What Is An IPA?

Are you familiar with India Pale Ale? Maybe you’ve sampled different craft beers and come across IPAs, or the term itself is new. Whatever your level of knowledge is, IPA has become an integral and popular part of the beer world today.

Understanding IPA: Definition, History, And Varieties

Indian Pale Ale (IPA) is a beer style with ancient British history and a modern craft brewing passion.

Definition And Origin Of India Pale Ale (IPA)

India Pale Ale (IPA) is a beer style originating in the British Empire’s expansion in the 19th century. The term was first coined when pale ales were shipped to troops stationed at British outposts abroad.

More hops and robust malts were used in the brewing process to survive the long voyage, resulting in higher alcohol content than traditional English beers. This allowed these IPAs to make it through hotter climates that would otherwise destroy other beer styles on their journey overseas.

IPA gained popularity throughout Britain during this period and eventually worldwide due to its unique taste profile that featured hoppy flavors balanced with strong bitterness from extra hops added during production. (source)

History And Evolution Of IPA

India Pale Ale, or IPA as it is now known and loved, has a long history dating back to when the British first brewed beer in India for their troops during colonial rule.

This beer style became so popular amongst soldiers stationed in India that its development stands out among various other beers, with brewers adopting different techniques to make an ever-increasing range of styles and flavors.

The IPA has experienced several changes over time, mainly through the influence of colonialism and innovation within the brewing industry.

Initially developed via imperial activity abroad, this type of robust ale was created from solid hops which had been adapted from already existing recipes from the United Kingdom combined with pale malt brought over from England before fermentation took place in cellars inside East India Company trading vessels—hence its name: “India Pale Ale.” (source)

Different Varieties Of IPA

IPA stands for India Pale Ale, and it is a hoppy and bitter type of beer that has been brewed since the 1700s. IPAs vary significantly in flavor profile, color, alcohol content, and bitterness. Here are some of the most popular types of IPA:

– West Coast IPA: This type of IPA typically has a strong hop flavor and aroma and a moderate to high bitterness. It often has an amber to copper hue with alcohol content ranging from 5-7%.

– East Coast IPA: This style of IPA focuses more on the malt characteristics than on hops, resulting in a maltier taste with a hint of sweetness. It also has slightly lower bitterness levels than its counterpart. Its color ranges from golden to brown tones, with an alcohol content typically in the 4-6% range.

– New England IPA: A combination of juicy and hazy qualities makes this type of IPA one of the most popular varieties. Expect tropical fruit and citrus flavors along with low levels of bitterness balanced with a malty sweetness. Color ranges from light gold to deep orange hues with an ABV that typically falls between 5-10%.

– Double or Imperial IPA: These IPAs feature intensified hop profiles with higher levels of bitterness and more robust aromas than regular IPAs. Anger can range anywhere from 40 – 100 IBUs! The alcohol content is also significantly higher—8 % – 11%. Colors span from light yellow to golden red and everything in between.

Characteristics Of IPA Beer

IPA beer is known for its signature hoppy flavor and aroma, distinct bitterness, the alcoholic content of 5-7% ABV (alcohol by volume), and light to copper color.

Hoppy Flavor And Aroma

The hoppy flavor and aroma in IPA beer are a critical component that makes this style recognizable. By definition, India Pale Ale is an intensely flavored hop-forward craft beer that emphasizes hop character, bitterness, and floral and citrusy flavors.

American-variety hops used in the brewing process of IPAs produce strong notes of resin, earthiness, and spice that contribute to its unique taste profile.

Important carotenoids like beta-ionone and damascenone give IPAs their characteristic overaged hoppy or violet/iris root floral aromas, making them stand out from other pale ales.

Different American-grown hops can create flavor nuances ranging from fruity or floral notes to piney aromas with zesty undertones of citrus fruits such as grapefruit or orange peel.


When it comes to IPA beer, bitterness is one of its most notable characteristics – IPAs tend to be much more bitter than other varieties of beer. This bold bitterness comes from the hops added during the brewing process.

The intensity and variety of hops used in an IPA recipe significantly impact the final flavor and aroma profile. Generally speaking, American-style IPAs will have a potently fruitier hop character compared to English-style IPAs that are maltier with softer hop notes.

In general, hops provide the sensation of bitterness, accentuated by flavorful compounds like oils and acids, creating intense aromas that stand out when drinking an IPA.

Alcohol Content

IPA stands for India Pale Ale, a highly hopped beer style characterized by its intense hop flavor, aroma, and bitterness. Brewers use elevated amounts of hops when brewing IPA beers to create the desired profile, resulting in high alcohol content.

The average ABV (alcohol by volume) for an IPA is 5-7%, with Double or Imperial IPAs ranging from 8%-10%. Higher ABVs mean that more hop character will be incorporated into the brew, including floral and citrusy notes and piney or resinous flavors, depending on which type of hops are used during brewing.

This creates a bold beer full of complex aromas and flavors ranging from highly bitter about smoothing and refreshing, depending on what other ingredients have been added.

By incorporating high levels of alcohol into their beers, brewers can produce big, bold flavors without overwhelming drinkers who may not appreciate overly hoppy tastes typically associated with this style.


The appearance of an IPA can be just as important as the taste and aroma. Color is essential for this type of beer because it shows what’s contained within.

Generally speaking, India Pale Ale (IPA) has a color that ranges from light reddish-amber to dark reddish-copper, but even this range in the shade can tell us something about how the brew was made the ingredients used.

For example, unfiltered dry-hopped versions may appear a bit hazy. At the same time, Ordinary Bitter beers have a gold or copper hue over them, indicating they haven’t been aged much in oak barrels but rather served right away, which makes sense given their inferiority compared to amber ales or imperial IPAs when it comes to flavor and mouthfeel characteristics.

On the other end of pale ales are American IPAs with colors ranging from pale golden hues to deep red coppers resulting from malts such as two-row barley grains caramelized during the mashing process to develop more body on the finished product unmatched by any other IPA style yet invented.

The Brewing Process Of IPAs

From choosing ingredients to fermenting and aging, learn more about IPA brewing techniques and processes to better appreciate this beer style.

Ingredients Used In IPA Brewing

  • Malts and hops are the two essential ingredients used in IPA brewing. Malts are derived from barley that’s been steeping, germinating, and then dried during the brewing process.
  • The malt provides the beer’s body and sets the foundation for adding other elements. Hops varieties such as Chinook, Cascade, and Centennial often add bitterness, aroma, and hop flavor to IPAs.
  • The yeast strain gives this beer style its distinct character; many brewers opt for ale yeast versus lager yeast which is typically used in lager beers.
  • Dry and double-hopping techniques can also be employed, muting more malt sweetness and creating an intense hopping flavor without too much bitterness.

All these ingredients make an intensely hoppy beer with unique flavors such as citrus fruit, pine sap, and limey sensations.

Brewing Techniques And Processes

Brewing IPAs is a complex and multi-step process. It all starts with wort preparation, which calls for carefully chosen ingredients – malted barley, hops, yeast, and water – that must be mixed in the appropriate proportions and cooked at a carefully monitored temperature.

Aspects such as mashing time impact the result due to their influence on fermentable sugar yield and mash pH level. Hops are added during different stages (bittering, flavor/aroma additions), which significantly affects bittering balance and hop character in beer.

Different techniques can also enhance these characteristics, such as dry hopping or hop bursting, which involves significant amounts of hops being introduced late into fermentation; in contrast, hopback infusion presents hot wort directly over aromatic pellets post boil resulting in greater levels of new aroma compounds in beer.

How Different Techniques Affect The Taste Of IPAs

The type of brewing techniques used to make an IPA can drastically affect the beer’s flavor and aroma. Traditional IPAs were made with ample hopping throughout fermentation—an example is dry hopping, which entails adding hops late in the process, such as after or during fermentation.

