IPA, short for “India Pale Ale,” was first created well over 200 years ago but is still by far one of the most popular craft beers on the market today. The first IPAs were developed by George Hodgson’s Bow brewery in England in the late 1700s. British soldiers stationed in India were desperate for a taste of home, but their favorite beers were unable to survive the six-month boat journey. Hodgson developed an incredibly strong, pale beer with the intention of being super-hoppy to preserve the beer longer. IPAs eventually made their way back to England, where they became popular among the working class. Then introduced in the United States in the early 1800s by English immigrants, IPAs quickly became popular among beer drinkers looking for something different from the mass-produced lagers that dominated the market.
IPA is a pale ale that emphasizes the flavors and aromas of hops. IPAs are fairly bitter due to the hop’s presence, but it’s this bitter flavor that makes IPAs unique and beloved. The hoppier the beer, the more bitter it will be. The strong hop flavor can be citrusy, floral, or even earthy with a taste of some maltiness and a hint of sweetness. However, not all IPAs taste the same.
There are many different styles of IPAs that have been developed, with some that are hoppier, lighter or more bitter. British, west coast, east coast, New England and fruited are among the styles of IPAs with their own unique flavor. IPAs pair well and help accentuate the flavor of spicy foods, grilled or roasted pork and chicken, and lighter options such as fish or vegetables dishes.
Hops are the most important component of brewing an IPA and are carefully selected depending on the style and flavors desired. IPAs begin their brewing process the same way as any other beer. Production begins with malting, milling and mashing before the hops are added and boiled. At the beginning of the boiling process, the selected hops are boiled with malt. Hop-bursting, the practice of adding generous amounts of hops during the final 15 minutes of the boil, adds intense hops flavors and aroma without the harsh bitterness. Beers are then cooled and aerated, then fermented. Finally, the beer is aged, matured and packaged.
With hundreds of different breweries making IPAs, each with their own unique take, IPAs are available in an endless variety of different styles and flavors to try.