I hate the way people will pick a random date on the calendar and proclaim it a special day, unless it's celebrating something I enjoy. Then it's a great idea.
So while proclaiming August 1 National Raspberry Cream Pie Day seems breathtakingly silly to me, declaring the same 24-hour period IPA Day in honor of the India Pale Ale is perfectly brilliant.
The origin story of the IPA is quite adventurous. Beer lore has it that this brew came from a pale ale recipe that was loaded up with extra hops to survive the harsh 18,000-mile sea voyage from England to the British colonies in India. Whether or not it’s true, it’s a good story, and I’m not one to interfere with a good a story.
According to the most recent Symphony IRI Group Data, the IPA is single most popular style of craft beer in America, and the one whose popularity is rising the fastest.
With so much demand for tasty IPAs in the marketplace, you can be sure that American craft brewers are hard at work to satisfy the growing thirst for this style of beer.
But these brewers get bored with established beers styles, so they begin to tweak recipes and ingredients, morphing them into something new and unique. Because of this, many delicious variations of the IPA have emerged, each with a distinctive twist all its own.
Here’s a rundown of six IPA styles you’re likely to find at your local bottle shop, each a great option to hoist on IPA Day.
The classic English IPA is a musky, earthy affair, with dank hops nicely balanced against a bready malt backbone. There’s typically a fruity component to these beers, like in Meantime Brewing Co.’s India Pale Ale, which has aromatic notes of tangerines and oranges. English IPAs are a good choice for people who don’t enjoy the over the top hoppiness of American IPAs.
When most people think of IPAs, they’re thinking of American IPAs, with their crushing brace of hops (citrusy or piney, depending on the variety used) and just enough of a malt profile to provide a background upon which the hops perform their fireworks show. Many American craft breweries have an IPA as their flagship beer, and one of the best is Cigar City Brewing’s Jai Alai IPA, a juicy treat brimming with lush tropical fruit notes and a super smooth mouth feel.
Imperial or Double IPA
We like to turn things up to 11 here in America, and that certainly goes for our big boozy beers. In the case of the Imperial IPA, that means more malt, more hops and more alcohol on board. These beers pummel your palate with thick, resinous hop flavors, like Avery Brewing Company’s Maharaja, which has big threads of pineapple and grapefruit coursing through it’s flavor. If you prefer something more piney, there’s Old Schoolhouse Brewery’s Reserve Imperial IPA, which is so resinous and flavorful, you’ll swear someone ground up a fir tree and put it in a bottle (in a good way).
While hops are usually the star of the show when it comes to IPAs, playing around with the grain bill in a beer can produce some very interesting results. Rye IPAs have a peppery complexity thanks to the addition of rye into the mash. A wonderful example of the style is Bear Republic’s Hop Rod Rye, which starts out with a rye earthiness in the lead, giving way to a toned-down (for an IPA at least) floral hoppiness, leaving some room for barley’s less-loved cousin to shine.
India Black Ale
Also referred to as “American Black Ale,” “Black IPA” and “Cascadian Dark Ale” for its early popularity in the Northwestern United States, this dark and smoky treat is what happens when some roasted barley is added to the boil. My favorite India Black Ale is Firestone Walker’s Wookey Jack, which manages to hold onto its IPA essence, while being packed with rich and roasty flavors.
Another way to switch up the flavor profile of an IPA is to switch up the yeast used to ferment the beer. Belgian IPAs are typically made with Brettanomyces, a genus of yeast that gives Belgian ales their distinctive character. Victory Brewing Company’s Wild Devil is a great example of the style, with its notes of lemon, pepper, and a big barnyard funk from the yeast wrestling with the malt backbone and a piney hop profile for the undivided attention of your taste buds.
As you can see, there are lots of options for celebrating IPA Day. Visit the Brewers Association events calendar to see what events are happening in your neck of the woods on August 1.
And if you disagree with me and think that all made up holidays are stupid (including IPA Day), that’s okay. I’ll forgive you on Sunday– after all, it’s International Forgiveness Day!