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Lessons in Style: India Pale Ale

Welcome to Lessons in Style. With this series, we hope to bring a better understanding of the styles of beers available. Now there are a ton of them out there so it may get a little daunting once we get into the nitty gritty. Each post will give a broad overview of the style plus a little of the history surrounding it as well.

The India Pale Ale is one of the most well-known styles around the world and tends to be one of the styles breweries are measured with, meaning if they brew a great IPA then they are probably a great brewery. So what is an IPA anyway? Read on to find out more about this classic beer style.

The India Pale Ale, or IPA, was originally brewed to survive long voyages, such as the trip from England to India (hence the name). IPAs became popular in England during the 1800s. In fact, the first use of the term came in 1835 from an ad in the Liverpool Mercury. As alcohol and hops are natural preservatives, IPAs had higher levels of both to help survive the voyage to India. There are three varieties of India Pale Ale: English, American, and Imperial. The latter of which is a movement in the American craft beer scene to appease “hop heads.”

Common characteristics of the India Pale Ale are slightly higher alcohol content and a high bitterness. These characteristics increase as we go from English to American to Imperial. Depending on the hops used during the brewing process, aromas can range from citrus to pine to grass, and flavors can follow that progression as well.

Examples of India Pale Ales are Samuel Smith’s India Ale (English; England), Brooklyn East India Pale Ale (English; US), Stone IPA (American; US), Racer 5 IPA (American; US), Founder’s Centennial IPA (American; US), Dogfish Head 90-minute IPA (Imperial; US), and Russian River Pliny the Elder (Imperial; US).

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