So you love IPAs — join the club. The IPA has become the dominant form of craft beer in America, and increasingly, throughout the world. When you visit Island City Brewing Company, it’s obvious that our menu is not short of IPA’s. ranging from our two imperials (double IPAs), to our hazy and blood orange, there is a brew for everyone on the IPA spectrum.
But what IS an IPA? Where did they come from, and what makes them different from the Bud Light you see everywhere at your local liquor store?
IPA stands for India Pale Ale. As we’ll see in a moment, India played an important role in the creation of IPAs. It’s not the country that invented the brew though.
IPAs were allegedly invented by the British during their efforts to colonize India. Again and again, the beer they sent their troops failed to endure the sea voyage all the way around the cape of Africa. Extreme temperatures and prolonged storage without the benefits of refrigeration were less than ideal conditions for transporting beer. As a result, it kept spoiling on the trip. The British had two tools to work with: alcohol and hops. Both of these work as preservatives. According to legend, it was George Hodgson of East London’s Bow Brewery who eventually created the first IPA. It was bitter and highly alcoholic, but it could make the long ocean trip.
Breweries eventually sprung up in more locations. Refrigeration was invented. The original hurdles IPAs were created to clear were no longer an issue. IPAs have continued to stick around and have even gathered their own pack of diehard fans.
IPAs from the first era were characterized by two things: extreme bitterness and heavy, sweet malt bases (thick, cakey) that sort of acted as a balance. This inspired a kind of arms race on bitterness amongst brewers which appealed to a very specific crowd. Brewers themselves loved IPAs and began experimenting enthusiastically with hops.
Phase two arrived when breweries began to realize that hops could also contribute flavor and aroma. They keyed off hop bitterness, but discovered that hops could contribute heavy aromas and distinctive flavors like citrus and pine. They were still very loud and brassy beers, but they were made with an attuned sense of harmony.
The third and current era was when breweries began to develop techniques that fully unlocked hops' flavor and aroma potential. This is when the IPA category blossomed into red, white, black, Belgian, session, Double, New England style, fruit IPAs, and even India pale lagers. When we think of IPAs, we're mainly thinking of these modern styles.
At Island City Brewing Company, we have carefully crafted a variety of IPAs with our own unique twist. Currently we have 4 deliciously different imperial pale ales to appeal to the masses. Head on over to our taproom to try them all!