IPA Beer: A Quick Guide

As the weather warms up, the important question is: Which beer will you drink this spring? We suggest a bold, hoppy, refreshing IPA.

Our quick guide will give you some background on India Pale Ales — the history, the different types of IPA, and the flavour you should expect when you pour yourself a glass.

A brief history of IPA

Back in the 1700s the East India Trading Company began shipping a heavily hopped strong pale from London to British colonists in India. The voyage was long (up to eight months) with big fluctuations in temperature as the boats travelled down around Africa. That pale ale, sitting in giant wooden barrels got an intense conditioning along the way — the result was a a big hit. 

Not only was IPA a more refreshing brew for the hotter climate than the brown ales and porters often exported to the Raj, the heavy dry-hopping helped keep the beer from going off, as hops are naturally antibacterial.

India Pale Ale remained popular until the dual punch of rationing and temperance movements in WWI-era England caused the once mighty IPA to fall in quality and then, out of favour. Fast forward to today and — thanks to craft brewers — IPA is now one of the most-brewed styles of craft beer on the planet.

What does IPA taste like?

In one word: hoppy. Almost every IPA is dry-hopped (adding a second dose of hops to the already-fermented beer). The resulting aromas are big and can range from piney resin, to citrusy tropical, to grassy earthiness. IPAs tend to be dry, bitter and for that reason, very refreshing.

While we would never fault anyone for drinking straight from the bottle or can, using an IPA or tulip glass can support a foamy head and enhance the aromas so you can appreciate every note the hops have to offer.

What are the different types of IPA?

Depending who you ask, there are between three and twelve types of IPAs. Getting to know five of them is a good start.

English IPA
The original IPA is a less bitter ale thanks to the more earthy British hops and yeasts. The English style has a stronger malt flavour.

American IPA
You can divide American style IPAs in two categories: West Coast and East Coast. West Coast is all about big, bold hop flavour and strong bitterness. The malt fades into the background. East Coast style tends to split the difference between a West Coast hop bomb and the milder English IPA.

Imperial IPA
Boozier than the American or English style, the Imperial IPA (or Double IPA) has a stronger hop flavour which balances its stronger malt profile. This is where hops go to shine.

Black IPA
Also called a Cascadian Black Ale, Black IPA is brewed with dark roasted malts, like you’d find in a stout. There’s still a lot of hop aroma and finish which combines intriguingly with the chocolatey coffee flavours.

Session IPA
For those who love the hop profile of IPAs but don’t want quite as much alcohol, the Session IPA is for you. The ABV is usually around 5% so you can enjoy a few different examples and keep your legs under you.

Our five favourite IPAs for spring

Akasha Hopsmith IPA
Hopsmith is a ‘West Coast’ style IPA and all about the hops. Triple dry-hopped, the all American grown hop varieties are allowed to shine with citrus, pine, fruity notes and a nice dry, bitter finish.

Balter IPA
A clean hoppy base offers a relentless, yet refined bitterness complemented by pine and citrus aromatics. Here’s cheers to a big refresher after a hard-won day.

Riverside Seventy Seven IPA
This is a big American style IPA. This beer is a celebration of hops utilising four hop varietals throughout the boil and ferment. Seventy Seven starts bold then finishes clean leaving you wanting more.

Bentspoke Sprocket Summer IPA
Crankshaft’s younger sister; Bentspoke Sprocket Summer IPA is a big and hoppy brew with raw, tropical fruit, sniffs and tastes.

Colonial Brewing IPA
Colonial start with 100 per cent Australian hops picked to deliver a gentle rush of tropical fruit and subtle pine notes. Next, they use Australian-made malt to cut through the bitterness and deliver an instant Aussie classic that’s big, bold and beaut.