The craft beer industry is saturated with hops! The most popular and representative style in American craft beer, the India Pale Ale is something that keeps craft drinkers coming back for more. Most breweries in the US offer at least one year round IPA. There are even breweries so dedicated to the style that they offer a variety of IPAs suited for every beer drinker. It’s important to note that while IPAs are known for their fruity and floral flavor profile as well as their biting bitterness, not all IPAs are like this! IPAs are much more versatile than a lot of beer lovers think! There’s truly an IPA for everyone.

IPAs derive their versatility from the core ingredient used in making them… hops! Hops are the flower that impart flavoring and aroma to an IPA. Because many hop varieties have bittering properties, they are used to balance out malt sweetness in other beers as well. Hops also have microbial and preservative properties which is one of the reasons why the style exists today. In the 1700s, Britain was exporting beer to different parts of the world to accommodate troops, emigrants, and anyone else with ties to the British Empire. A common place that the British exported beer to was India which meant the beer had to travel about six months. This meant the pale ales that were being shipped were at risk of spoiling on the trip or shortly after arriving to India. And beer could not be brewed in India because of the hot climate. A way to combat these issues was to add even more of those naturally preservative hops to their pale ales to ensure they would last the long voyage and stay fresher for longer!

Despite the IPA having “India” in its name, at the time the style was brewed exclusively in Britain. The IPA has since gained recognition in other parts of the world particularly in the United States. The style is always changing but for the most part an IPA can be fit into four major categories: English, American, Imperial, and Session.

Here is what’s brewing in Andi’s Beer Corner this week at Taylor’s.

British/English Style IPA

British/English style IPAs are light and smooth. Hops are of the earthy and floral variety while imparting bitterness. Despite this, they have a balanced character that is perfect for someone who doesn’t like a very hop forward beer. A good example of this style currently in stock: Railhouse Brewery, Aberdeen NC : FCA IPA ABV 7.5% available in 6 pack bottles $10.99

American Style IPA

American style IPAs are much more hop forward with a more pronounced bitterness in the finish. Hops are of the tropical and piney variety. Although not as balanced and easy to drink as an English style IPA, hops are intense leading to really complex and innovative big beer. A good example of this style currently in stock: New Belgium Brewing Company, Fort Collins CO : Citradelic Tangerine IPA ABV 6% available in 6 pack bottles $11.99

Imperial IPA

Imperial IPAs are another variation of the American IPA through their origin and popularity. Taking inspiration from the Russian Imperial Stout, the Imperial IPA is bigger, better, and much more intense that a standard IPA. Malts are higher to balance the high level of hops that are used. Bitterness is very high as well as the ABV. Basally, IPA squared. A good example of this style currently in stock: Destihl Brewery, Normal IL : DeadHead Imperial Red IPA ABV 9.4% available in 500mL bottle $5.99

Session IPA

Session IPAs are 5% or lower in ABV (so you can drink more than one in a single “session”) and have a much more balanced character than a standard American IPA. Hops are still dominant but this style is meant to be easy to drink. A good example of this style currently in stock: Oskar Blues Brewery, Brevard NC : Pinner Session IPA ABV 4.9% available in 6 pack cans $10.99