hops

IPA secrets...uncovered!

IPA. India Pale Ale. It’s the favourite style on every craft beer lover’s list. Ever wondered more about exactly what an IPA is? Or, are you already one of the style’s devoted followers?

We’ve put together a list of fascinating facts about this ever-changing style with its characteristic bitterness, fascinating flavour possibilities, and awesome aromas.

hops for craft beer

1.     With an IPA its all about the hops. These magic green bullets are responsible for the making IPAs bitter and refreshing, produce the distinctive range of citrusy aromas, and make for interesting, and seemingly endless, fruity, flavour combinations.

2.     There is some dispute, and many stories, about how and why the IPA was invented. Indeed the development of the style reads like an international geography lesson – IPAs originated in England, for shipping to India, then to be reinvented and perfected on the West Coast of America.

The most popular theory is that when English brewers tried shipping their pale ales to troops stationed in India the beers did not survive the long, hot, and refrigeration-free trip. What the brewers needed was a preservative. So brewers added more hops. The beers not only lasted the journey, but tasted amazing as well.

3.     The almost cult-like obsession with IPAs makes it the most popular selling style of craft beer in the US at around eight per cent of sales. In New Zealand IPAs are the favourite of both professional judges, and drinkers alike. IPAs consistently win the top awards in craft beer competitions, and head up the lists of most highly-rated beers on forums such as Untappd and RateBeer.

4.     The IPA is so popular there is even a day dedicated to the style! The first Thursday in August is IPA day. Mark it in your calendar.

5.     IPAs are best served at between 10 and 13 degrees Celsius. Achieve this by leaving a bottle out of the fridge for a few minutes before consuming. If you can that is!

And don’t forget to serve in a specially designed IPA glass. Yep, you read that correctly. A team of beer and glass-making experts have teamed up to create a glass that enhances the aromas of IPA styled beers, complete with a wider opening so the drinker can “nose” the beer easily.

6.     This is the style brewers most like to experiment with. Complex and varied taste profiles are possible by mixing up the ingredients, and working that interplay between malt and hops. Brewers have also been known to add all sorts of additional ingredients to IPAs – everything from grapefruit and spices, to lychees and jalapenos!

IPA craft beer in a glass

7.     But mostly brewers, and beer lovers alike, like to experiment with hops. In fact, a whole new beer style was invented out of the quest for hoppier, stronger, more bitter, higher alcohol, and more aromatic IPAs. Pushing the boundaries has brought us the imperial, or double, IPA. High in hops, taste, and alcohol this style is not for the faint-hearted. If you are new to craft beer, it might take a while for your taste buds to deeply appreciate a truly bracing double IPA.

8.    That’s, right – the taste of an IPA is an acquired one. Bitterness is not a taste that we are hard-wired to like. From childhood we all love the taste of sweet, but you need to learn to like bitter. You need to give your taste buds time to recalibrate that bitter does not always equal bad.

9.      Kiwi brewers like experimenting with New Zealand grown hops, as well as the more traditional varieties from the Yakima region of America. So is this a new style – the NZPA? I’ll leave that up to you...

10.  IPAs work well when paired with strong, spicy foods. It is the classic for enjoying with a curry. Be warned though as the bitterness of hops tend to accentuate the chilli-ness of, well, chillies. You can also use the bitterness of an IPA to balance rich foods. Think bar snacks, fries, and burgers.