What is an IPA Beer?
The IPA beer is as common and well-known as barbecue or Coca-Cola. Any good brewery worth its salt can craft one of these bad boys with their own unique spin on it.
In today’s blog, Lost Signal Brewing covers everything you need to know about IPA beers, including some of the frequently asked questions. Read on and learn more.
What is an IPA Beer — And What Does IPA Mean?
IPA stands for India Pale Ale and it was invented around 1752 when the British needed a beer that wouldn’t go bad during their months-long journeys to and from their colonies in India.
The Briefest History of the IPA
British sailors, when sailing to their colonies, would fill up their barrels of beer with hops, which are a preservative. This gave the beer a very herby, bitter taste — the trademark of a classic IPA.
What Do IPA Beers Taste Like?
Classic, old-school IPA beers are typically very bitter, malty, and very, very hoppy (herby). But many IPAs today have citrus and fruit flavorings, making them sweeter, and far less bitter.
What IPA Flavors Are There?
IPA flavors and styles are diverse — very diverse. An IPA can be customized any which way. Long gone are the old days when British-made IPAs came in one flavor profile: bitter, dry, and herby.
Today, IPA flavors are downright wild.
There’s the trend of adding tropical and fruity flavors to the brews to make distinct and unique combinations.
Lost Signal’s Unique Take on IPA Brews
Lost Signal Brewing offers the Beach Party IPA, which has hints of pineapple and coconut, giving it a bold, sweet and tropical flavor. We also offer an On-Air IPA (a West Coast IPA).
IPA Taste Profile
This pale ale is brewed to be very hoppy. The alpha acids found in the hop plant produce bitterness. The heavy flavor of hops is made to accentuate and overpower the other flavors found in the malts or spices.
Basically, this means that a massive amount of hops are added into many stages of the brewing process (enough to just about kill a man). Hops are used both in the kettle and after it's brewed for added aroma.
What Hops are Used in IPA Beers?
The difference in IPA flavors (or in any beer, for that matter) is due to one thing: HOPS! The type of hops used, as well as when they’re used during the brewing process, greatly determines how an IPA is going to taste.
Some great choices for hops when brewing an IPA include:
Other American hops
Popular Hopping Methods for IPA Beer
Dry Hopped. Steeping hops in fermenting beer, as opposed to adding them while the liquid is boiling. It creates a strong aroma and doesn’t add any bitterness.
Double-Dry Hopped. This is brewery lingo. There’s no real unified definition of what double-dry hopping means. It suggests adding additional hops to the brewing process.
Triple-Dry Hopped. Once more, this is brewer jargon. It’s likely they’re adding a LOT of hops to the brew.
Single-Hopped. Multiple hop varieties are combined as you would multiple spices; it adds flavor. Single hopping is when a beer is brewed with just one variety of hop — that’s it.
Fresh-Hopped. These are also called wet-hopped or harvest ales (they come around once a year). Fresh-hopped IPA means the hops leave the vine, go to the brewery, and are processed in under 24 hours.
The styles of IPA beers are nearly as broad as the flavors. It’s in no small part due to the massive number of hop variants that have been created over the years.
There are about nine distinct IPA styles.
Three styles, in particular, remain widely popular:
1. Hazy IPA
It’s just like it sounds. This IPA has a hazy, cloudy look to it. It’s often packed with more flavor and less bitterness than a normal IPA. The haziness comes from it being unfiltered.
2. Double or Imperial IPA
“Double?” You ask. “So is that, like, double the alcohol or what?” — Nope. This IPA style doubles the hop and malt profile.
3. Session IPA
This IPA has the same hoppy taste but with a lower alcohol volume, like that of a session beer — hence, the "session IPA."
Other Sub-Styles of India Pale Ales
New England Style IPA
It’s effectively the same as a Hazy IPA, Juicy IPA or East Coast IPA. So, for those who don’t like bitterness, this ale is for you. New England Style IPAs are dry-hopped and have low carbonation. Most taste fruity, citrusy, and sweet, and look a bit like fresh-squeezed orange juice.
If you want to kick it old school, the British IPA is a throwback to the early, early days of IPAs. Those were the days when British sailors would travel on long voyages and load up their barrels of beer with hops as a preservative, giving a bitter, malty and one-note taste. Not very popular, as you might imagine. But it’s still delicious.
The distinct flavor of a Belgian IPA comes from the Belgian yeast, which carries a warm, bready, and sweet note to the brew. The flavor, of course, can range drastically from brewer to brewer, sometimes being light and tart, other times having a more mushroomy and umami taste.
Unlike the crisp, clean, and sharp flavors of West Coast IPAs, Oat IPAs are considered “soft.” Brewed using flaked oats or oat milk, its flavor has a laid-back, cozy and lethargic feeling to it.
A Sour IPA is a mix of tart, juicy, and fruity flavors. The body is often light and the taste is balanced by fruity and hoppy flavorings. Not to brag, but your friends at Lost Signal make a mean Under the Tower Sour IPA, flavored with hints of mixed berries, like pomegranate and strawberry.
Many brewers that craft a fruited IPA use fruity flavored hops and add pureed fruit to the beer while it’s brewing (not fruit juice). This creates a more comprehensive and full flavor.
Brett IPAs come from Brettanomyces (a yeast strain that gives a funky and melon-like flavor to the beer). Brettanomyces are showing up in beers more frequently, adding an aroma of musty, ripe, and fruity flavors.
West Coast IPA
West Coast IPAs are still bitter, but it’s balanced out by light, fruity notes, and crisp carbonation. Some of the first to make West Coast IPAs were Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. and Stone Brewing Company.
How is IPA Beer Made?
When making an IPA, the process of dry hopping is heavily used. This is when hops are added to a beer before or after it is brewed to create a stronger flavor.
The malt is steeped in a mash with the base malts and caramel malts. Hops are boiled. Finishing hops are added near the beginning of the brewing process (first 5-10 min.)
Dry hops, however, can be added either during fermentation or post-fermentation. This will determine the flavor. It’s commonly used when brewing Hazy or New England IPAs.
Then the liquid (wort) is transferred to the boil kettle and boiled along with the hops. After boiling is completed, the wort is cooled and transferred to a fermenter where yeast is added.
Color is added by throwing in beer caramel and malt crystals.
Yeasts are added to ferment the beer.
IPAs are best drunk fresh right after brewing. Unlike wine, it cannot be aged in the same manner. The hop compounds are volatile and will dissipate inside of the beer over time.
IPA Beer is Still a Favorite Brew
The IPA beer is a classic that still stands the test of time. The flavor variety of this drink is something to marvel at. Spanning from strong, bitter, and dry, to refreshing, light, and tropical, this is a beer that brings comfort to a wide span of palates and taste buds.
Grab Your Next IPA Beer from Lost Signal Brewing
Consider drinking one of Lost Signal Brewing’s line of seasonal IPA beers. As a small, agile brewing company, we love changing up our recipes and trying new, creative, and tasteful brews year-round.
Contact us for more information or stop by our location in downtown Springfield, just west of the downtown square, and get one of our famous Indian pale ales today.