Stylin’ & Profilin’: What Is an IPA?

Stylin’ & Profilin’
 is a brief look at different beer styles that will help you learn whether they’re right for you. Ultimately, words can’t truly turn you on to a solid craft beer. You have to smell, taste, and savor each sip to truly discover if it’s one you’ll come back to in the future. But the background info obtained in this post won’t hurt anything either.

What is an IPA?

Stone IPAIPA, or India Pale Ale if you’re not into the whole brevity thing, is a hoppy beer style within the broader category of pale ale. It was first brewed in England in the 19th century. The first known use of the term “India Pale Ale” was an advertisement in the Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser in 1829. Today, IPAs are one of the most popular beer styles on the market.

DID YOU KNOW: IPAs are not native to the United States. Nor are they native to India. As mentioned before, this style originates from England, where in 1774, the British Empire appointed its first governor to India and began heavy trading. Beer was among these items and was leveraged within the market due to it being such a necessity at the time, a staple of one’s diet even.

With the invention of paler colored malts in the 1800’s came the birth of the Pale Ale, however these beers had stability problems when shipped long distances. So, based off the Pale Ale style, English brewers began brewing a more stable beer to withstand the long and rigorous journey to India. A common method was to heavily hop the beer and take advantage of the acids in hops which act as a natural preservative. The second method was to reduce the gravity (amount of soluble sugar in solution) of the beer as much as possible, thus creating a product with much less residual sugars, which in turn would attract less micro-organism that might spoil the beer on its long journey. This left a lighter colored, bitter, dry and higher alcoholic beverage, compared to other ales brewed at that time.

Today, India Pale Ales can be found all over the world with varying degrees of hop, malt and alcohol levels. Very few are even close to what the early IPA used to be. The “IPA” mark can also be found on numerous beer labels throughout the world. American brewers have become notorious for pushing the limits of acceptance and lambasting the palate in an attempt to make the strongest and/or hoppiest beers possible.

As you develop your palate, your ability to truly enjoy a beer packed with hops will get easier, almost second nature. It’s important to remember, craft beer affection won’t be gained by diving head first into an overpowering IPA. It’s best to start with a Pale Ale, one of less alcohol by volume and a lighter element of hops, develop a taste, then upgrade to an IPA.

It’s no secret…IPAs are everywhere and have reached incredible levels of popularity. What this means for you is you can befriend a plethora of different brewery’s takes on IPAs and find your staple. To get your started though, here’s a brief list of IPAs yours truly enjoys:

  1. Southern Tier IPASouthern Tier IPA
  2. Stone IPA
  3. East End Brewing Big Hop
  4. Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA
  5. Lagunitas IPA

Again, this list is nothing more than a jumping-off point, or a list of my preferences. Don’t limit yourself to these five. Get out there and try as many IPAs as you can!

*Partial content provided by Beer Advocate







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