it, or hate it kind of beer. For me it’s love, I think part of the reason is that no two are the same. It’s such a broad but popular beer style. Also, the IPA played a role on my first date with P. So, let me introduce you…
IPA stands for India Pale Ale. This style of beer was developed in England with a higher hop content, in order for the beer to survive longer ship voyages…like to India. Hops act as a preservative thus resulting in a beer better suited for the long journeys. Other research suggest that beer makers at the time just thought hoppier beers were more suited for drinking in warmer climates. Either way it was a popular export and we now have three main styles:
English-style IPA: Has the lowest level of hoppiness of the three styles. While more pronounced hoppiness is evident than most other English-style beers, it has much lower hoppiness characteristics than the Americanized version. English IPA hold onto their maltiness and have a more pronounced late hop character.
American-style IPA: American-style IPA are distinguished by their strong hop bitterness, with plenty of hop character up front. This style should be clean with low malt characteristics.
Imperial or Double IPA: Usually higher in ABV with a very strong bitter hop flavors. Generally the ABV is over 7% and it is a heavier beer in taste than a regular IPA.
IPAs can further be broken down into subcategories, mostly branching from the American-style IPA. Of course we have the classic East Coast vs West Coast rivalry. East coast being slightly more malt forward and utilizing more European varieties of hops imparting more spicey or floral notes as opposed to the piney, stinky hop favored by the West Coast. West Coast IPAs crown themselves the hop kings and are more hop forward. Other styles include black IPAs, which utilize a roasted malt for the base, belgian IPAs, wheat IPAs, and rye IPAs.
We can’t talk about IPAs and not bring up IBUs; IBUs and IPAs go hand in hand. IBU stands for International Bitterness Unit, this number can indicate the bitterness level of your beer. The higher the number the more bitter the beer…of course there are a lot of factors that impact the final product, so it is only a basic guide. Generally speaking an IBU of less than 20 has little hop presence, 20 to 45 has mild to pronounced hop and bitterness characteristics, and more than 45 is heavily hopped and more bitter.
IPA flavor characteristics can vary widely. The hop is the flavor focus on this style of beer and hops impart so many different flavor characteristics to a beer. I think this is part of the reason there is so many strong reactions to IPAs. Flavor profiles can include: citrus, pine, earthy, grassy, tropical fruits, spicy, cedar, tobacco, fruity, floral, herbal, garlic, onion, even stinky socks. If you can find a few single hopped IPAs to sample, that is a great way to learn more about the flavors particular hops can impart.
What I sampled…it was a hard decision on what to feature for this style.
Haven’t heard of Philosophy Brewing, that is because it is our little homebrew operation. This beer was brewed by the amazingly talented and handsome P :), and was the first beer we brewed here in San Diego. A similar beer would be the Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye. Our version is drier (because I love the dry beers) and less sweet. We dubbed it San Diego Rye, because, of course location, but also because White Labs San Diego Super Yeast was used.
Smell: Floral, fruity with a slight sweetness
Taste: A hint of the rye in the front end, clean, dry, finishes with the bitterness of the hop and a hint of spice.
Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin IPA, San Diego, CA
This is a take on their standard Sculpin IPA. I like this version better because I feel that the grapefruit actually helps to balance the bitterness and it comes across more refreshing to me. We really enjoy Ballast Point, P and I have always had good experiences at their Little Italy tasting room. They almost always have a few R&D beers on draft, so you get to try something you can’t find anywhere else. P and I were lucky enough to stumble in on our house hunting trip when they were doing all R&D beers, it was wonderful. We also happened to pick the right seats at the bar, and got to discuss said beers with their head brewer and meet their label artist, it was very awesome. So basically, Ballast Point has won us over 🙂
Smell: Grapefruit, grapefruit, grapefruit 🙂 It smells like you cut into a grapefruit.
Taste: Very clean and light with a distinctive grapefruit and bitter finish. Refreshing is the only adjective to apply to this beer.
Stillwater Why Can’t IBU, Baltimore, MD
This is one of my favorite IPAs. Seriously, if we find it, we usually buy it, and I don’t buy repeats often. Try this IPA, and then tell me if you like IPAs or not. This is labeled as a Belgian IPA, which general means that Belgian yeast was used and European hops. This IPA is highly carbonated, and the most carbonated out of the three. This is definitely a different take on the IPA. Stillwater is one of my favorite breweries, and we have found almost all of the beers from them to be exceptional.
Smell: Earthy, fruity, yeasty
Taste: Light, crisp, with a pronounced bitter finish that is slightly earthy and spicy. This is such a unique and interesting beer.
When was the last time you tried an IPA?
Got a post on an IPA? Link it up below!!