Nick Carr on October 25, 2014 6 Comments History of IPA’s The American India pale ale is a youngin’ in the world of beer styles. This simple reimagining is rooted in a style 200 years old, but its own history spans only 30 years. Its beginnings closely coincide with the modern craft beer revolution that started in the late 70’s and build to the tidal wave of popularity the U.S. is experiencing today. The history of its ancestor, the British IPA, is a tangle of myths better left for its own profile. Suffice to say that it was heavily exported to India (though also enjoyed at home); that is, up until the beginning of the 20th century. A decrease in the importance of India as a foreign market, coupled with new tax laws and brewing restrictions brought on by the onset of World War I stalled production of this strong, highly hopped beer. Jump ahead to the 1970’s when modern craft brewing was just starting to gather its legs. Pioneering American brewers were looking for something to make their own, a style to apply their reemerging ingenuity to. They found the IPA and Americanized it by giving it back its past. Unlike the weaker, less, hopped versions (basically pale ales) that were still available in Britain; the American version harked back to that time when hops and alcohol where piled on to help transported beer arrive in good condition. But the American beers were not made to age. Instead freshness became key. Created with bigger grain bills and loads of hops this reinvention was made to be sipped fresh out of the brewhouse. All the glorious citrus, floral nuance, and fruitful flavor of American hop varieties taking front and center. The beer had a small following at first, but as the public rediscovered craft beer its supporters increased. Now every craft brewer in the US makes an IPA and its ongoing popularity has inspired countries like Great Britain, Canada, and Denmark to brew their own varieties of the style. Style Profile & Characteristics The guidelines for the American IPA beer style are set by the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) Style Committee. The below details are a summary of what an IPA should represent. Quick Characteristics Color Range: 6-14 SRM Original Gravity: 1.056-1.070 OG Final Gravity: 1.008-1.014 FG IBU Range: 40-70 ABV Range: 5.5-7.5% Appearance: Ranges From Burnt Gold to Orange-Tinted Copper Aroma: Intense Citrus, Floral & Fruity Characteristics; Pine or Resin notes Flavor: Hops Will Provide Citrus, Floral, Fruity and/or Piney Flavors; Hop Bitterness Is Likely; Malty Backbone for Balance Mouthfeel: Smooth Medium-Bodied with Moderate-to-Medium Carbonation Suggested Glass: IPA Glass Food Pairings: Salty & Fried Foods, Spicy Foods, Bold & Sweet Desserts The BJCP classifies the American IPA beer style simply as an “IPA” and it can be found in their guidelines as category 21A. Other beer styles in this category include six Specialty IPAs (21B), including Belgian, Black, Brown, Red, Rye and White. Appearance: An American IPA has much the appearance of a pale ale, with a color range from burnt gold to an orange tinted copper. It will be clear unless dry-hopped and unfiltered; something becoming more and more common as brewers try to pull every ounce of flavor they can out of their hops. Head will be white to off-white, retention can be variable (lots of hop oils will reduce head retention somewhat). Aroma: Aroma will run the gambit of what American hops impart. Expect prominent, occasionally very intense citrus, floral, and fruity characters, sometimes bordering on perfume-like. Some pine and resin may also be noted. If dry hopped the IPA may also have an aroma of fresh-cut grass. Low tones of malty sweetness may be discernible but won’t be as prominent as in an English IPA. Fruitiness from esters or hops is common, but it can also have a cleaner fermentation character. Mouthfeel: Body will be less full then in English IPA’s. A smooth medium-bodied mouthfeel is common, with little astringency from hops. Alcohol warming should be noticeable in the higher ABV versions. Carbonation runs moderate to medium and can combine with hop astringency to create a drying impression on the palate. Taste: Medium-high to very high hop bitterness is likely, though the best of these beers will have enough of a malt backbone to provide some balance. Hop flavor will be the citrus, floral, fruity, piney and resinous qualities of American hops, with certain flavors shining more than others depending on hop selection. Malt will be a hidden low to medium presence with a little sweetness and possible caramel or toasty flavors bolstering. No butter-like notes derived from diacetyl should be present, though some low fruity esters and low sulfur (though uncommon) are acceptable. Bitterness will likely linger through the swallow