4 Fun Facts About IPAs

India Pale Ale. It’s an understatement to say this bitterly hop-forward beer has gained popularity over the years. IPAs have quickly become a top choice for beer lovers. “Brash, brassy, and bitter, many consider India Pale Ale to be the signature style of American craft beer. So great is its popularity that even brewers who otherwise specialize in things like German lagers will make one just to satisfy demand.” [Agnew, M. (2012, March). What food goes best with an IPA? Retrieved from www.seriouseats.com]

In this blog post, we’ll share four fun facts about this idiosyncratic style of beer.

1. It wasn’t invented in India.
While IPA stands for India Pale Ale, India was not the country that created it. However, it has a lot to do with it. During their efforts to colonize India, the British made several failed attempts to send beer to their troops overseas. Extreme temperatures and lack of refrigeration caused spoilage every time.

“According to legend, it was George Hodgson of East London’s Bow Brewery who eventually created the first IPA. It was bitter and highly alcoholic, but it could make the long ocean trip.” [Hop Head (2015, November 19). What does IPA stand for? Retrieved from www.hopandwine.com]

And so the rising sensation was born!

2. There are four official styles.
Since the 1700’s, brewers have gotten quite creative in the craft of IPAs! Today there are four main styles (and several sub-styles). Berghoff’s Beer Blog breaks them down by their differentiating characteristics:

  • English-Style IPA The English IPA is what started it all. The English variety tends to be less hoppy in flavor than American IPAs, with medium to strong hop bitterness and flavor. You may notice moderate to very strong fruit flavors and a gold to copper color when you pour. English IPAs can have anywhere from 4.5% to 7.1% ABV. They tend to be crisp and dry, making for a very refreshing brew.
  • American-Style IPA Americans revived the withering English IPA style with huge flavors. Hop flavors are strong, with high bitterness, big citrus and/or herbal character and a stable malt backbone. Pine, sulfur and/or floral flavors are common. American IPAs tend to have moderate to very strong fruit flavors. When you pour, you may notice a gold to copper color along with a distinct hop haze. ABVs range from 6.3% to 7.6%.
  • Imperial (Double) IPA If you think American-style IPAs are intense, Imperial IPAs will take your tastebuds to the next level. Hop bitterness and flavor are very high, but should still be pleasing and not harsh. You should also notice strong fruit flavors. The point of this type of beer is to show off the fresh and flavorful characters of the hops. There should be a nice alcoholic kick, with ABVs ranging from 7.6% all the way to 10.6%.
  • Session IPA Since IPAs are so refreshing, it’s no surprise that brewers started crafting ones that have a low ABV. This way, you can sip on them all day under the sun without getting drunk out of your mind. Sessions can be much less intense than their American-style counterparts, with a medium to high hop bitterness, but strong hop flavor. Fruit flavors are low to moderate along with a low to medium maltiness. Session IPAs pour a gold or copper color and may feature a hop haze. ABVs are kept low, from 3.7% to 5%.

[Berghoff Beer Blog (2016, March 31). What makes beer an IPA? Retrieved from www.berghoffbeer.com]

3. There’s a special glass for it.
Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head and Ken Grossman of Sierra Nevada collaborated in the design of a special glass just for IPAs. Sold on Crate & Barrel’s website for $10.95 each, the Spiegelau IPA Glass is the new standard for sipping this beloved brew. Here’s an excerpt from the product write-up:

“The rippled pedestal base and round bowl showcase the varying aromatic profiles of this "hop-forward" beer, preserving its frothy head and volatile components while maintaining a wide opening for the drinker to comfortably "nose" the beer.”

Sounds fancy, right?

4. Pairs well with a variety of foods.
Certified Cicerone Michael Agnew says this about pairing IPAs to excite the palate:

“When pairing IPA with food you have three basic flavor hooks at your disposal; bitterness, hop flavor (spicy, grassy, herbal, earthy, and citrus), and caramel. Hop flavors have a great affinity for spices and light fruits. Bitterness has a cooling effect. Paired with spicy dishes, IPA will fan the flames at first, but douse them in the end. Bitterness also amplifies salty and umami flavors. The caramel flavors in the beer will latch onto the sweeter side of a dish, tying into things like caramelized onion or the crispy skins of roast poultry. And the hop acids and carbonation make IPAs great palate cleansers to take on even the fattiest deep-fried delights.”

[Agnew, M. (2012, March). What food goes best with an IPA? Retrieved from www.seriouseats.com]

You’re probably thirsty by now, right? Be sure to check out what’s on tap this week at the Celtic by visiting BeerMenus.com!