Craft Beer 101: All Things IPA

by: Tierney Pomone
June 13, 2014

It is the quintessential representation of craft beer. It is the most commonly ordered craft beer style. It is the reason craft beer enthusiasts are called “hop heads.” It is the one beer I hated for years. It is the India Pale Ale or as we all call it, the IPA.

photo by GK Visual

IPAs have become the most commonly brewed beer style among professional craft brewers and home brewers alike and are credited with being the flavorful reason we have a craft beer revolution. Let’s explore everything IPA as well as some great recommendations on the many faces IPAs can take on.

In my best “Sophia from Golden Girls voice,” pictures this: 19th century England. The origin of the India Pale Ale can be found in its name, not that it was from India, but rather that it was headed to India. You see English traders were taking long voyages to India for trading purposes and of course took beer with them on the trip. The main problem with taking these beers on the long journey is that by the time they arrived in India the beer was often spoiled and flavorless leaving them all disappointed. Then came George Hodgson who realized the lighter but higher ABV beer with more hops would be more likely to last the trip than the standard porters they were carrying — and the India Pale Ale was born.

The highly rated Sculpin IPA.

The highly rated Sculpin IPA.

These days the IPA has taken on a new role as the president of craft beer, especially in America. With hops able to be grown so fruitfully in the Pacific Northwest, the West Coast takes great pride in their palate-crushing hopped up beers. These are the ultimate jab to those “flavorless mass produced enemies” that Stone Brewing, among others, have grown to despise. At this point, the East Coast vs West Coast IPA battle is irrelevant, but what is relevant is the idea of a beer with full flavor. As I continue to expand my horizons of craft beer flavor and experimentation, to my own surprise I have started to like the variety of flavors I can find in an IPA.

photo by Sara Bozich

Snake Dog IPA by Flying Dog Brewery, Frederick, Md.

When it comes to IPAs there are many additional categories that the beverage can be classified into seven or so categories.

  1. Imperial, 2x, or DIPAs depending on how you choose to describe them, feature more malts, more hops and a higher ABV.
  2. Session IPAs are the opposite with fewer hops, less malts with full flavor but under 5% ABV.
  3. Single-Hop IPAs are just that – IPAs brewed with just one hop varietal.
  4. Rye IPAs are brewed with rye instead of barley malt for a spicier flavor.
  5. Belgian IPAs are made with Belgian yeast inserting a citrus, banana, clove and spice flavor. Black IPAs combine the traditional American hops with darker malts for a dark colored hoppy beer.
  6. Brett IPAs use a strain of yeast called Brettanomyces to create a sour and hopped up brew.
  7. Triple or 3x IPAs are much like the DIPAs but take it even further with an ABV of 10+% on average and tend to have a more syrupy sweet flavor.
Bell's Two Hearted: Everyone loves this beer, and so will you.

Bell’s Two Hearted: Everyone loves this beer, and so will you.

Feeling overwhelmed? How about I make it easier with some tasting suggestions:

  • IPA: Bell’s Brewery Two Hearted Ale, Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, Ballast Point Sculpin, Victory Brewing Hop Devil, Troegs Perpetual IPA
  • 2x or DIPA: Russian River Pliny the Elder, Great Lakes Brewing Chillwave, Stoudts Double IPA, Sixpoint Resin, Green Flash West Coast IPA
  • 3x or Triple IPA: Avery Brewing Maharaja, Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA, Sixpoint Hi-Res
  • Session IPA: Founders All Day IPA, Pizza Boy Brewing Together Weather, DuClaw Brewing Oz, Flying Dog Brewing Easy IPA, Stone Brewing Go-to IPA
  • Single-Hop IPA: Pizza Boy Brewing Hop Test (there’s a bunch, get to know your hops), Mikkeller Single Hops Series, Flying Dog Brewing Single Hop Series
  • Rye IPAs: Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye, Monocacy Brewing Riot Rye, New Belgium RyePA, Terrapin Rye
  • Belgian IPAs: Lagunitas Little Sumpin’ Wild, Otter Creek Fresh Slice, Flying Dog Raging Bitch
  • Brett IPAs: Pizza Boy Brewing Hoptart, Evil Twin Femme Fatale Brett
  • Black IPAs: Duck Rabbit Hoppy Bunny, 21st Amendment Back in Black, Southern Tier Inequity, Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale

Read more from Tierney’s Craft Beer 101 Series.

Categories: Craft Beer

3 thoughts on “Craft Beer 101: All Things IPA

  1. Travis Yocum on said:

    Awww you didn’t include Victory Dirtwolf IPA which is probably the best Double IPA in Pennsylvania.

    • Tierney on said:

      Dirt Wolf is the bomb dot com but my list was getting long haha. I had one last night at Shady’s.

  2. Pingback: Craft Beer 101: IPAs for Days | Stouts and Stilettos

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