On the first Thursday in August, beer enthusiasts, breweries and bars across the globe celebrate IPA Day, a toast to one of craft beer’s most iconic styles! The IPA style of beer has some of the most diverse spectrums in both flavour variations and brewing practices, lending it to an increased accessibility to many a beer lovers palate and brewer’s choice of experimentation. IPA day celebrates this very foundation and we’d like to join in and discuss both the variety of IPA’s there are to brew as well as tackle common questions that arise for homebrewers new and experienced.
There’s no doubting the popularity of the modern IPA among beer lovers today, quickly becoming the craft beer darling, a good IPA showcases a huge amount of hop bitterness and flavour in a pale and dry beer body. Now IPA has expanded to include Black, White, Red, Rye, Brown and Belgian, plus, more recently (though not officially) the ‘New England’ IPA.
The IPA is a good style for many brewers just starting out as producing a decent IPA is fairly easy. It can be done with a SMASH grain bill and the high hopping rates can cover a multitude of first time mistakes. However, to really produce a stand out IPA requires a good knowledge of your ingredients and how they work together. You should be aiming to produce a great beer that is balanced towards ‘hoppy’ rather than producing an okay beer and hiding it behind muddy hop flavour.
To better understand this let’s first discuss the main IPA styles in a nutshell;
IPA Style comparisons
English – Generally will have more finish hops and less fruitiness and caramel than British pale ales and bitters. BJCP Beer Style Guidelines – 2015 Edition 23 Has less hop intensity and a more pronounced malt flavour than typical American versions.
American – Stronger and more highly hopped than an American Pale Ale. Compared to an English IPA, has less of the “English” character from malt, hops, and yeast (less caramel, bread, and toast; more American/New World hops than English; less yeast-derived esters), less body, and often has a more hoppy balance and is slightly stronger than most examples. Less alcohol than a Double IPA, but with a similar balance.
East Coast – Hopped to the same level as an American IPA with a higher focus on new world hop flavour and aroma, the perceived bitterness is lower. Compared to an English IPA, has less of the “English” character from malt, hops, and yeast (less caramel, bread, and toast; more American/New World hops than English; similar levels yeast-derived esters), More body, due to the additions of wheat and oats commonly used. Examples have a low to high degree of cloudiness.
Red – Similar to the difference between an American Amber Ale and an American Pale Ale, a Red IPA will differ from an American IPA with the addition of some darker crystal malts giving a slightly sweeter, more caramelly and dark fruit-based balance. A Red IPA differs from an American Strong Ale in that the malt profile is less intense and there is less body; a Red IPA still has an IPA balance and doesn’t trend towards a barleywine-like malt character. A Red IPA is like a stronger, hoppier American Amber Ale, with the characteristic dry finish, medium-light body, and strong late hop character
White – Similar to a Belgian Wit style except highly hopped to the level of an American IPA. Bitter and hoppy like the IPA but fruity, spicy and light like the Wit. Typically the hop aroma and flavour are not as prominent as in an American IPA.
Black – Balance and overall impression of an American or Double IPA with restrained roast similar to the type found in Schwarzbiers. Not as roasty-burnt as American stouts and porters, and with less body and increased smoothness and drinkability.
Double – Bigger than either an English or American IPA in both alcohol strength and overall hop level (bittering and finish). Less malty, lower body, less rich and a greater overall hop intensity than an American Barleywine. Typically not as high in gravity/alcohol as a barleywine, since high alcohol and malt tend to limit drinkability.
Belgian – A cross between an American IPA/Imperial IPA with a Belgian Golden Strong Ale or Tripel. This style is may be spicier, stronger, drier and more fruity than an American IPA.
Brown – A stronger and more bitter version of an American Brown Ale, with the balance of an American IPA.Rye – Drier and slightly spicier than an American IPA. Bitterness and spiciness from rye lingers longer than an American IPA. Does not have the intense rye malt character of a Roggenbier. Some examples are stronger like a Double IPA.