and into the aftertaste but should not be harsh or unpleasant. Finish will be somewhat drying. *Reference: The 2015 BJCP Style Guidelines Award-Winning Examples Of The Style Breakside IPA from Breakside Brewery, OR Great American Beer Festival Winner, Gold, 2014. Keg sales and on tap year around at Breakside. Heyoka from Half Acre Beer Co., IL Great American Beer Festival Winner, Silver, 2014. Available September – March. Cans available throughout much of the North East. Bodhi from Columbus Brewing Co., OH Great American Beer Festival Winner, Bronze, 2014. Available on tap but call first just to be sure. Hop, Drop’n Roll from NoDa Brewing Co., NC World Beer Cup Winner, Gold, 2014. Canned year round. Available in much of North Carolina. Head Hunter from Fat Head’s Brewery, OH World Beer Cup Winner, Gold, 2014 & 2012. Great American Beer Festival Winner, Silver, 2010 and Bronze in 2011. Year Round on tap at Fat Head’s. Citrus Mistress from Hop Valley Brewing Co., OR World Beer Cup Winner, Bronze, 2014. Seasonal. Pallet Jack IPA from Barley Brown’s Brew Pub, OR Great American Beer Festival Winner, Gold, 2013. Available on tap at Barley Brown’s and other places in Oregon. Union Jack from Firestone Walker Brewing Co., CA Great American Beer Festival Winner, Silver, 2013 and World Beer Cup silver medal winner 2008. Available Year Round. Project Dank from La Cumbre Brewing Co., NM Great American Beer Festival Winner, Bronze, 2013 and 2014 National IPA Champion. A changing hop endeavor. Available in much of New Mexico. *Note: There may have been other winners in these years but if the website did not show them available I did not include them. How to Brew An American IPA Recipe If you’re interested in brewing your own American IPA recipe at home, here are a few things you should know going into it. Shop for IPA Ingredient Kits Water: Play with your water. Water should have more calcium than bicarbonate in it, with bicarbonate being below 50 parts per million (ppm). Some sulfate can enhance hop character. pH can turn hop bittering harsh in the finished product, adding a little calcium in the form of gypsum (adds sulfur too) or calcium chloride can help control pH. The Malt Bill: Most American IPAs have some “malty” character, but do not come across as sweet. Keep this in mind when creating a recipe. For the bulk of the grain bill, domestic 2-row is great; a pale ale, or even English pale malt will also work. Crystal malt if used should be kept below 5% of the grain bill and should be at the lower end of the OL spectrum. Munich or Vienna malt is excellent for adding a bit more malt character without getting into roast-like territory. These malts can make up as much as 20% of a recipe. Adding small amounts of amber and/or roast malts will add complexity, but use a light hand. Too much and the beer will taste more like an English IPA. For an extract brew, good quality American light or pale extract will give you a dry finish, letting the characteristics of your hop selections really shine. If looking to brew something a little sweeter an English-style malt extract is the ticket. Want to try your hand at using grains? A partial mash of a 2-4 pounds two-row and a small amount of specialty grain will add nice complexity to your extract brew. Hops: Basically the only rule when it comes to hops is… use American varieties. Beyond that the doors are wide open. Play with different varieties and forms (pellets, whole leaf, plugs); the amount and when additions are added to the boil. If this is your first foray into IPA’s, a good place to begin is the traditional bittering hop at the beginning of the boil and a nice aroma hop near the end. Something like Chinook (bittering) and Cascade (aroma) or use a third hop mid-boil, Centennial, maybe. Whatever your chosen hops, a couple ounces at each addition works well. If you’re looking to up the intensity of flavor and aroma increase the last addition. Three ounces, Four ounces… more? It’s your beer. Play. Experiment. Dry hopping is another common way of getting more hop aroma and flavor. To do this, just add 2 or so ounces to the secondary fermenter. Yeast: Any cleanly fermenting ale yeast will work. If you want to stick with the American feel go with an American yeast strain, such as Wyeast American Ale (1056) or White Labs California Ale (WLP001). Many others are out there. But, even some low ester English yeast strains would fit the bill. Fermentation: A single infusion mash works great for this style and keeps things pretty simple. Temperature will range between 148°F and 152°F for those that want to attain a somewhat dry finish. I prefer the dry because it helps showcase my hop selection. If you want a slightly fuller body, add more specialty grains to the recipe and bring your temperature up to around 154°F. Cheers!