Happy IPA Day!

As today is IPA Day, we should remember that as wonderful as these hoppy beers are, there’s a lot of mythology surrounding them, much of which is exaggerated or simply untrue. Several British beer historians have been working hard to reveal the truth — and dispel the myths — and have largely shown that the standard story of IPAs is simply not accurate. A good place to start is with my friend Martyn Cornell, and his Five facts you may not have known about India Pale Ale. For even more great information, buy his wonderful book, Amber, Gold & Black. Amazingly, he often gets angry comments and e-mails from Americans who prefer their cherished mythology over learning the truth. And there’s also Pete Brown (author of Hops and Glory) and Ron Pattinson, too, who have taken a good look at IPA’s history.

I’m starting to think we should lose the “India” in IPA and replace it with “Imperial,” although I know some people have a hard time with that modifier, too. But in a sense, an IPA is an imperial version of a pale ale, so it seems like it would work; and it would allow an Imperial Pale Ale to remain an IPA. Furthermore, Double IPAs and Triple IPAs could continue to be called by those names, with a minimum of fuss, although we’d have to ditch Imperial IPA in favor of Double.

To me, the most exciting thing about IPAs these days is that IPA is no longer simply one kind of beer, if indeed it ever was, but instead has fractured into numerous varieties. As I detailed in my latest newspaper column, IPA Day, there is currently American-style IPA, English-style IPA, Imperial/Double IPA, Triple IPA, Black IPA (or Black Ale), White IPA, Rye IPA, Belgian IPA (or Belgo-IPA), Farmhouse IPA, Wild IPA, IPL, Red IPA, herbal IPA, spiced IPA, Session IPA, West Coast IPA, San Diego IPA, Single Hop IPA, and who knows how many others. I’m sure someone is working on a Quad IPA right now. Can a Fruit IPA be far behind? But whatever kind of IPA you hoist today, enjoy the hop flavors in it, secure in the knowledge that there are more different beers being called an IPA than at any other time in history. To me, that’s certainly worth celebrating. Happy IPA Day!



  1. says

    Taking an idiom from the stout spectrum (“imperial” = strong) and applying it to pale ale is also not without its problems. For one thing, the notion of IPA as a stronger version of pale ale has only been around since about the 1980s. It’s not really appropriate to apply it universally when there are IPAs of under 4% ABV brewed since at least the 1930s still out there.

    • says

      Good point, being over here I tend to see IPAs with an average of 5-7.5%. Below that, we often call them something else, like a “Session IPA” or even a “red ale.” It’s admittedly not an elegant solution, but it stills seems better to me overall. I assume, however, that there are also pale ales under 4%, too.

  2. says

    Yup. I guess really my point is that unilateral declarations of beer styles, and the boundaries between them, is not something that has ever worked in the past and there’s no reason to suppose it will now.

    Anyone trying to make the case that IPA and pale ale are two different things is on to a loser. “Bitter”? Same thing as well.

    • says

      Ha, I’m hardly making a “unilateral declaration,” not that anybody would (or should) listen to me even if I did. I was simply wondering aloud, and hoping for a discussion — and frankly, hoping to have a bit of fun with the idea — but I appreciate you letting me know what’s “appropriate” to suggest or even talk about.

  3. beerman49 says

    “fun” it is regarding IPA’s – I like the repartee btwn the Brit & Jay (& I’m one who’s averse to all the micro-descriptors regarding style – to me, brew’s about taste – Tasty low ABV session beers are a good thing!). To me, IPA’s all about the hops – best low ABV IPA I’ve had recently was @ Free Wheel in Redwood City, served from a cask (as all their tasty brews are). Mon nite, my last nite of a wkend San Diego trip, I went to Coronado – they had SEVEN IPA’s on tap, 6 of which I sampled in tasters (I passed on the lowest ABV one – hibiscus ); they were 6.5-7% & quite good; the taste differences to me mostly were in the types & amounts of hops used.

    Side note about Coronado – they had a 3% Mild on tap, which I had a pint of before doing the IPA tasters – excellent session beer, tho hoppier than what you’d likely find across the Pond; I’d liken it to a light version of American Brown – but it’s a beer I could drink a lot of & not have to worry about driving back to my lodging afterward.

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