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14 - India Pale Ale (IPA)
14 - India Pale Ale (IPA)

India Pale Ale beer styles

Know the difference between an English, American, and Imperial IPA? How does an East-coast and West-coast IPA differ in the USA? What is a DIPA? Read on to find out…

Previously we examined Stouts, in this article we will cover BJCP Category 14, India Pale Ale (IPA), which includes the following Beer Styles:

First we will cover the history of the category, then take a look at the specifications of each style highlighting the similarities and differences. We then sample commercial examples of each style.

History

14 - India Pale Ale (IPA)
14 – India Pale Ale (IPA)

Pale Ales in general get their name from the pale malted barley used to brew them. The pale malt was not as dark from their kilning thanks to the use of coke to heat the kilns rather than wood as was previously used and often resulted in darker, more roasted malts that were even sometimes smokey.

In the mid 18th century Pale Ales started to increase in alcohol strength and hopping levels which meant they could last longer and hence were more viable for exporting to India by sea. The warmer temperatures and rolling nature of the seas also contributed to these beers becoming more highly attenuated and stronger during the journey. Some of the Pale Ales were also hopped in the barrel for the journey which increased the bitterness and hence the preservation of the quality of the beers. Porters were also exported as they were already higher in alcohol strength and hopping levels than common ales but over time the export Pales Ales, which became known as India Pale Ales, became more in demand and were a bit stronger.

14 - India Pale Ale (additional examples)
14 – India Pale Ale
(additional examples)

American IPA’s were based on their English cousins but instead used US versions of hops and tended to be a bit stronger in alcohol content and had higher hopping levels. In general East-coast IPA’s tend to be more malt-forward or malt-balanced compared to their West-coast counterparts. The Pacific Northwest is home to most of the hops grown within the US and hence beers from this area tend to be hoppier.

An Imperial IPA is  also often called a DIPA or Double IPA due to the higher levels of hopping and greater alcohol strength compared to an American IPA. In recent years there has been one-upmanship between US breweries to see how many IBU’s they can cram into an IPA (often 100+), the human senses struggle to differentiate hop bitterness over 70 IBU’s making the additional effort and expense of going so high arguably not worth while.

Overview

According to Jamil Zainasheff in his book, Brewing Classic Styles, all three types of IPA can be considered hoppy but the level of hops within each style varies a lot. At the lower end there is the English IPA, then the American IPA has a much more bold hop character, whilst the Imperial IPA is so hoppy that in some cases it is like drinking squeezed hops.

These beers should be as follows:

  • English IPA – a hoppy, moderately strong pale ale that features characteristics consistent with the use of English malt, hops, and yeast.
  • American IPA – a decidedly hoppy and bitter, moderately strong American Pale Ale.
  • Imperial IPA – an intensely hoppy, very strong pale ale without the big maltiness and/or deeper malt flavors of an American Barleywine.

The following table* shows how the 3 styles of India Pale Ale vary:

Characteristic English IPA American IPA Imperial IPA
Original Gravity: 1.050 – 1.075 1.056 – 1.075 1.070 – 1.090
Final Gravity: 1.010 – 1.018 1.010 – 1.018 1.010 – 1.020
ABV (alcohol %): 5.0 – 7.5 5.5 – 7.5 7.5 – 10.0
IBU’s (bitterness): 40 – 60 40 – 70 60 – 120
SRM (color): 8 – 14 6 – 15 8 – 15

The above table shows English and American IPA’s have very similar starting & finishing gravities and alcohol content with American IPA not going quite as low in alcohol content. For bitterness both styles are again very similar with American IPA having slightly more variance in color and a bit higher hopping at the top end of the style.

Imperial IPA starts off on gravities, alcohol content, and bitterness where American IPA ends with a little overlap. Color is very similar to the English and American IPAs.

In the following sections we will look in more detail at each of the above Beer Styles.

English IPA

Brooklyn East India Pale Ale
Brooklyn East India Pale Ale

Commercial examples of this style include Meantime India Pale Ale, Freeminer Trafalgar IPA, Fuller’s IPA, Ridgeway Bad Elf, Summit India Pale Ale, Samuel Smith’s India Ale, Hampshire Pride of Romsey IPA, Burton Bridge Empire IPA,Middle Ages ImPailed Ale, and Goose Island IPA. We decided to sample Brooklyn East India Pale Ale and Left Hand 400 Pound Monkey.

Brooklyn East India Pale Ale has the following characteristics which is within style for both alcohol content and bitterness:

  • ABV = 6.9%
  • IBU’s = 47

This beer is dark golden in color with a coarse thick head that lasts. Malty and lemon hop aroma. Citrusy flavor with bitterness at the back of the mouth. Moderate carbonation with reasonable mouth-feel.

Left Hand 400 Pound Monkey
Left Hand 400 Pound Monkey

Left Hand 400 Pound Monkey has the following characteristics which is within style for alcohol content and color:

  • ABV = 6.8%
  • SRM = 10

This beer is golden in color with a white head that goes quickly. Malty and yeast aroma though as the beer warms up the hop aroma is more pronounced. Noble hop flavor with a slight maltiness and bitterness. Moderate carbonation with a thin mouth-feel.

Typical ingredients used when brewing this style include the following according to the BJCP Style Guidelines:

  • Pale ale malted barley (well-modified and suitable for single-temperature infusion mashing).
  • Refined sugar may be used in some versions.
  • English hops.
  • English yeast that can give a fruity or sulfury/minerally profile.
  • High sulfate and low carbonate water is essential to achieving a pleasant hop bitterness in authentic Burton versions, although not all examples will exhibit the strong sulfate character.

American IPA

Deschutes Inversion IPA
Deschutes Inversion IPA

Commercial examples of this style include Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale, AleSmith IPA, Russian River Blind Pig IPA, Stone IPA, Three Floyds Alpha King, Great Divide Titan IPA, Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA, Victory Hop Devil, Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale, Anderson Valley Hop Ottin’, Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, Founder’s Centennial IPA, Anchor Liberty Ale, Harpoon IPA, and Avery IPA. We decided to sample Deschutes Inversion IPA and Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA.

Deschutes Inversion IPA has the following characteristics which is within style for alcohol content but too high for bitterness:

  • ABV = 6.8%
  • IBU’s = 80 (max 70 for style)

This beer is orange in color with a thick head that lasts. Grapefruit hop aroma and flavor with some bitterness. Low carbonation and good mouth-feel.

Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA
Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA

Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA has the following characteristics which is within style for alcohol content and bitterness though towards the top of the ranges for both:

  • ABV = 7.2%
  • IBU’s = 65

This beer is orange in color with a thick white head that lasts. Citrus hop aroma. Hop bitterness dominates the flavor. Moderate carbonation and medium mouth-feel.

Typical ingredients used when brewing this style include the following according to the BJCP Style Guidelines:

  • Pale ale malted barley (well-modified and suitable for single-temperature infusion mashing).
  • Generally all-malt, but mashed at lower temperatures for high attenuation.
  • American hops.
  • American yeast that can give a clean or slightly fruity profile.
  • Water character varies from soft to moderately sulfate.

Imperial IPA

Brew Kettle Old 21
Brew Kettle Old 21

Commercial examples of this style include Russian River Pliny the Elder, Three Floyd’s Dreadnaught, Avery Majaraja, Bell’s Hop Slam, Stone Ruination IPA, Great Divide Hercules Double IPA, Surly Furious, Rogue I2PA, Moylan’s Hopsickle Imperial India Pale Ale, Stoudt’s Double IPA, Dogfish Head 90-minute IPA, and Victory Hop Wallop. We decided to sample Old 21 Imperial IPA by The Brew Kettle and Southern Tier 2X IPA.

Old 21 Imperial IPA has the following characteristics which is within style for alcohol content and bitterness:

  • ABV = 9.0%
  • IBU’s = 90

This beer is golden in color with a thick head that lasts. Strong grapefruit aroma and flavor. Some slight bitterness given the IBU’s. Moderate carbonation and average mouth-feel.

Southern Tier 2x IPA
Southern Tier 2x IPA

Southern Tier 2X IPA has the following characteristic which is within style for alcohol content:

  • ABV = 8.2%

This beer is yellow in color with an average head. Grapefruit aroma. Hops balanced with malt for flavor and a sweet after-taste. Moderate carbonation with a good mouth-feel.

Typical ingredients used when brewing this style include the following according to the BJCP Style Guidelines:

  • Pale ale malted barley (well-modified and suitable for single-temperature infusion mashing).
  • Generally all-malt, but mashed at lower temperatures for high attenuation.
  • Can use a complex variety of hops (English, American, noble).
  • American yeast that can give a clean or slightly fruity profile.
  • Water character varies from soft to moderately sulfate.

What next?

Our next article will look at BJCP Category 15, ‘German Wheat and Rye Beer‘, where we will examine the four styles making up this category.

If you have any questions or comments about this article, please do not hesitate to contribute to the discussion below.

* Beer Styles’ data is courtesy of BJCP.org.

2 comments

  1. Hey guys just wanted to say that this was a fun little article to read, but Alpha King is considered a Pale Ale and not an IPA. Cheers!

  2. Although 3 Floyds call Alpha King an American Pale Ale on their web site, with this beer having 68 IBU’s and 6.66% ABV this puts it above the BJCP Guidelines for that particular style and pushes it into those for an American IPA. Your point does however highlight how the naming of beers and the specifications of beer styles may not always coincidence and can cause some confusion.

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