Monday, 3 July 2017

What makes an IPA?

So…. What is an IPA???

I’m going to make an assumption here, you’ve probably had an IPA… you’ve probably had several… in fact, you’ve most likely had quite a few variations of said IPA, but at what point does an IPA stop being an IPA?

Is this an IPA?
There are so many versions of ale or beer that are labelled as an IPA that have such different tastes, textures, aromas that it is becoming increasingly difficult to truly define the style.

Broadly speaking, in craft terms, an IPA can be defined as a pale coloured beer that has a heavy hop profile and a thin-medium mouthfeel. However, within the term there are now other offshoots. In the US there is a clear line between the more traditional, hoppy and resinous West Coast IPA’s and the thick, juicy, hazy East Coast (New England) IPA’s. This extends now into a newer definition, the Milkshake IPA… a beer brewed with an increasing amount of oats and lactose sugar for a thick, fruity, almost sweet taste.

Or is this an IPA?
Back in Blighty, the IPA has traditionally been of a real ale version. Flavour profiles tend to be much more malty, and can be darker in colour than the current trend of IPA’s but these are closer in style to the original Pale Ale’s that were first brewed to cater for the tastes of wealthy land owners and had a higher malt profile.

Unlike the current trends with IPA’s, the original India pale ale was developed as a beer that was brewed explicitly to age during the long voyage to India, where the strong hoppy flavours were in demand. (It was common for brewers to specifically age their pale ales for up to two years before selling, or drinking themselves).

These days of course, freshness is key and most brewers of more modern craft IPA’s (and double/triple IPA’s) would even have a consume by date on the can/bottle and even a few weeks can make all the difference to the flavour profile.

So, with such a variety of styles, flavours and textures all encompassed under the generic IPA label, is it not time perhaps for a little reclassification….. should these new Milkshake IPA’s not be called OPA’s (Oat Pale Ale) or MPA’s (Milk Pale ale, similar to the way we have Milk Stouts)

Should the hopped-up pale ales from the US all be encompassed as APA’s (American Pale Ales)

However they are presented, it is safe to say that the definition of an IPA will be forever as murky as a freshly brewed NE DIPA


  1. Great post buddy... I do find that friends who aren't really into craft ale find the IPAs that I'm drinking to be a little alien to what they're use to!

    1. Yeah, i find the same. I have a lot of real ale friends that just aren't prepared or a big hoppy number or a 'hazy'. It can be hard if i'm out too, looking at a bar with pumps that say 'IPA' could mean anything haha

  2. Great to read your thoughts..We think that NE IPAs being called 'milk shake IPAs' is totally lame. Just our opinion. Oat Pale Ale sounds so much more elegant, no to mention closer to reality!