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Indian Pale Ale: What You Need To Know

What You Need to Know About Indian Pale Ale

What Is Indian Pale Ale?

Indian Pale Ales are brewed with English hops and it’s flavors are leaning towards earthy, spicy, and woodsy. This type of ale was originally brewed as extra hopped beers that could survive the long sea voyage from England to India. It is more of a hoppy, beer style and it is in the category of the pale ale. Many beer drinkers consider the IPA as both strong and bitter, and it is not for everyone. The strong and bitter taste can be attributed to the abundance of hops throughout the brewing process. This is also the reason why IPA often smells like flowers, pine or citrus. Modern IPA has different styles, which include the East Coast IPA, West Coast IPA, Double IPA, and the American Style IPA. Modern IPA’s have an alcohol content of between 5.5 and 7.5 percent and many craft breweries have made their own twist on this strong, flavored beer. The American version of the IPA has a more pronounced malt flavor using local ingredients.


Contrary to its name, the Indian Pale Ale is not native to India, or the US. IPA was not originally brewed in India because of the tropical climate. This style of beer was first made in England during the 1700’s when the British Empire was colonizing and trading with India. The British troops wanted their beer, but the long voyage from England to India was so grueling that their beers could not survive the trip. The temperature was so extreme and there was no refrigeration at that time, which made it very difficult to transport their beer. The only preservative that the British were using was alcohol and hops.


According to most historians, it was George Hodgson of the East London’s Bow Brewery who actually made the first Indian Pale Ale, which could survive the long voyage to India. The heavily hopped beer, which was called October Ale, was highly bitter and very strong so that it wouldn’t spoil during the six month trip. Gradually, the beer became more refreshing and the color paler to suit the Indian climate.

Why Is Indian Pale Ale So Popular in the US?

IPA has been widely accepted in the U.S.A. and it is considered as a favorite drink in pubs. Even though it can be an acquired taste because of its bitterness and high alcohol content, the majority of the American beer drinkers love to drink the Indian Pale Ale.

The flavor and the bitterness have something to do with its popularity. Americans are fond of bitter tasting drinks and food. Many Americans are beer drinkers, which make them easily accustomed to this style of strong and heavily hopped beer. Also, the beer market is saturated with bland and low alcohol content beers, which make the full flavored IPA stand out.

Drinking a strong and bitter beer such as the Indian Pale Ale provides an image of masculinity and machismo. This is also a probable reason why this beer is so popular among the American, male, beer drinkers. People love to compete with each other and boast about their conquest. They want to explore and push their palates to the limit with a very strong IPA.


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How Is It Made Differently?

The brewing process of the Indian Pale Ale was based from the style of the Pale Ale. When England wanted to send beer to India, they thought of different ways to produce a beer that could survive the trip. One of the methods for producing their original IPA is to heavily hop the beer and produce more acids that act as a natural preservative. Another method is to reduce the amount of soluble sugar of the beer through yeast to create less residual sugars that will not attract microorganisms and prevent the spoiling of the beer.

Another difference of the Indian Pale Ale is its aggressive use of hops. While the original Pale Ale has a slight hop profile, the IPA has a very high hop profile. This increase in hops provides a richer flavor and aroma with a higher percentage of alcohol by volume.

Different Types of IPA’s

East Coast IPA

The East Coast IPA is often characterized by its stronger malt presence, which acts as a balance to the aggressiveness of the hops. Also, the breweries in the East Coast mostly rely on European hops, which are considered to be spicier than those used in the West Coast. East Coast IPA is considered to be more balanced, with a dry and lingering sweetness to the flavor.

West Coast IPA

In the West Coast IPA, the hops are more prominent and the intensity is stronger than the East Coast counterpart. The malt is a bit subdued and the flavor of the hops dominates the beer entirely. The finish of the West Coast IPA is considered to be very dry.

Double IPA

The Double IPA, also called the Imperial IPA is an American style of beer. It is called “double” because this type of beer doubles the usual amount of hops. More malt is also introduced to create balance. The resulting beer has a strong, hoppy flavor with a deeper, malty taste, and a higher alcohol content that is perfect for beer lovers. Its alcohol content is usually 7.5% and above by volume.

American Style IPA

The American Style IPA is considered to be even more aggressively hopped than the English Style. There is still the usual balance of the hops and the malt, but it leans more towards the hops. The typical flavor of the American Style IPA is a bitter grapefruit flavor and resinous pine.


The modern IPAs today have typical alcohol content between 5.5 and 7.5 percent. If you want a stronger and more aggressively hopped IPA, you should try the Double IPA. Usually, their strong flavors go very well with foods that are also strongly flavored such as grilled barbecues, steaks, salty seafood, and spicy curries. IPA is very popular and considered as a heavy favorite among American beer drinks that prompted many breweries to create plenty of IPA varieties. If you want a strongly flavored beer, you should definitely try the Indian Pale Ale.

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