10 March 2020
- Colour: Usually golden to copper colour
- Bitterness: Stressed bitter by the hops, usually 40-60 IBU (bitterness units), may even be over 100 IBU
- Original wort: Mostly 16-20 ° P
- Aroma: Depending on the hop variety
India pale ale or IPA is probably the most popular style of beer right now. It is a fruity-hoppy beer style and very à la mode. But what is it? How does it taste? And what are NEIPA or Double IPA? Learn all about India pale ale.
India pale ale is a broad beer style, but recognisable by the focus on hops. They hop forward, refreshing but fruity-bitter beers. In other words, the brewer puts great emphasis on the choice of hop varieties, of which there are about 200 different worldwide!
IPA is in fact a beer, a bottom fermented ale. It is a hoppy sub-style of the broader category of "pale ales". It is only recently that we are so accustomed to them in pubs and bars across the UK. As a result of the craft ale movement, we are now lucky to see vibrancy, experimention and diversity in IPAs.
IPA stands for India pale ale. It is not “Indian”, so don’t make that mistake.
The types of hops that are used determine the aromas: IPA may taste like citrus or tropical fruits, be grassy, flowery or earthy, but also reminiscent of pines or even honey. Typical American hop varieties include Chinook, Citra or Amarillo, German hop varieties such as Hallertau varieties or Mandarina.
In addition, the hops always ensure a certain bitterness. Because an IPA is usually refreshing, it is more commonly regarded as a summer beer.
Alcohol content: IPAs generally vary from 5.5% to 7.5% but most are around 6-7%, but may be below (Session IPA) or above (Double IPA)
Brewers from all over the world love the experimental brewing art. Today, there is a very large IPA lineage with a variety of variants and regional differences. From United States we have both east and west coast IPAs.
IPA | 4.2% | 33cl
IPA | 6.2% | 36cl
IPA | 6.5% | 33cl
IPA | 3.3% | 33cl
IPA | 7.4% | 33cl
IPA | 6.9% | 33cl
IPA | 8.5% | 33cl
0.4% | 33cl
Usually, hops are cooked during the brewing process. Dry hopping is the addition of (extra) hops to the cooled wort (after the cooking process) and ensures a hoppy aroma. With dry hopping, the hop is added to the ripening tank, late in the fermentation process or during ripening. With top fermentation, dry hopping takes between seven and fourteen days.
It is common for brewers to use multiple hop varieties. It is becoming increasingly popular however to contrast this by using one single hop throughout the various processes. A single hopped beer can showcase the hop being characterised and highlight its distinct hallmark. A single-hopped Citra IPA, for example, is brewed exclusively with this hop variety.
Drink an IPA as fresh as you can. The flavour of India Pale Ale is based on the hops’ aromas, but they can evaporate over time. Therefore, the younger the beer is, the more intense the flavour is.
The flavours unfold best in a tulip-shaped glass at about 6 to 10 degrees. You can read more about a more detailed article about beer glasses here. If you are interested in drinking temperatures, read our 'How cold should beer be served?' article.
An IPA is an intense beer, so intense dishes are a well-matched addition. When pairing food and beer the main rule to follow is to match intensity of flavour to strength of beers. For example, strong cheese, roasted meat, a hearty burger with bacon, but also deep-fried snacks or a cheese-rich pizza (including hot peppers) fit very well.
Often you read about spicy dishes such as Thai or Indian food as the ideal combination, as bitterness and sharpness complement each other.
Salty foods are also a good combination as it softens the bitterness of the beer, and balances flavours of the IPA. Honestly, anything with fat and salt will be beautifully balanced by the CO2 from beers. Incidentally, a fruit salad is also very well suited to the fruity IPA aromas.
That's always a matter of taste, of course, and every day exciting new India Pale Ales are released. We have however written you a list of top 10 IPAs, for you to try as a good starting point!
And of course we also asked Nathan, Beerwulf's beer in-house sommelier. His favourite is Ruination from Stone Brewing: "Double IPA perfection!"
As mentioned above, Stone Brewing are also the brewers of the famous and well respected Stone IPA. It's an iconic West Coast IPA; citrusy, piney and hop forward. It was this beer that instigated their reputation for extra hoppy brews.
Hops, in relative terms, are the most expensive ingredient in brewing. As explained, more hops are used in IPAs than in other beer styles. Usually, IPAs are also hop-stuffed, this is an extra step in the brewing process. It requires more equipment; this can affect the price.
A lot of it however is dependent on the brewery, the distributor and of course the quality. Craft breweries generally value more high-quality ingredients and a craft brewing process.
Tasting is about studying and lot of it is to do with preference. The more you try, the better your understanding of IPA varieties, but also your understanding of your own likes.
Why not start with our curated IPA beer case? It contains 16 different India Pale Ales from the likes of; Vedett, First Chop, Brussels Beer Project, Oedipus and more.