What Is An IPA? Origins, Flavors, and Brewing Explained

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What Is An IPA? Origins, Flavors, and Brewing Explained

IPA: three little letters that carry a world of flavor for beer enthusiasts everywhere. Whether you’re an avid craft brew lover or someone who just recently stumbled upon a local brewery, chances are you’ve come across the term ‘IPA’. If you’ve been to any taprooms near me or searched for an “ipa brewery near me”, IPAs are undoubtedly on the menu. But what exactly is an IPA? Let’s dive deep into its history, variations, flavors, and some tips on how to enjoy this iconic brew best.

Definition and Origins of the IPA

An IPA, or India Pale Ale, is a beer known for its pronounced hop-forward flavors, often harmonized with hints of citrus and fruity undertones. The story of the IPA begins in the 18th century with British sailors making extended voyages to India. These sailors required a beer that could withstand the long journey and the varying temperatures between England’s chilly climate and India’s tropical warmth.

Enter the humble hop. Not only did hops impart the beer with a distinct aroma and flavor, but they also acted as a preservative, ensuring the beer remained drinkable throughout the trip. Over time, what began as a practical solution turned into a cherished art form, with different hop varieties cultivated and incorporated into IPAs, enhancing flavor rather than just ensuring longevity.

Different Types of IPAs

As the popularity of the IPA surged, especially during the craft beer boom of the 2010s, various styles emerged, each with its unique profile:

English IPA

The progenitor of all IPAs. Less pronounced in hop aroma compared to its American counterparts, it leans towards an earthy flavor with hints of citrus.

West Coast IPA

Born in California, these IPAs are reminiscent of English IPAs but with a less dry finish due to the inclusion of crystal malt.

East Coast IPA

The flavor extravaganza! Made with mutated British yeasts and other fresh ingredients, they burst with hoppy and fruity flavors.

Double IPA (or Imperial IPA)

By amping up the hoppiness and sweetness, these beers contain a higher alcohol content, resulting from the increased malts and hops.

Triple IPA

Doubling down on the hop intensity, these are even dryer and more bitter than their counterparts, with alcohol levels sometimes soaring up to 18%.

Session IPA

Perfect for relaxed drinking, these have a mild 4-5% ABV and a subtle flavor profile, drawing parallels with English Pale Ales.

Diverse Flavors to Expect

The beauty of IPAs lies not just in their variety but also in their flavor complexities. An IPA’s taste can range from intense bitterness to fruity notes like grapefruit, orange or even nuanced flavors like pine. If you ever want a measure of an IPA’s bitterness, look out for its IBU (International Bitterness Units) rating. Higher IBUs generally signify more bitterness.

Sampling IPA Beer Flights

Exploring IPAs can be an exciting journey. Here’s how to make the most of it:

Start with Lighter Varieties: Begin with a Session IPA or an English IPA. Their mild flavors make them great starting points.

Move to Bolder Tastes: Gradually shift to East Coast and West Coast IPAs. Their pronounced flavors will offer a different tasting experience.

Challenge Your Palate: Dive into the deep end with Double and Triple IPAs. Their intense bitterness and high alcohol content are not for the faint-hearted but offer a rich-tasting adventure.

Join Brewery Events: Many local breweries and taprooms near you host tasting events, providing curated flights and expert insights into the world of IPAs.

Pair Wisely: IPAs pair beautifully with spicy foods, grilled meats, and strong cheeses. The hoppy bitterness complements and balances the intense flavors of such dishes.

Key Takeaways

IPAs, or India Pale Ales, have a rich history rooted in British maritime voyages to India. They have evolved into a broad category of beers, each with its distinctive flavor profile, from the mild English IPAs to the bold Triple IPAs. Their defining character is their pronounced hop-forward taste, often accompanied by citrus and fruit undertones. Sampling IPAs is an adventure in itself, best embarked upon by starting with lighter varieties and moving towards the bolder ones. To get the most out of your IPA experience, attend brewery events, enjoy curated flights, and always pair your brew wisely.

Remember, the next time you’re searching for “ipa brewery near me” or looking into “taprooms near me” for a weekend outing, IPAs will be waiting, ready to tantalize your taste buds. Cheers to the ever-evolving world of craft brew!


We began in a small ice cream shop on Park Ave in Worcester, MA in 2010. In 2015, after 5 years crammed in that location and 13 months of construction, Wormtown Brewery opened its new location in the heart of Worcester, on Shrewsbury Street, where we continue to grow today. Here at Wormtown Brewery, we are dedicated to putting “A Piece of Mass in Every Glass” and work with many local farms as we believe sourcing ingredients locally ensures that they are the freshest possible for the freshest beer.

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