Do You Know Your IPAs?

Light Refreshing Summer Craft Beer in a Pint Glass

IPAs: you either love them or hate them. Enough people seem to love them, though, because they are here to stay. Craft breweries across the nation are embracing the IPA movement and putting out hundreds upon hundreds of different takes on the traditionally bitter ale. What exactly is an IPA, though, and how do IPA styles differ?

The Traditional IPA

IPAs are an extremely popular variety of beer. How did this unique style come to be? The IPA, which is short for India Pale Ale, is actually more than two centuries old. The beer got its start way back in 1793 when beermakers began sending pale ale to India. In order to make sure that the beer survived the tropical climates during transport, brewers began to add in additional hops to act as a preservative. When the beer landed in India it had a particularly fruity and bitter taste, much to the brewer’s delight. As the result, the India Pale Ale was born.

IPA Varieties

Did you know that there are several different varieties of IPAs? In the past two-plus centuries, the IPA has become an incredibly popular style of beer. In recent years, the IPA has gained traction in the United States and become the star at many craft breweries. Since the style is highly-adaptable, craft brewers in San Diego have been able to take creative license and concoct interesting and unique brews.

English IPA

The English IPA is the traditional style of this ale. Since English IPAs tend to be particularly bitter, brewers tend to add in extra malt to make the ale more enjoyable. The end result is a bitter brew with a heavy malt flavor, often lacking substantial complexity.

San Diego’s best traditional IPAs:

  • Pure and Simple IPA (New English Brewing Company)
  • Simple IPA (Stone Brewing Company)

West Coast IPA

When the IPA made its way to California, brewers in the state decided to make the brew their own and put their spin on it. West Coast IPAs traditionally focus on three different styles of hops: citra, cascade, and chinook. The use of crystal malt is unique to West Coast IPAs, and makes for a less-dry beer. As a result, West Coast IPAs tend to be very bitter, fruity, and floral.

San Diego’s best West Coast IPAs:

  • Wipeout IPA (Pizza Port Brewing Company)
  • Sculpin (Ballast Point Brewing Company)
  • Bonobos San Diego Pale Ale (Monkey Paw Brewery)

East Coast IPA

The East Coast IPA is somewhere in the middle between the traditional English IPA and the West Coast IPA. East Coast brews tend to focus on hops that have a piney aroma and flavor. In order to combat the inherent bitterness of the hops, East Coast IPAs do not shy away from the use of malt.

San Diego’s best East Coast IPAs:

  • Attack Frequency (Modern Times)

New England IPA

New England IPAs have become one of the most popular styles in recent years. Beer drinkers are moving toward brews that are less processed and more natural, making the New England IPA a fan favorite. The New England IPA is unfiltered, which not only gives the beer a clouded look, but also allows more of the brew’s earthiness to shine through. This style tends to be one of the least bitter styles of IPA, thanks to hop blends that focus on fruity notes.

San Diego’s best New England IPAs:

  • Surf Zombie (Beach Grease Beer Co.)
  • Windy Hill IPA (Mikkeller Brewing)

Double/Imperial IPA

IPAs are traditionally thought of as having high concentrations of alcohol. Generally speaking, however, IPAs do not have particularly high ABVs. Double IPAs, on the other hand, should be known as the kind of ABV. Double IPAs, which are sometimes known as Imperial IPAs, simply have twice the amount of hops as a traditional IPA. More hops = more alcohol.

San Diego’s best Double IPAs:

  • Tower 10 IPA (Karl Strauss Brewing Company)
  • Black Ghost Double Black IPA (Mikkeller Brewing)

Single Hopped IPA

Some brewers prefer to have their ales highlight the beauty of one specific variety of hop, rather than creating a muddy or complicated brew. Single hopped IPAs are simply beers that rely on one individual hop variant.

San Diego’s best Single Hopped IPA:

  • Single Hop IPA (Stone Brewing)
  • Urbanite IPA (Resident Brewing Company)

Dry Hopped IPA

In the beer-making process, hops are traditionally added in after the wort has been collected and once the malt extract has been added in. The hops join the party when the beer mixture is rolling at a full boil. Dry Hopped IPAs don’t follow this process. Instead, hops are added into the beer while it is fermenting. This helps to bring out the floral and sweet notes of the hops, without adding bitterness to the beer.

San Diego’s best Dry Hopped IPAs:

  • San Diego Double Dry Hopped India Pale Ale (Spotty Dog Brewing)
  • San Diego County Session Ale (Stone/Ballast Point/Kelsey McNair)

Wet Hopped IPA

Wet hopped IPAs only come around once a year, making them a fan-favorite in places like San Diego, where craft beer is king. Wet Hopped IPAs, also known as fresh hopped IPAs, rely on fresh-off-the-vine hops. Hops must make it into a boil within 24 hours of leaving the vine for a beer to be classified as a Wet Hopped IPA. These IPAs tend to have the strongest hop flavors.

Breweries with wet hopped IPAs in San Diego:

  • Nickel Beer, Co.
  • Burning Beard
  • North Park Beer Co.
  • Ballast Point Brewing Co

Black IPA

Black IPAs, which may have gotten their start in San Diego, don’t look like other IPAs. Instead, the beer has a dark, caramel-colored finish that resembles a stout or porter more than a pale ale. The Black IPA, which is also known as the Cascadian Dark Ale, gets its color from the dark roasted grains and malt used to compliment the ale’s bitter hops.  San Diego’s best Black IPAs:

  • The Pen Is Blue Black IPA (Karl Strauss Brewing Company).

The end result is a dark beer with a citrus-forward aroma.

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