No single beer style embodies the American craft beer movement like India Pale Ale. For those who love it hoppy, IPAs are where it's at, but the style has become varied enough to provide something for everyone. IPAs are a great next step for beginning homebrewers. They often use new techniques to extract hop flavor, like first-wort hopping, dry-hopping, or making hop tea, and are usually high gravity enough to warrant a yeast starter or higher pitching rate. But the payoff is clear - intense hoppy bouquets and flavor enough to impress most anyone.
Though IPA has a long history in America, it is today most commonly associated with the craft breweries that have made it their bread and butter. American IPA takes the notion of the English IPA’s hop forward flavor and puts it in a different context. American IPAs are often a simple combination of caramel malt and base malt for the grain bill, and have less interesting malt character than their English cousins. With the malt out of the way, however, the hops really shine, and American IPAs are usually hoppier and more intense. Unique American hops such as Cascade and Centennial are usually showcased, providing dominant citrus and pine flavors.
The Double IPA, also known as IIPA, I2PA, DIPA, or Imperial IPA, combines the much-loved India Pale Ale with the American tradition of turning it up to 11. Simply put, a double IPA has more malt, more alcohol, and more hops. Usually over 7% in alcohol, sometimes with more than a pound of hops used per five gallon batch, these beers are intense in every direction. They can present a special challenge to the brewer because of the massive amount of hops, which can clog equipment or soak up large amounts of wort. They also require good yeast starters due to the high starting gravities.
The original India Pale Ale developed as an off-shoot of the Pale Ale style that was often brewed at Burton-on-Trent. The water in this area was particularly high in carbonates, lending itself well to both IPAs and pale ales. Though originally made for export to India, the IPA found a happy drinking audience at home in England, as well as in America and Canada. It had a high level of hops and a slightly higher alcohol than the usual pale ale, but also had high attenuation. English IPAs feature English hops, like East Kent Goldings, and have a different type of hop flavor than many American IPAs. Expect grassy, earthy, or floral hop flavors.
Confusingly referred to as American Black Ale, Black IPA (BIPA), India Black Ale (IBA), or Cascadian Dark Ale (CDA), the Black IPA is a beer has recently gained widespread popularity. Combining the big hop bitterness and flavor of the American IPA with a dark color, increased malt character and subtle roasty notes, the Black IPA strikes a precarious balance. When made well, it exhibits wonderful chocolate and coffee notes from roasted grains as well as citrus and pine from American hops.
Fruity, spicy Belgian yeast and citrusy, aggressive American hops: an unexpected partnership that yields some fascinating new flavors. When American craft brewers aren’t cooking up a blisteringly hoppy IPA, they like to look to the great brewing traditions of Europe for inspiration. With Belgian brewers now paying attention to innovative American craft beers, it seems an inevitable collaboration, but a surprising combination of flavors. Belgian IPAs meld unique Belgian yeast flavors with American-style hoppiness. The result is a substyle that shows a lot of promise.
For an extra-hoppy punch, try out a Double NEIPA.