What's Brewing? What you need to know about IPAs and 4 to try
India Pale Ales have been around for centuries. It all began in the 1700s when brewers discovered that an abundant amount of hops could preserve the pale ale for a long journey when exported from England to India. The word India was added to this Pale Ale's name when the extra bitter flavor from the excess hops became its signature. Although we don't know how much of this lore is true, we do know for certain that IPAs are here to stay. The other thing that's certain is how misunderstood they are. I've heard more people than I can begin to count say they don't like IPAs because, “IPAs are bitter” or “IPAs taste like pine needles.” An IPA's citrusy taste comes entirely from the varieties of hops that are used in the brewing process, not from any kind of citrus juice that's added.
I completely understand any consumer who has concluded that all IPAs are bitter, especially since most of them on the shelves today do taste quite bitter due to their popularity. For a general idea of how bitter or not an IPA might be, look for IBUs on the beer label next time. International Bitterness Units is a scale that is used to determine how bitter a beer is. It's easy to understand. The scale ranges from 1-100 with 100 being the most bitter. Of course, it doesn't apply all the time, but will still provide a general idea for the curious beer enthusiast.
There are many variations of IPAs to choose from. Dry-hopped IPAs have big aromas of fruit or pine and are less bitter. Single-hopped IPAs are brewed with one single type of hop, as opposed to the majority of IPAs, which are brewed with a variety. Reading the word(s) harvest, fresh-hopped or wet-hopped on a label indicates that the brewer used fresh hops that arrived at the brewery within hours of being picked and are often still wet. West Coast IPAs are known for their intense tropical flavors of grapefruit, orange, lemon, lime, mango, cantaloupe and pineapple. All of these flavors are extracted from the hops themselves, not added with fruit juice! The term East Coast IPA refers to a more piney and bitter flavor than anything else, while New England style IPAs are hazy, unfiltered and lacking bitterness.
Before you officially declare a “no IPA zone” in your mouth, know exactly which kind of IPA you're sampling. Remember to look for the IBUs, which are on many labels. Here's to steering our taste buds in the right direction, and a few IPAs I personally enjoy — Cheers!
Mark Brewer is a Tribune-Review contributing writer and the author and illustrator of Brewology, An Illustrated Dictionary for Beer Lovers.
IPA (7.3% ABV). Pours hazy golden yellow with a bright white foam head. Aromas of citrus and pine. Flavors of citrus, tropical fruit, caramel and biscuit. Medium-light body and moderately carbonated. Finishes with a lingering bitterness.
Two Hearted Ale
American IPA (7% ABV). Pours hazy light orange with an eggshell white head. Aromas of pine, grapefruit and hops. Tastes of grapefruit with notes of tropical fruit that are well balanced with the malt. Full bodied, medium carbonated and no lingering bitter aftertaste.
Fury Brewing Co.
New England style IPA (8% ABV). Pours a hazy (fog-like) orange color with a bright white fluffy head. Floral aromas along with citrus, tropical fruit and pine.
Flavors of tropical fruits and sweet malt. Medium body with a creamy mouth-feel. Well balanced and finishes only slightly bitter.
Spring House Brewing Co.
The Astounding She-Monster
IPA brewed with mangos (7% ABV). Pours hazy yellow with a bright white head. Smells of mango, other tropical fruits and light malt. Flavors of mango with notes of pineapple and orange citrus. Light body with medium carbonation. Finishes crisp and slightly dry.