Big Beer 101 – The Many Faces of IPA

If you’ve been to a bar, bottle shop, supermarket, or even if you just drink beer, you’ll know the term IPA. Short for India Pale Ale, the term first popped up as early as 1829 but strangely, despite this, it’s only been in the last couple decades that the style has cemented its presence behind bars around the world.

In its original iteration, IPAs were formulated in the UK to survive long export journeys by sea to India in the 1800s. These early versions were heavily hopped and strong, but they died out in the UK after the First World War when brewers responded to high taxes on ingredients by producing a weaker, lower ABV version of IPA. This style persisted and is still available in some bars today, however what we know as the modern incarnation of IPA came to be in the 70s across the Atlantic in America. The craft brewing revival over there saw US brewers recreate older styles of beer and IPA was among them. Higher ABV with more creative and heavier hop usage, it was brewed closer to 7% and slowly grew in popularity until breweries back in the UK started making their own versions.

Nowadays, in the true spirit of craft brewing, people have experimented and now IPA isn’t so much a style in itself as it is a category header for a huge range of styles. Red, white, black, Belgian, American, English, Double, Imperial, session, East Coast, West Coast…Almost every brewery makes their own version of an IPA, so you’re not exactly stuck for choice in exploring the style for yourself.
We love a good IPA here at Tempest so with the help of our fantastic brewer, Doug Rowe, we’re going to give you a whirlwind tour through four of the styles we’ve brewed recently.

American IPA

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Valhalla’s Goat

As everyone always says, everything’s bigger in America and their IPA is no different. Every craft brewery in the US will have their own take on a proper “go big or go home” American IPA that’s big on hop flavour, big on dry hopping, and big on alcohol. The popularity of this style is almost unparalleled in the craft beer scene.

Doug:
This style is, of course, all about lots and lots of hops. High quality ingredients count for a lot here and the best IPAs will have the best quality hops. I think of resinous, citrus, and pine being essential characteristics for a good American IPA. On top of that you can add more hop complexity with tropical and berry notes. Chinook, Centennial, Citra, Coloumbus…lots of ‘C’ hops!
Don’t forget a decent malt back bone as well. This adds complexity to the beer and a little sweetness to balance the hop intensity and bitterness. There needs to be a decent bitterness to it, but not over the top as it will throw the whole thing out of balance. We use a fairly neutral yeast strain that is a good attenuator – this is very important as too much residual sweetness will make the beer much less drinkable.

Beers
Of course, our Brave New World is a classic of the style in our minds. As always we make local Scottish malted barley the backbone of this big beer, with lots of dry hopping using…well all the ‘C’ hops that Doug mentioned! Tropical and pine notes are big in this beer, but with a balanced bitterness and good carbonation.

But, we obviously don’t just drink our own beer. Another example of this style we like is Buxton’s Axe Edge.

Double/Imperial IPA

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Hippo Beers

Take an American IPA, put it on steroids, and you get an Imperial or Double IPA. This style was areaction to craft beer drinkers in the US who decided that they wanted something bigger and with more hops, and the brewers responded by creating this mammoth of a style.
Characteristically, you’ll need to prepare yourself for some truly intense, big hop bitterness and flavours. Like an American IPA, that intensity will be supported by a really solid malt base in the background, with the alcohol flavour being smooth and clean. Smooth, medium bodied, and bold, this is truly a style for hop aficionados.

Doug:
Much like an American IPA, but everything gets taken up a gear. Double dry hopping will deliver a massive nose which is essential for this type of beer. And something that doesn’t get spoken about a lot, fermentation is so important! Sometimes we’ll try someone elses DIPA and say, okay the hops aren’t phenomenal but it’s very well fermented. It’s not easy to have your yeast eat through all that sugar so getting it to attenuate to a level that makes the beer drinkable and balanced is crucial!

