India Pale Ales are everywhere. These hoppy, bitter brews pack a punch despite their light-coloring. It seems a whole slew of IPAs have strong-armed their way onto the market in the past few months and years. Where did they come from, and why?
Full of Flavor
Hoppy and bitter aren’t the only two possible ways to describe an IPA. Originally brewed with a high alcohol content so it would survive long sea trips from India to Britain, the style as we know it today has plenty of variation, as each individual brewer chooses different ways of blending hops to create his or her own IPA recipe. The result is a vast pool of beers that can appeal to a variety of tastes. You never know quite what you’re about to get when you try a new IPA, although you can at least guess what its base characteristics will be.
In general, IPAs are amber or deep gold in color, carry a high alcohol content, and burst with hoppiness. As brewers have experimented with their recipes, things like black IPAs, red IPAs, and even white IPAs have come onto the market to keep beer lovers coming back to taste something new. Whether or not these novel varieties are “real” IPAs has been a subject of debate. The point remains that beer drinkers who love IPAs dig them for their complex, deeply hoppy flavor.
Created by Craft
The reason so much variation is possible among IPAs is their prevalence among craft brewers. As craft beers have gained dominance on the American beer market, brewers have taken to forming their own IPA recipes to both attract new drinkers and distinguish themselves from one another. Having a signature IPA on the menu can be a significant draw for many small breweries. It can also be the mark of creativity, showing that the beer maker is confident to take risks and brew things other than lagers, pilsners, and porters.
From micro- and nano-breweries in town and regional locales to larger brewers like Sierra Nevada and Boston Beer (Samuel Adams), everyone has an IPA recipe to share. Small-scale beer producers can distinguish with bold, one-of-a-kind IPA blends, while large-scale producers can tap into the IPA craze by offering an easy-to-find brew that is consistent and affordable.
Big on buzz
Along with their ubiquity and their variety, IPAs are just plain popular. Name recognition contributes in large part to their continuing success. IPAs took hold of the beer market in 2012. Since then, more and more brews have left the microbrewery floors and gone into bottle and can production, hitting store shelves across the country. In 2014, for example, session IPA sales had risen by 450 percent over sales in 2013. And over the course of 2014, IPA sales rose by 50 percent across the country. Even if a person doesn’t like IPAs him or herself, there’s a high likelihood that he or she has at least tried one–there is usually a minimum of one IPA on every beer list, and some restaurants and breweries specialize in them.
While many IPA fanatics insist that the enjoyment of IPAs is similar to the enjoyment of wine or coffee–that it’s an acquired taste–the beer is certainly something that anyone can try. At Noble Hops, for example, you’ll find at least 10 rotating types of IPA on tap or in bottles. Maybe you’ll find your favorite–you’ll just have to come in and give them a try.