This technique produces a strong hop presence contributing to bitterness and fruity characteristics like citrus. Hop bursting, which adds most of the hops late in the brew cycle right before stopping the boil, has become increasingly popular among craft brewers for its ability to produce intense hop aromas and flavors without too much-added bitterness from alpha acids present in wide varieties of hops.

Meanwhile, hopping stands are made by steeping hops post-boil at specific temperatures; this method allows aromatic oils from resin heads on select strains to be released into your wort without imparting any additional IBUs (International Bitterness Units).

Pairing IPAs With Food And Serving Tips

Thankful to the variety of IPA available, there is something for everyone! Finding the right food that pairs with your favorite beer style has never been easier.

Best Food Pairings For IPAs

IPAs offer a unique blend of bitter and hoppy flavors that can be difficult to pair with food – but when done right, the flavor combinations are unbeatable. Indian curries and Mexican dishes have an aromatic similarity, making them great candidates for pairing with IPAs. Additionally, many salty foods like fried chicken balance out an IPA’s hop bitterness quite nicely.

It is important to remember that hops provide a potent weighting agent in beer, making it much fuller tasting than other styles, which means you will need flavors just as intense to match up properly.

When looking for complementary dish ideas, consider the following:

– Spicy grilled pork or lamb paired with Indian Pale Ale

– Marinated fish tacos seasoned with chipotle peppers matched up with German Hefeweizen or Belgian Witbier

– Savory BBQ shrimp skewers complemented by American Wheat Ales

These combinations allow both sides (food x beer) to take advantage of each other’s characteristics while maintaining harmonious complexity. Plus, try experimenting – an eclectic array of ingredients could surprise us!

Tips For Serving And Drinking IPAs

Serving an IPA is almost as important as brewing; getting the temperature and glassware right can enhance the overall experience.

When doing your IPA, you should aim for a temperature of 45-50 degrees Fahrenheit or 7-10 degrees Celsius, relaxed rather than cold, to bring out all its subtle aromas and flavors.

Glassware selection is also crucial because different shapes can effectuate specific beer aroma and flavor characteristics. For example, tulip glasses capture aromas, while traditional pint glasses channel hoppy bitterness toward the base of your tongue.

Glassware Options For IPAs

When enjoying an India Pale Ale (IPA) beer, glassware can make all the difference. An IPA is a hoppy beer known for its intense bitterness and robust flavors, so having the right glass makes these qualities shine.

There are many different types of glassware explicitly designed for IPAs, such as the Spiegelau IPA Beer Glass or tulip-shaped glasses, which help concentrate the hop aroma and flavor while also containing Carbon dioxide bubbles to maximize head retention.

This allows craft brewers and enthusiasts alike to enjoy IPAs with maximum visual appeal when drinking out of those glasses – something that cannot be achieved with regular pint glasses.

Furthermore, using an appropriately sized glass helps enhance the taste experience by stimulating all your senses – color and aromas come alive in wider bowls, just like wine glasses, and you eat food differently depending on the plate or bowl type served.


Comparing IPA with other beer styles, such as Pale Ale, Stout, and Lager, can help us understand how different brewing techniques affect the taste of IPAs. Further, the future trends and innovations in IPA brewing are worth exploring to find out where this beloved style is heading.

Pale Ale, Stout, And Lager Comparison

Comparing Pale Ales, Stouts, and Lagers can be pretty insightful, as each beer style has unique characteristics and brewing processes. Let’s take a look at the key differences between these three popular types of beer:

Beer StyleIngredientsBrewing Techniques
Pale AleLighter colored maltsTraditional hops (e.g., Cascade, Centennial, Simcoe)Top-fermenting ale yeastMedium temperature fermentation (60-70°F)Shorter fermentation time (7-14 days)Emphasis on hop flavor and aroma
StoutLow-temperature fermentation (45-55°F)Extended fermentation and maturation time (several weeks to months)Emphasis on clean, crisp, and balanced flavorsMedium temperature fermentation (60-70°F)Longer fermentation time (10-21 days)Emphasis on dark, rich, and roasted flavors
LagerLighter colored maltsNoble hops (e.g., Saaz, Tettnanger, Hallertau)Bottom-fermenting lager yeastLow-temperature fermentation (45-55°F)Extended fermentation and maturation time (several weeks to months)Emphasis on clean, crisp, and balanced flavors.

