India Pale Ale‘s are a wonderful thing. The history of the IPA is also riddled with inaccurate stories and myths. The most common myth is that a certain type of ale was meant for export to India. When it arrived the merchants opened the barrel and the beer was spoiled! Oh no! The next time around Mr. So-and-So said, “I have an idea!” and before the barrel left for India from England he filled the remainder of the barrel up with hops. This time after the several weeks journey the beer was still fresh but noticeably “hoppier”.
Here is the actual rather boring history of it, as according to numerous sources:
A certain Bow Brewery made a beer that was well liked by merchants for the East India Company. Either this beer was hoppier than normal beers or if it was developed specifically for the East India Company traders is not known. This beer was given the title or eventually came to be known as a India (style) Pale Ale. Pale Ale’s were already around at the time, this was just a more defined “hop” flavor. Beer had already figured out how to survive a trip on a boat for weeks or months at a time and stories of the hops preserving the still fermenting beer on long trips are just that – stories. While they may help with this process they certainly are not the reason for IPA’s.
However, there has been quite a bit of evolution in the past 150 years or so of the IPA.
English IPA, East Coast IPA, West Coast IPA as well as many blends of IPA’s and Belgian styles, or chocolate IPA, coffee IPA.
Personally, the titles of beer are something to look at with caution if one really wants to ‘truly’ categorize a crazy beer such as a “Belgian style chocolate-toffee India Pale Ale”, but that is a blog for another time.
Your standard English IPA is a variation of the English Pale Ale. It is crisp, dry, and slightly hoppier than malty, however the malt still plays a big part in the taste profile. While I do like a good English IPA I will admit that I am more of a West Coast IPA fan. However, Samuel Smith’s India Pale Ale is a standard English IPA go-to for me if I were shopping for one.
East/West Coast IPA
East Coast IPA are differentiated from West Coast style IPA in that where as West Coast style is HOPS HOPS HOPS, East Coast tends to be a bit less intense in the bitterness category and focuses more on making a well-rounded mix between English Style and West Coast. Many agree that they are hoppier than English but not nearly as much as West Coast. Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA is pretty close to East Coast style. West Coast IPA, like stated above, is hop-heavy. I’ve noticed in recent years a trend for brewers to incorporate citric and even subtle floral flavors, thus giving the all-too-hoppy(and amazing) IPA a bit more flavor.
To put this into a quick easy Beer-notes perspective:
IBU International Bittering Units <— that means how bitter something is.
Imagine your typical American Lager(Bud, etc) has a IBU Rating of 10 out of 100.
Your English IPA might have somewhere between 40-50 depending on the brand.
Your East Coast IPA might be a bit bolder and head up towards 60+
West Coast IPA's tend to float somewhere around 75-85
Obviously, these lines and distinct style are constantly getting blurred nowadays geographically, but generally if a brewer despite his location makes a 90 IBU IPA it will be called a "West Coast Style" IPA.
Onto my Top 6.
I’ve consulted with my IPA friends and come up with a list of what we agreed were the top 6 that are easily available in my location. The Los Angeles area. In no particular order:
1. Bear Republic Racer 5
2. Dogfish Head 90-Minute IPA
3. Sierra Nevada Hoptimum
4. Rogue Brutal IPA
5. Golden Road Heal The Bay IPA
6. Stone Ruination
As any beer lover will tell you and my story is no different: these are always subject to change and constantly revolving. Dogfish Head and Bear Republic have been with me the longest. Rogue is a good solid IPA and I am constantly impressed with what they put out. Heal The Bay is from one of my favorite breweries but also the beer is very smooth and citrus-y. It isnt too overpowering at all. Hoptimum is just crazy hoppy but the floral notes I pick up from it remind me why Sierra Nevada is amazing. And lastly, The Stone. Stone Brewery really means one thing: “Hops”. Stone does everything balls to the wall. Their single mission is hops. Try an Arrogant Bastard. They don’t even try to cover up the hop flavor.
Interested in hearing YOUR Top 6 Beers and any thoughts you have on them. Please, post below!
Thats it for now… next blog article: “Bro, this beer is 15%….”