India pale ale: another craft beer story

Danny Montesdeoca, Production Staff

If there’s one beer that non-craft beer drinkers can easily recognize it’s the IPA.

It seems that every single one of the 5,005 breweries in the US are chugging out so many IPAs that they seem to dominate the market in the craft beer scene, but that’s a misconception. As of 2016, IPAs now represent about a quarter of the craft production, and what a variety we have to chose from.

The IPA originated in England and was made with English malts, hops and yeast. Unlike lagers, IPAs overload on the hops to give it a distinct bitter taste and dry finish.

No one can say that the IPAs being made today are one-dimensional or that they all taste the same. Sure, they share similar flavor profiles, but there’s a wide variety of hops for brewers to choose and that number is growing.

These hops can produce wonderful, aromatic beers that blast your olfactory sense with grapefruit, mangos, pineapple, papaya and other tropical fruits or produce an earthy and piney taste that may seem a bit more bitter.

In fact, these two main flavor profiles are staples of the New England-style IPA and the West Coast IPA, respectively.

New England IPA’s are often referred to as juice bombs, because that’s what you’re getting with your beer. The aromas that this style of IPA bring stand out as much as, if not more than, the taste. These beers can make even the person who hates IPAs warm up to them. My favorite New England-style IPAs that are brewed in Chicago have to be from Hop Butcher, and they aren’t hard to come by. They’ve garnered a cult following in the past couple of years with fans literally hunting down their beers.

From the East Coast to the iconic West Coast style IPA, the IPA that started it all. This style is a lot more hop forward than its East Coast cousin. It has a lot less of those brilliant fruity aromatics, instead it gives off an earthy and piney scent where you can almost taste the bitterness of the beer. West Coast IPAs are for real hopheads who want one thing, and one thing only: their palettes destroyed, because that’s how bitter these beers can be.

And then there’s everything in between. Midwest style IPAs are coming into their own with Chicagoland and Michigan breweries leading the way. “Gone Away” by Half Acre is a nice bitter and citrusy representation of the newborn Midwest style IPA.

IPAs aren’t limited to just regions. As brewers perfected their IPAs they wanted to explore the style and see how far they could push it.

Enter the double or Imperial IPA. The only difference between Imperial and regular IPAs is alcohol content. These behemoths can run as high as eight percent alcohol by volume. Some notable Imperial IPAs that are out right now are “1zenuff” by Revolution. It sits at a heavy 11 percent ABV, so yeah, one’s enough.

IPAs aren’t played out. The variety of hops continues to increase with growers and breeders experimenting and cross-breeding plants to create new flavors and aromas. From here we can only expect for IPAs to get juicier and danker.