By understanding the differences in ingredients and brewing techniques, you can better appreciate Pale Ales, Stouts, and Lagers’ diverse flavors and characteristics and how they compare to IPAs.

Future Trends And Innovations In IPA Brewing

IPA brewing is an ever-evolving art form with new techniques, hop experimentation, and emerging beer styles. Trackable innovation continues to drive the growth of craft beer, particularly in the IPA family.

Hop experimentation has also been at the forefront of what defines an IPA, ranging from subtle citrus notes to more intense aromatic traits lacking haze and bitterness – known as West Coast style IPAs – while hazy IPAs have risen in popularity due to their mouthfeel without much-perceived malice.

These hops used within beers come from Australia, New Zealand & even North America, providing beer treks with endless opportunities no matter where you are. Refining processes such as using QR codes replacing manual ordering systems and contactless payments streamline orders making customer interactions safer yet far less personal on brewery visits or events.


What is an IPA?

IPA stands for India Pale Ale, a craft beer featuring citrusy, floral, and hoppy flavors with high bitterness levels balanced by the malt content in each sip. This beer was initially brewed to travel lengthy distances due to its higher hop levels, resulting in better preservation capabilities during the journey.

How does an IPA differ from other beer styles?

The key differences between IPAs and other beers lie in hops usage – most notably their signature ‘bitter’ taste & aroma and stronger kick regarding alcohol content (typically ranging at 6% ABV or higher).

These characteristics make them desirable choices amongst ale lovers looking for something more robust than traditional ales/lagers commonly found commercially and enthusiasts curious about exploring different types available at local breweries/bars offering various brews.

What foods pair well with IPA?

IPAs usually have strong fruity undertones that can help bring out similarly-flavored dishes – rich desserts tend do especially well against contrasting bitter notes found within these beers while mildly spicy dishes such as chow mein or tomato-based pastas highlight similar flavor profiles already present without overwhelming guests’ palates altogether; either way this style tends work best alongside heavier meals whose components stand up against powerful bitter characters all around!

Does cold storage affect how an IPA tastes?

Absolutely – anytime temperature changes occur, unopened cans should remain within specific ranges like 40–50°F (4–10°C) so values don’t diminish over time, thus preventing “skunky” aromas from developing when bottles get warm too quickly outside refrigerated environments such proper cellar rotations become important; additionally warmer climates require special considerations else chances molding increase accordingly if anything looks off upon opening make sure dispose of right away since old sour batches, unfortunately, won’t cure themselves anymore…

Conclusion: Why IPA Should Be In Your Beer Repertoire

IPA is a popular craft beer style and one of the most consumed beers in North America. IPAs are known for their strong hop flavor and aroma, high bitterness level and ABV, lighter color than other styles, and unique brewing techniques.

IPA’s have evolved from their traditional English origins, with brewers continually experimenting with ingredients worldwide, creating various sub-styles s worldwide such as Double/Imperial IPAs, Session IPAs, West Coast IPAs & Belgian-style IPAs.

A good IPA should be balanced between hop flavors that linger on the palate yet provide a smooth finish; however, each brewer has their proprietary recipe for making an IPA stand out based on varying preferences for hoppiness levels and types of hops used.

Dan Smullen Beer is my life profile

Hi, I'm Dan, founder of BeerIsMyLife. I've been an avid homebrewer for over ten years, and beer is my true passion. I've traveled all over the world, visiting breweries, tasting beer, as well as making my own batches. I set up this blog to share that experience with you.