If you’ve ever had an IPA, you know they can be both strong and bitter. They’re not for everyone. What, exactly, is IPA, and how was it created? Here are the basics.
What Does IPA Stand For?
IPA stands for India Pale Ale. As we’ll see in a moment, India played an important role in the creation of IPA. It’s not the country that invented the brew, though.
How Was IPA Invented?
IPA was allegedly invented by the British during their efforts to colonize India. Again and again, the beer they sent their troops failed to endure the sea voyage all the way around the cape of Africa. Extreme temperatures and prolonged storage without the benefits of refrigeration were less than ideal conditions for transporting beer. As a result, it kept spoiling on the trip. The British had two tools to work with: alcohol and hops. Both of these work as preservatives. According to legend, it was George Hodgson of East London’s Bow Brewery who eventually created the first IPA. It was bitter and highly alcoholic, but it could make the long ocean trip.
Breweries eventually sprung up in more locations. Refrigeration was invented. The original hurdles IPA was created to clear were no longer an issue. IPA has stuck around, however. It has even gathered its own pack of diehard fans.
The IPAs we encounter today are characterized by an abundance of hops. Several varieties of hops may be used at different times throughout the brewing process. Hops affect flavor, aroma, and bitterness. IPAs often smell like citrus, pine, or flowers.
There are three main styles of IPA produced today. They are American-style, English-style, and Double or Imperial. There are also plenty of sub-styles, including Black, Hybrid, Wheat, and Belgian White IPAs. Each style and sub-style has its own characteristics. In addition, many craft breweries have created their own unique twists on the classic. This proliferation means there is plenty of variety in what falls under the IPA label today.
Modern IPAs tend to have ABVs (alcohol by volume) between 5.5 and 7.5 percent. They go well with strongly flavored foods, including salty dishes, spicy curries, and grilled meats. If you’re already an IPA fan, you’ll know what we mean. If you’d like to try an IPA, we encourage you to do so. Find your favorite local brewery and see if they offer an IPA. Just be aware that many who love this style of beer admit it can be an acquired taste!