What’s Brewing? An IPA primer on the summer’s finest
In Part 1 of 2, let’s take a look at some of the various types of IPAs you don’t want to miss this summer.
Whether an IPA (India Pale Ale) is super hopped, unfiltered or spiked with fruit juice to create a shandy, they are here to stay.
Using hops as a natural preservative, IPAs were first discovered by the English after over-hopping their exported ales to India.
The questions I hear consumers asking is how does one distinguish the differences among IPAs? What exactly is the difference between a West Coast and a New England IPA?
Some IPAs are hazier than others and not all IPAs are bitter. To make things even more complex, it can be a challenge trying to lock down an exact style on a specific beer because many brewers like to bend the rules by combining styles and ingredients in order to create their own unique concoctions, which in turn keeps us coming back.
The bottom line is that if it tastes good, it doesn’t matter whether it fits into an official style or not.
This is the original IPA which all other India Pale Ales have followed. It is an official beer style as recognized by the Brewers Association. These filtered medium-bodied beers are gold to copper in color. They are brewed exclusively with British hops, have a light citrus character and are typically dry. The hop aroma and flavors are usually expressed as herbal, grassy and earthy.
To try: Great Lakes Brewing Co. (Cleveland) Commodore Perry (7.7% ABV) is named after the man who defeated His Majesty’s Royal Navy in the War of 1812. Bold and well-hopped with an arsenal of caramel malt flavors.
This beer is light straw yellow to copper in color and is recognized as an official style by the Brewers Association. Session India Pale Ales have a low malt presence with a medium to high bitterness. They are light-bodied beers with light flavors to match. The word “session” is used to refer to any beer produced with low alcohol content (under 5% ABV). “Session” is originally a British term to describe a beer low in alcohol so greater quantities by one person in one period of time (session) can be consumed without the concerns of becoming inebriated.
To try: 412 Brewing Co. (McKees Rocks) Hazelicious (5% ABV) pours hazy. Aromas of citrus, floral and cereal grains with flavor notes of lemongrass, grapefruit and citrus. Medium body with light carbonation.
“Imperial” or “double” anything having to do with beer simply means more alcohol. These IPAs are higher in alcohol due to the abundant amount of malt that’s used for the sugar to reach a higher ABV (alcohol by volume). The darker yellow to amber color comes from all that grain. Many have fresh citrus and fruity aroma and flavor characteristics. Typically they are medium to heavy bodied beers and pack a bitterness but shouldn’t be harsh tasting. Imperials or doubles are referred to as “big” beers for the real hopheads. If you already enjoy IPAs, you might want to try one of these. It’s almost double everything you already like.
To try: Dancing Gnome (Pittsburgh) Beyond Infinity (8.2% ABV) is hopped aggressively with Galaxy, Citra, Denali, Mosaic and Simcoe hops. This beer pushes aroma and flavor to a new level. The dank tropical explosion will tear through your olfactory nerve, while tangerine, peach, mango, pineapple and winter wreaths dance across your palate.
There is no milk in a “Milkshake IPA;” however, there is lactose, which is the sugar extracted from milk. This sugar does not ferment and turn into alcohol like other sugars which means that if a brewer adds this to the beer, you’ll taste that sweetness. Add a little more and the lactose will start to provide a smooth taste and give body to the beer. If it’s only lightly carbonated and fruit is added to the concoction you have something reminiscent of a milkshake. But remember, there’s no milk in this “shake.”
To try: Leaning Cask Brewing Co. (Springdale) Submissive Grin (7.3% ABV) is a hazy looking brew with Key lime. It’s bold, tart and made with Madagascar vanilla beans.
Mark Brewer is a Tribune-Review contributing writer. He’s the author and illustrator of “Brewology, An Illustrated Dictionary for Beer Lovers.”