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Good Spirits Co

Beers

A couple of examples spring to mind when we think about this style.
With tangy, spicy, bittersweet notes, Marmalade on Rye is a bold Double IPA brewed with fresh oranges and big hops including Waimea and Amarillo. The malted barley backbone is amped up with the addition of spicy Rye and toasty Vienna to really elevate those big tangelo citrus and pine hop notes.
Longer White Cloud won’t be available till the latter half of 2016, but if you were lucky enough to grab a bottle last time you’ll know that this New Zealand hop showcase was a surprisingly refreshing and light bodied take on the style, with a white wine like flavour and soft fruit, honeyed melon notes.


 

 

Black IPA

One of the more edgy incarnations of the IPA style family, Black IPA’s popularity has really taken off in the last few years. For the uninitiated, Black IPA is an almost hybrid style of beer combining the classic hop fueled characteristics of an IPA with a blend of darker malts giving the beer a new flavour profile.

It’s a tricky one to get right and is all about itdwl - smallerbalance. That’s something we say a lot, but it’s got particular importance in this style as without it, you’re going to end up with what is essentially an overly hoppy porter. For us, we always repeat “Porter in appearance, IPA in attitude” or in other words, you want those roasty, dark qualities from the malt blend but with a carefully chosen, complementary assertive hop character.

Doug:
There are different ways to do a Black IPA. Some people like make it very light bodied like a pale, we go thicker with a huge dry hop to make it a beast!

Balance of flavours is important too; I don’t believe that any old big American hop will work in it so it’s about finding the right hops to compliment what is a fairly complex malt bill.

Beers:
In The Dark We Live is our ideal Black IPA; roasty, dark, slightly nutty flavours from the blend of 7 different malts pair up with pine, blackberry and spicy notes from the hops.

Doug also recommended Thornbridge Brewery’s Wild Raven, using a blend of five malts and six hop varieties to give dark chocolate and roasted fruit flavour with hints of citrus and coffee.

Belgian IPA

Another new kid on the block in the IPA category, Belgian IPA is the result of brewing an IPA using a Belgian yeast strain. Belgian strains are typically known for having earthy, peppery and at times clove like notes which puts an interesting spin on the typical IPA flavour profile. This, like Black IPA, is a bit of a hybrid beer taking some of the best and most complementary characteristics of IPA and combining that with yeast strains that have been used in traditional Belgian brewing for hundreds of years. It’s an excellent fusion of tradition meets modern-day and due to it being such a recent addition to the IPA roster, it’s still being played around with in a hugely creative way by breweries around the world.

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DogHouse Merchant City

Doug:
It’s a bit of a made up style which is nice because people can muck about with lots of different yeast strains etc.
We used a Saison strain, fermented warm for lots of nice fruity/ juicy esters. Again like Black IPA, finding a good hop to match what you already have going on is important. We went heavy with Mosaic because it’s got great berry, soft fruit character as well as tropical notes which I think works better than say an intensely citrusy or piney hop. We finished it really dry as well which I think works great for the style.

Beers:
Last year, we brewed Harvest IPA and as Doug already mentioned, we single hopped it with Mosaic to really accentuate and complement that classically earthy, slightly tart quality that the Saison yeast lends to the beer. The result is a refreshing yet dry beer with plenty upfront citrus and notes of spice. The addition of oats and wheat give it a nice, rich mouthfeel with a good medium level of carbonation to tie it all together.
As it’s still a fairly new style, recommending other Belgian IPAs becomes a bit harder, however Doug recommended some of Six Degrees North’s hopped up Belgian beers for their well balanced and well attenuated character.

 

Craft brewing is coming up with new ways to brew beer every day; from adding new and strange ingredients, to fusing styles and experimenting with techniques. This is what’s paved the way for all these styles of IPA to come to the fore, and what we’ve spoken about are only four of many, many others. It’s great not just from the perspective of brewing and allowing us to explore new ways to make beer, but it’s also great for all the beer drinkers out there being able to explore with us.
Go out and pick up a new style of IPA you’ve never tried before, and report back to us!

Many thanks to our Glasgow friends BrewDog Glasgow, Drygate, DogHouse, Good Spirits Co, and Hippo Beers for letting us stick our camera in their doors.

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