Cheers To The IPA!
Anthony Dyer, Raley’s Beer Expert
Learn more about what makes Anthony an expert.
Created in England around 1780, India Pale Ales, or IPAs as we more commonly know them, have become the most popular craft beer style. IPAs are part of the broader pale ale family of beers, however they can be tricky to categorize as one brewer’s pale ale can be another brewer’s IPA.
There are three things you can count on with an IPA: They tend to be paler in color, stronger in flavor and more bitter than their pale ale counterparts. From a brewing standpoint, the main difference is the quantity of malt and hops used. IPAs use more hops.
To help balance the increased bitterness from the hops, an increased amount of malt is used, but not enough to pull away from the bitter nature of IPA. The increased malt means more sugar for the yeast to feed on, which creates a higher ABV (alcohol by volume) than a regular pale ale. The combination of the increased malt and hops gives the IPA its distinctive strong flavor, increased bitterness and great hop aromas.
As IPAs have grown in popularity, some breweries have taken this style to the extreme and created bigger IPAs, known as Double or Imperial IPAs. Just like a pale ale and an IPA, the main difference between a Double/Imperial IPA and a standard IPA is the amount of hops and malt used in the brewing process.
As the Double/Imperial IPA name suggests, a brewer will double or even triple the amount of hops in various parts of the brewing process to add even more bitterness. More malts are added to balance and that again increases the ABV in the finished product. While there are no hard and fast rules as to what makes an IPA a Double or Imperial, there are some standard guidelines.
These beers are typically differentiated by the amount of alcohol and IBUs, or International Bittering Units, they have. IBUs measure how many bittering compounds are in the beer. Standard IPAs have about 40-70 IBUs and are around 5.5 to 7.5% ABV while Double/Imperial IPAs can range from 60-120 IBUs and 7.5 to 10% ABV.
Flavor and aroma profiles of IPAs can vary greatly depending on the variety and amount of hops used, giving tremendous room for experimentation and creativity at the brewery. With this wide range of possibilities, it’s no surprise IPA is one of the most brewed and demanded craft beer styles today. Cheers to the IPA!