Beer Fact Friday: IPA Sub-styles

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Four Peaks Hop Knot Xerocole IPA

Though the most popular craft beer style in the U.S., India Pale Ale is not a monolith. These days, the letters IPA on a beer label only tell a small part of the story. The IPA family tree is tall, with branches stretching out and bifurcating ever further. Here, an overview of a few of the most common IPA substyles:

WEST COAST IPA: West Coast IPAs originated on the West Coast (duh) and are characterized by intense hop flavor and aroma; bold (some might even say “aggressive”) bitterness; and a bright, crystal-clear appearance. Hop Knot is an example of this style of IPA.

ENGLISH IPA: The brits invented IPA, and just as our cultures have diverged over the centuries, so has IPA. The hops used in these beers tend to be woody or floral, while the malt flavor is usually much more pronounced than in West Coast IPA, with increased bready, toasty, or caramelly malt flavors. The level of bitterness in English IPA is also generally lower than that of other substyles, and is in balance with flavorful malts. Raj IPA is our take on this classic.

NEW ENGLAND IPA: The new, popular kid on the block. New England-style IPA—NEIPA for short—originated in the Northeast region of the U.S. and is characterized by a hazy appearance, which is why these beers are also sometimes just called “Hazy IPAs.” The haze is brought on by a few different factors:

  • Non-flocculent yeast strains—that is, yeast strains that are less likely to settle at the bottom of the beer when finished fermenting. These strains also tend to contribute intense fruity aromas to the beer, such as apple, apricot, or peach.
  • The addition of wheat, oats, and other non-barley grains. In addition to providing rich flavor, it’s thought that the particles from these grains provide additional “grappling points” onto which hop aroma particles can stick.
  • Late hop additions. In contrast to other IPAs, a vast majority of the hops used in NEIPAs are added to the beer either late in the boil or during fermentation. Not only do these late additions result in lower hop bitterness and a more intense aroma, but they also increase the levels of hop polyphenols that remain in the beer, which can contribute to a beer’s haziness.

(Included in this group is the sub- substyle “Milkshake IPA,” which is a New England-style IPA brewed with lactose and occasionally dosed with fruit.) Our newest IPA, hAZy, is an NEIPA.

BLACK IPA: AKA “American Black Ale” or “Cascadian Dark Ale,” the Black IPA is basically a West Coast IPA with a portion of pale malts replaced with heavily roasted barley. This gives the beer a stygian color and imbues it with roasty, chocolatey, coffeelike flavors that can be quite pleasant with certain hop varieties.

WHITE IPA: A substyle that was incredibly popular for a time but is now rarely seen, the White IPA is India Pale Ale filtered through Belgian Witbier. Like NEIPA, it’s generally brewed with large amounts of wheat, but tends to be more bitter and exhibits the fruity yeast character and spiciness of a Belgian ale.

DOUBLE IPA: Generally an extra-strength version of West Coast IPA, these tongue-bruisers are also sometimes called “Imperial IPA.” They’re big and boozy (usually 8% ABV and above), with intense hop character and extreme levels of bitterness. Double Knot is one of these.

BRUT IPA: Brut IPA emerged to much acclaim in 2017, but has since dropped off a bit in popularity. It’s set apart from other IPA substyles by its extremely low sugar content—the result of the use of special enzymes that break down malt sugars further than normal and enable the yeast to gobble them all up. (“Brut” in the name is a reference to extra-dry Brut Champagne.) The bitterness on these beers is usually extremely low, while the finish is very dry. Rosé Our Way, our spring seasonal, is a Brut IPA.

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