The past couple of decades has not only seen the resurrection of the India Pale Ale but it has experienced a surge in popularity that has never been witnessed in the beer world before; to the point that it is now completely dominating the craft beer scene. There are now countless types of IPA beers on the market, so much so that it is becoming increasingly difficult to be able to keep track of them all and know what their differences are.
IPAs now range from having earthy and grassy flavors to pine cone and grapefruit flavors to tropical fruit flavors to milkshake flavors, and everything in between and more.
In this post, we are going to attempt to explain to you exactly what an IPA beer is, as well as reviewing and describing the characteristics of all of the different types of IPAs that are available to you…
Table of Contents
- What is an IPA Beer?
- Types of IPA
- 1. English IPA
- 2. American IPA
- 3. West Coast IPA
- 4. East Coast IPA
- 5. New England IPA
- 6. Double IPA
- 7. Triple IPA
- 8. Hazy IPA
- 9. Juicy IPA
- 10. Fruited IPA
- 11. Grapefruit IPA
- 12. White IPA
- 13. Black IPA
- 14. Brown IPA
- 15. Red IPA
- 16. Session IPA
- 17. Non-Alcoholic IPA
- 18. Belgian IPA
- 19. Milkshake IPA
- 20. Rye IPA
- 21. Sour IPA
- 22. Coffee IPA
- 23. Oat IPA
- 24. Brett IPA
What is an IPA Beer?
By its definition, it is a Pale Ale, with IPA standing for India Pale Ale. It is a beer that has a vast history with its origins being rooted in the British colonization of India. At the time beer was not being made in India and as a result, it had to be transported from England, the voyage was a long ocean passage, and in order to prevent the beer from spoiling they increased the ABV (alcohol percentage) and also added more hops. Hops act as a preservative due to their antibiotic properties, which aids in preventing contamination and increases the beer’s shelf life significantly.
The hot climate in India resulted in the expats wanting to drink a lighter beer as compared to the darker beers such as milds, bitters, and stouts they were used to drinking back home and hence why the lighter pale ale became the backbone for the beer that was shipped to them.
You could say that an IPA is an over-hopped higher ABV pale ale and you would not be far from the truth. They are typically recognized as being a refreshing beverage with a bitter or fruit taste and a very high hop flavor and aroma profile.
Pinning down the exact flavor and aroma profile of an IPA is an impossible task due to the numerous types of IPA now on the market, there is such a variety in taste, aroma and look to this style of beer from the simple fact that there are literally hundreds of hop varieties available to the craft brewer to be able to experiment at will with and as you can see from the following list, they have indeed done so…
Types of IPA
The following is as conclusive of a list of the different types of IPAs as we could come up with. Our goal with this post is to always be adding to the list as new types emerge. Feel free to reach out to us if you feel we are missing any or if you come across the next style before we do. One thing is for sure we have no doubt that this list will continue to grow…
1. English IPA
The first up is the beer that started it all, the grandfather of the modern-day IPA. The English version is golden in color which is very typical of the English Pale Ale. It is brewed with British hop varieties such as east kent goldings and fuggles, which impart earth and grass-like characteristics as well as very light citrus but nowhere near like their American cousins. Like most English ales due to the grains used when brewing it, they have a slight bready and biscuit malt taste as well.
2. American IPA
Although there are many versions of an American IPA, we are referring to the traditional one or the first version brewed in America. It first came to be as an American take on the English style. I would not go so far as to say the American brewers attempted to put their own unique spin on it, but rather they used the ingredients that were more readily available in that part of the world. The American grains and hops used created a lighter-tasting beer with more citrusy and fruity characteristics.
3. West Coast IPA
This version is actually most in line with the British version as it does have more of a malty backbone and is not as dry as many of the other American versions, this is due to the use of crystal malt in the brewing process. It was first brewed in California in the 1980s and uses many of the C variety hops, such as Cascade, Citra, Centennial, and Chinook. It is a significantly bitter beer and is a favorite of hop lovers around the world due to its piney, citrus, and earthy characteristics. For a full description and recipe of this style of beer, you might like this post: West Coast IPA recipe.
4. East Coast IPA
Where the West Coast has the majority of the hops added during the start of the boil in order to create its bitterness, the East Coast has the majority of its hops added later in the brewing process, which results in a less bitter beer, with more fruity, juicy and tropical characteristics. East Coasts tend to have a much more even balance between the sweetness from the malts and the bitterness from the hops. They strive to develop complex flavors from their malt and are closely related to English ales in that regard. The East Coast IPA is the direct forefather of the NEIPA.
