If you haven’t noticed, IPAs are incredibly popular in San Diego. You’ve probably heard of them and even ordered one for yourself, but you’re still wondering, what is an IPA? How is it different from other beers? What makes is so special? To answer these questions, we’ll go over some of the history, terminology, and different styles of IPAs. If you know what they are but want to pick up some facts about them to improve your trivia knowledge, check out our previous blog about some fun IPA facts!
Remember, if you tried an IPA and didn’t like it, don’t dismiss IPAs altogether! They come in many different styles and flavors and finding your favorite one is part of the fun.
History of IPAs
The origin of IPAs, or Indian Pale Ales, has been said to come from ships exporting pale ales from London to India as early as the late 1700s. At the time, it was too hot to brew beer in India, but the British sailors in India still wanted a drink. Due to hops acting as a preservative, the brewers were advised to add hops to the beer to preserve it during the long voyage from London to India. Their popularity began to catch on with the British sailors because IPAs were lighter and thirst-quenching. The term “East India Pale Ale” was officially first used about 40 years later.
When looking through the menu, you may see some unfamiliar terms. To help you make more informed beer buying decisions, we’ll go over some of the most common ones.
- Double/Imperial: Double and imperial essentially mean the same thing. They both come with a higher hop concentration. To even out the flavor of the hops, brewers use malts, which increase the ABV. Typically these drinks will be over 7%.
- Session: This means the beer has less alcohol. Typically you’ll find that session IPAs fall below 5% ABV.
- Single-Hopped: Often, brewers use a variety of hops to add different flavors to the beer. When it comes to single-hopped beers, the brewery exclusively uses one type of hop to get its taste.
- Dry-Hopped: This is the process of steeping the hops in fermenting beer, instead of adding them to the boiling liquid. This process is to create a strong aroma without adding any bitterness.
- Fresh-Hopped/Harvest Ales: These only come around once a year, during the peak of harvesting season during late August and September. The hops have to travel from the vine to boil in less than 24 hours. To enjoy the strong flavors, you want to drink them as soon after the brew date as possible.
Different Styles of IPAs
Now that you know some of the terminologies, we’ll go over a couple of the common styles you’ll find.
- West Coast IPA: These IPAs use citrus and tropical fruit flavors to balance the bitterness. There are typically have a clean, crisp body with higher carbonation.
- New England Style IPA: These have extremely low bitterness and are defined by their intense fruity flavors. These hazy and unfiltered beers are becoming extremely popular.
- East Coast IPA: This IPA bridges the gap between the west coast and British IPA. They have strong piny hop flavor that’s balanced out with a sweet malt character.
- British IPA: These IPAs are malty, more bitter, and single-noted. While they aren’t the most popular IPAs, it’s important to understand the style.
- Belgian IPA: This beer has a sweet, bready, warm note that comes from the Belgian yeast.
- Milkshake IPA: Contrary to what you may think, these IPAs do not contain milk. They get their nickname from the sweetness the milk sugar adds to the beer. You may see them with fruit or vanilla flavors added. Their low carbonation also adds to the texture of a fruity milkshake.
When it comes to craft brewing, or Southern California in general, IPAs are by far one of the most popular. There are many different flavors and styles out there that we didn’t have time to mention, so we encourage you to try some new ones! Check out our drink menu to find something you haven’t tried before. We hope that this has armed you with a plethora of knowledge for the next time your friend asks you, “what is an IPA?”
If you have any questions for us, don’t hesitate to give us a call at (619) 295-1355.