A Brief Non-Technical Journey Into IPA Beers

IPA (India Pale Ale) beers are one of my favorites. I am basing that fact based on tons of different beers I’ve tried, and nothing else. I suppose that’s how regular, non-technical people base anything when it comes to likeness.

But there are a few aspects of an IPA beer I’ve often wondered about, such as its history, why they’re named in such a manner, does India have anything to do with it, etc.

Thanks to the world of the Internet, I’ve found the answers to some of my questions, and here’s hoping they’re useful to you, as well.

Does India, as a Country, Have Anything To Do With Why and How IPA Beers Are Named the Way They Are?

Does India, as a Country, Have Anything To Do With Why and How IPA Beers Are Named the Way They Are
The history between the Britishers and India is the primary source into the naming of IPA or India Pale Ale.

The short answer is yes; India has everything to do with the name of “India Pale Ale.”

The long answer and the story behind it is as follows:

  1. Back in the day, when the Britishers were colonizing India, the journey from Britain to India took about six months, leaving their army thirsty for some good old beer.
  2. The only problem? In those days, refrigeration wasn’t readily available. So essentially, 6 months made the existing beers (whatever was available during that time — which I believe were the darker beers such as porters) go stale.
  3. Eventually, the solution came in the form of making beers hoppier and stronger by alcohol content — that both happen to be natural preservatives. If you hadn’t guessed already, this new style of beer manifested itself as IPA.

When & Why Did IPA Beers Gained Momentum in America?

Today’s American IPAs have evolved into something much better than the original form of IPAs — conditional on who you inquire with. Reading from multiple sources, though, it seems that IPAs in the United States started when there was a strong urge to revive a few forgotten beer varieties — in conjunction with the limelight that the craft beers achieved. Clearly, IPAs made into the list of nostalgic beer types, and therefore, almost rebirthed itself into a much likable version than the original invented by the Britishers — again, depending on who you ask. (Many believe that’s the case). The most distinguishable qualities were that American brewed IPAs were packed with more hops and alcohol. And, of course, better refrigeration and technology were at one’s disposal too, which indeed proved quite utilitarian.

Over the course of several years, the American technique and IPA beers gained popularity throughout the entire world and are now at a stage where IPAs and U.S.A are synonymous.

What Is the Difference Between IPA and Pale Ale?

The characteristics vary between an IPA and a Pale Ale. Well, firstly, let’s make it absolutely clear that an IPA belongs to the family of Pale Ale.

With that out of the picture, the differences can be divided into 2 unique features:

  1. Alcohol Content: Generally speaking, and with all things being equal, an IPA beer will likely have more Alcohol content than a regular Pale Ale.
  2. Flavor hoppiness, and appearance: IPAs tend to be more stronger and robust due to an increased usage of hops. This definitely doesn’t mean that a Pale ale cannot have more hoppy and alcohol strength, but again, generally speaking. As far as appearances are concerned, pale ale will be lighter in look, whereas IPAs will have a much darker emergence — but not as much as actual darker varieties like stouts and porters.
Why Are IPAs So Popular
Why Are IPAs So Popular?

If you research into any local U.S. brewery, you’ll notice that almost all of them have some variation of an IPA. Why is that? Specifically, the reasons are:

  1. Many know the inherent characteristics of an IPA beer, such as having a bitter taste, the range of flavor profiles that different breweries have is vast. There is just so much to offer regarding IPAs and how they’re prepared that the excitement and a sense of surprise are always satisfied. IPAs are not one of those beer types where you exactly know what to expect (again, outside of hoppiness or bitterness). The feeling of “amazement” is always associated with an IPA beer — for a slightly pronounced taste bud.
  2. Part of the reason for popularity also has to do with the whole revival of IPAs, as discussed before in this post. Since then, India Pale Ales have made the news one way or the other.
  3. Availability and accessibility: Call it marketing, word of mouth, or what have you; in the United States, IPA beers are almost always available anywhere. At restaurants, Liquor stores, and famous chains like BevMo! or Total wine. Many eateries even have their own house IPA.
  4. Bragging rights and change in taste: Liking and enjoying an IPA is sometimes correlated to having a refined taste, having toughness, or alluding to being up for a challenge. Contingent on the level of hoppiness an IPA possessed, often, folks would indulge themselves into trying intense hoppy IPAs, to gauge how much they handle. Additionally, American taste buds have adapted to enjoying IPAs over time.

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In Closing

The diversity that an IPA beer brings along is immense. From being strong, bitter, and ever-so-more pronounced in texture and feel, IPAs have been relished by one and all.

As far as the name goes, it most definitely has to do with India (the country), and for why they’re celebrated so much, the push for this style since its comeback, natural likeness to it because of the evolutionary taste buds, and the pervasive availability, all contribute to its acclaim.

Expert Sources and Citations