5. New England IPA
A NEIPA is a newer style of American IPA. It is heavily dry-hopped which results in a powerful tropical fruit-like aroma and flavor. The heavy dry hopping along with being an unfiltered beer produces the cloudy and hazy appearance that this beer is known for. It is a full-bodied beer that’s mouthfeel is smooth almost to the point of creamy. Its perceived bitterness is significantly less than its counterparts to the west. It is without a doubt the hottest style of beer on the market at the moment.
6. Double IPA
A double IPA or DIPA and sometimes referred to as an Imperial IPA is in short a cranked up west coast or traditional American IPA. More malts which result in higher alcohol and more hops are added to balance the malt sweetness or vice versa depending on how you are looking at it. The origin story of this beer is that apparently the brewer was making a west coast IPA but mistakenly added way too many grains, but instead of disposing of the batch, he added more hops to try and balance it out. The result was the first-ever Double IPA. If you like a very strong and bitter West Coast you will like a DIPA. You can read more about this popular beer style here: What is a Double IPA?
7. Triple IPA
A Triple IPA or TIPA is simply one stepfather then the Double. They really could be simply considered extreme doubles. The concept for brewing them is the same. They crank up the grain bill in order to get the beers up to the 10 – 13% range and then they try to balance the heavy ABV and malt sweetness out with a ton of hops. A true Triple has at least 100+ IBU.
8. Hazy IPA
A Hazy IPA stands out from most of the other beers we have looked at due to its cloudy appearance and hence where it gets its name from. But that is not the only area it differs; one of its popular features is its distinctly thick but extremely satisfying mouthfeel which could be described as being very soft and almost pillow-like. It has a low perceived bitterness, which is accentuated by another of its much-loved qualities of having a very tropical orange juice-like taste.
9. Juicy IPA
A Juicy IPA is all about the hops that are used to brew it, they are predominantly fruit-forward hops such as Galaxy, Mosaic, and Citra. Some people believe that a Juicy IPA and a Hazy are one and the same, this is false. Although most Hazy IPAs could be considered Juicy, not all Juicy are considered Hazy because in fact many of them are crystal clear in appearance. The term Juicy means that the aroma and taste of the beer have qualities that remind you of tropical fruit, and typically of a citrus nature.
10. Fruited IPA
A fruited IPA is exactly as it sounds. It is an India Pale ale that fruit was added to it in order to match and intensify the fruit flavor that many of the hops used in the brewing process actually provide. In most cases, the fruit addition is in the form of a puree as purees tend to impart more of the natural fruit flavors versus using fruit juice which gives the beer more of a juice-like taste.
11. Grapefruit IPA
A grapefruit IPA is the most popular version of the Fruited IPA and is why it gets a category to itself in our books. It is a seasonal beer that has become more and more popular every year. Many hops are known for bringing out grapefruit-like flavors and by adding actual grapefruit directly into the beer with these hops you are intensifying the grapefruit flavor and creating a highly refreshing beverage in the process. The acidity from the grapefruit amplifies the bitterness of this beer while maintaining a clean dry taste that creates a unique beer drinking experience.
12. White IPA
This concoction not only resembles but is actually a mashup of an IPA with a witbier. This combination results in a beer that can range in color from light yellow to even a deeper gold. It is typically a hazy beer due to the wheat used in the recipe. It is somewhat hoppy but not overly bitter with IBU’s that come in between 40 – 70. It is a crisp tasting beer and you will catch spice notes in some versions. The ABV ranges from 5.5 – 7%.
13. Black IPA
The beer that has caused more controversy than arguably any other. The first time I tried this beer I actually recorded it on this video. I basically said it was a hopped-up stout, some people did not like that comparison, but like it or not that is what it is. Hard to call it a pale ale when it is the polar opposite in color of pale. It is brewed basically to look like a stout or a porter so you use the same grains which creates a hint of roastiness, the difference is in the hops used when brewing it which make it smell like a west coast. The easy way to describe it would be a stout/IPA cross. Although rare, it is sometimes referred to as a Cascadian dark ale due to the heavy use of Cascade hops.
14. Brown IPA
Like the Black IPA, this is also simply a mashup of an American IPA and a Brown Ale. It is of course a hop-forward beer, with strong hop flavor, aroma, and bitterness that is then merged together with the malty flavors of what you would expect from a Brown Ale. It is a bit more of a challenging beer to brew than most as it is not easy to strike the balance between overly bitter and overly sweet. It is required to have some of the malt characteristics but can not enter into the territory of being overly malt forward.
15. Red IPA
Following in the same footsteps as the two previous examples you can probably guess what a Red IPA is? Yes, it is basically a cross between an Amber Ale and an IPA, although the recipe is much closer to an American IPA than an Amber Ale. If you simply lower the caramel malts a shade or two and put a little less in it is back to being 100% an American IPA. This beer is hoppy and bitter as you would expect it to be but it has slight caramel and toffee flavors from the additional grains used. It is a dry-finishing beer that is highly drinkable.
