The India Pale Ale (IPA) is perhaps the most popular style of beer right now. A strongly hopped, bitter and refreshing beer with aromas of cedar, citrus and tropical fruit, this beer was first brewed in England and was exclusively meant to supply the East India Company.

Back to the 17th century

The story of India Pale Ale (IPA) goes back to the 17th century when England was a major colonial power. At this time, the brewers of the city of Burton-on-Trent brewed exclusively for the East India Company. What made this beer special was the use of water from central England, a region where the water contained higher than average levels of calcium and sulphates leading to a dryer and more bitter beer. It took a ship almost five months to get this beer all the way to Brits stationed in India - too long to keep regular beer from going off. By adding extra hops (which act as a preservative) the beer stayed fresher for longer. Export beer was more heavily hopped and therefore more bitter. Eventually, these ales were exported not only to India but to the US as well.

By adding extra hops to beer (which act as a preservative), the beer stayed fresher for longer.

It was only in the early 1980s that American craft brewers started using new varieties of hops such as Cascade (citrus aroma) or Simcoe (cedar aroma) to produce the character of the contemporary IPA. Yet there is still a difference between American and English IPAs. English beers tend more towards earthy, floral aromas and balance the biscuity malt flavours. American IPAs have a clear focus on the hops, mainly citrus, cedar and sometimes tropical or resinous flavours.

Dry hopping

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.

IPA variations

In general, IPAs vary from 5.5 to 7.5% alcohol content with a golden to copper colour. They’re usually filtered, but sometimes have a light film. To balance the overwhelming hoppiness, IPAs contain lightly caramelised pale malts, which add a doughy note of biscuits or toast. Ale yeast strengthens the fruity citrus tones.

Session IPA

Session style IPAs have a low alcohol percentage, yet retain a nice full flavour. There are ‘sessions’ which contain just 2.5% alcohol and deliver an explosion of taste and aroma.

Black IPA

A characteristic dark variant of the IPA, also known as Cascadian Dark Ale. The black colour is caused by the use of roasted malts, but it has the typical aroma of the IPA.


Double IPA or Imperial IPA is a strong, hoppy variant with high levels of malt and hops. This gives DIPA an alcohol level ranging from 8-12% and a bitterness of over 60 IBU.

- In the mix - Americano IPA

A beer cocktail inspired by the Americano (a classic Italian aperitif) in which a DIPA is mixed with sweet Vermouth and Campari and garnished with a wedge of grapefruit or orange zest.

Beer and bites

What food goes well with such bitter beer? Spicy foods are often seen as the perfect companion to the IPA, but are they really the best match? You’re better off choosing fatty and protein-packed foods such as salmon, intense (blue) cheeses or roasted meat. Deep-fried snacks or cheesy pizzas also go well with an IPA. IPAs are best served in tulip-shaped glasses or pint glasses at a temperature of between 5 and 7 degrees Celsius.

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