Regular visitors to the site will hopefully already visited our What’s on Tap pages. Here, fellow British Guild of Beer Writers Member, Matthew Grant, writes all about different beer styles. He previously wrote about IPA and, because there is so much to talk about with the style, I decided to add a part two.
‘Premium’ Lager Drinking
In his previous article, Matt wrote about the history of IPA and focused on the traditional English interpretation of the style. So, a quick recap. IPA stands for India Pale Ale and comes from the time of the British Empire when traditional beers shipped to India did not survive the journey well. The story goes that by increasing the strength of the beers and adding more hops, they created something that not only travelled well, but tasted great too.
After a few years of ‘premium’ lager drinking, I started trying different beer styles around 15 years ago. Although the choice then, and for a few years after, wasn’t anything like we have today, IPA’s were represented. I remember falling in love with the style after trying Springhead‘s ‘Roaring Meg’ and Marston‘s ‘Old Empire’. These were (and still are) two very robust, hoppy and traditional English IPAs. Then, something amazing happened to me. I was introduced to ‘Jaipur’ by Thornbridge Brewery, based in Derbyshire.
Why did ‘Jaipur’ stand out for me? Brewed using American hops, this beer was not only brilliantly tasty, it made me realise that IPAs weren’t just a British thing with British ingredients. It was actually becoming a global phenomenon.
Hop Varieties from Around the World
As I started to explore the international IPA scene, I began to note that although the base style remained common (high alcohol, lots of hops), the hop varieties used from around the world dramatically change what the beer tastes like. Traditional English IPAs brewed using English hops tend to have aroma and flavour characteristics like pine, herbs, flora and citrus. The first time I had ‘Old Empire’, it reminded me of the smell of cannabis. The hop plant is a relative and demonstrates how hop-led these beers are, so strong the aroma of hops is.
In international IPAs, these flavours move on. The next most common IPA is the US West Coast style. What differs here is that hops grown in the US West Coast provide different flavour and aroma profiles. Hop varieties such as Centennial, Cascade, Citra, Simcoe, Columbus and Chinook lead here, exaggerating the pine, resin and citrus flavours that are familiar in Britain, and adding fruit tastes like grapefruit. In the world of the West Coast IPA, the style is well represented by beers like Stone Brewing’s ‘IPA’, Sierra Nevada‘s ‘Torpedo’ and (more difficult to find, but well worth trying) Ballast Point‘s ‘Sculpin’. In the UK, Brewdog‘s ‘Punk IPA’ is the most commonly available and arguably one of the best that represents the style (along with ‘Jaipur’, obviously!)
Not to be outdone by the West Coast, the US East Coast have their own interpretation of the IPA – also known as the New England IPA (NEIPA). Only appearing on the scene in the last few years, the official definition is still up for debate. Typically, though you will find these are characterised by a much hazier look and big on juicy citrus flavours. You would be forgiven for thinking some are citrus squeezed fruit juices, such is the fresh, fruity style, and how the beer looks. In Britain, good versions of this style are Brewdog’s ‘Hazy Jane’ and any NEIPA that is brewed by Cloudwater, based in Manchester.
Nelson, Madarina and Hallertau
Although it may seem it, it’s not all about US hops in the global IPA market. Recently, New Zealand has thrown its hops into the ring as another option for brewers. Most famously, Nelson Sauvin, which is much sought after and which provides incredibly unique and different flavours – grape and gooseberries, almost a white-wine like quality to it.
Europe too, is also a hot bed of hops. An example here are the wonderful Mandarina Bavaria and Hallertau Blanc hop varieties from Germany. Here, you’ll get flavours of tangerine, passionfruit and pineapple.
So, the world of IPAs, all a little overwhelming perhaps? For beer lovers, the variety and easy availability of the style means that we get to really test our palates and enjoy great interpretations of the beer. And, with continuing global prototype hop development, it’s fair to say the IPA style will continue to evolve and remain as (arguably) the world’s favourite ‘craft’ beer style.
Before I sign off, here are some recommendations of my favourite IPAs that I haven’t mentioned above. Brewdog’s ‘Jack Hammer’ which is just insanely good, particularly from the can, Alpine Brewing‘s ‘Duet’ and Lagunitas‘ ‘IPA’. Going more local, Kirkstall Brewery‘s ‘Dissolution’ is great and Leeds Brewery‘s ‘Monsoon’ has evolved over the last couple of years into something really tasty.If you enjoy reading our content, please consider sharing with your friends using the sharing buttons at the bottom of each post. Also, you can subscribe to receive notifications about new blog posts via email. Simply enter your email address into the 'Subscribe to Mike's Tap Room' box at the top left of this page.