16. Session IPA
Session beers have their origins in English Milds. Milds were originally brewed when workers in the factories were allowed to have a few beers on the job. They were light in alcohol so that they could have a few, not get intoxicated and still perform on the job. The term session came to mean that you could have a few in one session without feeling too much of the effects. IPA’s have borrowed this term and created a milder version that comes in less than 5% ABV. They are lighter in body than the typical IPA but still have a big hop flavor and aroma. For more on what makes a session beer check out this post: What is a session beer?
17. Non-Alcoholic IPA
More and more people are shifting to non-alcoholic beers. These beers typically have a small amount of alcohol up to 0.05% in them. The beers are typically brewed in the normal fashion and then have the alcohol removed from them in various manners, in most cases it is boiled off. It used to be difficult to make great-tasting non-alcoholic beers, but due to the heavy use of hops IPA’s are a style of beer that is better suited for this style of beer and taste quite decent. There are some very good-tasting non-alcoholic beers on the market these days. If you want to learn more about how they brew non-alcoholic beers check out this post: How non-alcoholic beers are made.
18. Belgian IPA
What distinguishes this beer from the others we have looked at in this post is the yeast strain that is used is Belgian, which provides for the clover-like flavors you expect to find in most Belgian beers. It has a very high ABV with some reaching as high as 11%. The IBUs are typically in the range of 35 – 60. This beer typically has a cloudy appearance with a nice dry finish.
19. Milkshake IPA
A direct spin-off of the NEIPA, this beer is loaded with fruit-forward hops, lactose, and fruit. If you love a hoppy, fruit-flavored creamy beer this is your new go-to beer. Be warned however in order to get the creamy milkshake characteristics lactose is used in the brewing process, so if you have an intolerance stay clear. This beer has a cloudy appearance, with a thick but smooth mouthfeel and flavors typically lean toward vanilla or pineapple.
20. Rye IPA
Defined by the use of Rye in the brewing process this brew is enjoyed by a select few. It has a unique flavor in and of itself that could be described as being spicy or even tangy. Its color is typically golden with hints of red with a white head. It is usually a clear-looking beer unless it is heavily dry-hopped and nonfiltered. Its aroma will be hop-heavy, however, hints of maltiness with spice and peppers will be present. Taste-wise it will be smooth, but you can expect to experience a slight alcohol warming sensation. A spice and pepper taste imparted from the rye should be present, the hops will provide a high bitterness and the finish will be very dry.
21. Sour IPA
Although not quite as popular as IPAs, Sour Beers have rocketed onto the craft beer scene and have been projected to be the next big thing. So why not take the best of two worlds and combine them? Well, that is what some innovative brewers have done. They have combined the tartness of a sour beer with the softness of fruity highly hopped hazy IPA. When deciding if this is a beer for you, think NEIPA with added tartness. For more on how sour beers are brewed read this post: How sour beers are made.
22. Coffee IPA
Like many of the types of beers listed here the name gives it away. This one is no exception. Coffee and Beer actually go very well together, although typically reserved for stouts or porters in recent years brewers have been exploring the possibilities of adding coffee to lighter styles such as India pale ales. The resulting brews have been surprisingly delicious. It turns out that coffee and hops have much in common when it comes to flavor, they both have fruity complex aromas which when brewed together properly allow for many layers of flavors that create a one-of-a-kind taste experience.
23. Oat IPA
An Oat IPA has a high fruit flavor and aroma profile. It is typically a hazy or cloudy-looking beer due to the oats used in the brewing process, the oats also provide for a mouthfeel that is soft, creamy, and smooth like. It is not quite as bitter as most other IPAs, more in line with a NEIPA in that large amounts of hops are used later in the brewing process, providing for a higher hop aroma and juicy profile.
24. Brett IPA
Although Brett IPAs appear to be a new beer just emerging onto the scene, the fact is that it may indeed be one of the first India Pale Ales ever consumed. This is because when the British were shipping their beer to India they stored them in wooden barrels. There is a very real chance that those barrels allowed for a wild yeast called Brettanomyces to inoculate the beer creating funky almost melon-like tastes. Brewers nowadays are replicating this by adding the Brettanomyces yeast directly into their IPAs, resulting in a beverage that has ripe fruit flavors.
There you have it my friend a complete list of all of the different types of IPA. If I am missing one or if any new ones come around feel free to let me know and I will add it to the list.
Let us know in the comment section what your favorite style of India Pale Ale is?
Cheers, Big Robb is Out!
P.S. If you are into brewing your own beer be sure to take advantage of my limited-time offer to get your hands on the recipes to my top 5 best-selling beers from my brewpub. Sign up is on the side of the blog or at the bottom if you are on a smart device. Enjoy!