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What is an IPA?

From The Iron Horse Brewery Blog

What is an IPA?


I am sure most people have now heard or googled and seen the history behind the India Pale Ale and how it came about from shipping beer from England to India. But what constitutes a beer being called an IPA in this day and age? Well, from doing some research if you feel like calling it an IPA well then TADAH it is now a IPA.

The craft beer market has really been driven by the IPA style.  If you look at the data, the flagship beer for most breweries is going to be an IPA.  The sales data shows that consistently IPA is the highest grossing beer style and the other styles aren’t even close. So what does this mean? Well, you have a bunch of unique breweries coming out with what their own version of an IPA is and the style guidelines trying to keep up.

For reference we will use what the BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) has in terms for IBU’s and SRM ( bitterness and color) along with its ABV for classifying something as an IPA.  Looking at all beers across the board there are 9 styles of IPA. You can have a variation of 5-10 percent on the ABV, 40-120 IBU’s (see Tyson’s article on IBU measurement for a good laugh), and a SRM of 5-40.  These overlap an absurd amount of beer styles that you could then label an IPA. Granted they also factor in how it should taste, but let’s be real. In this style there is a Black IPA which is quite ironic when you think about calling an Indian Pale Ale (notice the Pale) a dark beer. Also keep in mind those style guidelines on the BJCP were from 2015, and there have been even more styles of IPA that have come out since then.  New England Hazy IPA is the first that comes to mind.

So as much as I would love to explain what exactly an IPA is, I have no freaking idea. I don’t think anybody can without a doubt say what an IPA is or should be.  “It’s bitter” has always come to mind when thinking of what an IPA is, but that’s just not the case anymore. IPA’s are kind of like tinder in that swipe right if you think it is and swipe left if you don’t.  Just because you swiped left doesn’t mean everyone else will. There will be constant changes, which is in part what makes craft beer great. Give the collective a recipe and watch them screw with it.


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