IPA Ale – India Pale Ale

India Pale Ale

How did IPA Ale originate, and what is it? IPA was born in England, and India was its midwife, so to speak. In the 17th century, England colonized India and stationed military and other English citizens there. Military men were accustomed to drinking 1 gallon of ale a day and expected the same when stationed abroad.

That was a big problem for British Ale in India. The shipping from England took up to 5 months, subjecting ale to hot and rough weather, plus nasty, heavy rolling seas – conditions that ruined the freshness of any beer of that time. A new beer style, IPA – India Pale Ale – was created, so that it could make the journey unspoiled.

IPA – A deliciously refreshing beer for any season.

 USA Craft Beer Lovers Indebted to UK

Yes, it’s true. We’re in debt. Craft beer lovers owe a debt to England and its colonization of India for giving us the most popular craft beer in the USA – the IPA- India Pale Ale.

How did this debt start? And, uh, how much is the interest rate?”

I’d rate the interest Very High. Every craft beer brewer has at least one IPA – or they should. 😉

IPA Short Story

  • 17th century adventurous England colonized India.
  • Members of the British military drank one gallon of ale every day.
    So – that’s how they got them to enlist!
  • Highly hopped ale did not spoil, and it provided B-vitamins and carbohydrates, too.
An East India Company Merchant Sailing Ship

The Porters, Stouts, Ambers, and Pale Ales of the day did not travel or last well in hot climates. The trip by wooden sailing ships from England to India was up to 5 months long, and it got hot – very hot – and even hotter once they were in India.

Unfortunately, their beer was stale or sour after being pitched and rolled in a ship, and subjected to wide temperature variations for up to 5 months. You’d be stale and sour, too, under those conditions!

“Hop up the stuff”, someone said. “Juice up the alcohol”, said another. And they did.

IPA Characteristics – Short List

  • Intense hop aroma, citrusy, flowery, piney, earthy, spicy, woody, herbal…
  • ABV (Alcohol by Volume):
    • 5.5 to 7.5 for English and American
    • 7.5 to 10 for Imperial
  • IBU (International Bittering Units):
    • 40 – 60 for English
    • American 40 to 70 plus
    • Imperial 70 to a few hundred


IPA color strip
SRM Color Strip represents the colors of IPAs

New Beer Style – India Pale Ale

The three types of IPA:

English – has more malt and less hop aroma or taste in its flavor profile. If you aren’t sure an IPA is for you – this is a good place to start. It has less bitterness.

Examples: Fuller’s IPA, Ridgeway Bad Elf, Summit IPA Ale, Samuel Smith’s India Ale, Goose Island IPA, Brooklyn East IPA

American – is hop-forward in its flavor with an intense aroma of hops. Generally citrusy and has more bitterness than English IPA.

Examples: Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale, Russian River Blind Pig IPA, Stone IPA, Three Floyds Alpha King, Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale, Anderson Valley Hop Ottin’, Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, Sweetwater IPA

Imperial or Double – American on Steroids. You know Americans like to make everything as big and bold as can be – this is it – Bold! Extreme bitterness, intense hop flavor and mega aroma!

Examples: Russian River Pliny the Elder, Avery Maharaja, Bell’s Hop Slam, Stone Ruination IPA, Surly Furious, Rogue I2PA, Stoudt’s Double IPA, Dogfish Head 90-minute IPA

 Let’s Go to the Hops

Lotsa Hops – The Key To A Great IPA!

Lotsa Hops – The Key To A Great IPA!

  • Hops are antimicrobial; in large quantities they prevent bacteria from growing.
  • Hops oils have flavor or aroma that, in large enough quantities, give beer distinct characteristics – floral, citrusy, grassy, earthy, piney…
  • Hops resins release bitterness when boiled, and counter the sweetness of malt sugars.

Say, hey – what about the food? Which foods should I have with my IPA?

Experimentation may be dangerous in a chemistry lab – but not in your home brew pub. Use the guide below for your IPA pairing takeoff.

And What Foods Go Best With IPA?

Pair IPA with spicy peppery hot foods, such as Spicy Mexican, Buffalo wings, Burgers with Pepper Jack cheese, Double Pepperoni pizza, spicy Tai or Chinese, or spicy cheese dip with tortilla chips.

Enjoy IPA with Spicy, Hot Peppery Foods!

by David Ivey

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *