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IPAs: What Are They?

Maybe you’ve tried an IPA (India Pale Ale) or two. Or maybe you’ve tried many, many varieties of the currently very popular type of pale ale you can find in any grocery store or bar. Maybe you even have a favorite IPA – but how much do you really know about this type of ale? How are they different than other pale ales? What do they have to do with India?

A Brief History of IPAs

While a wide variety of things grow in India – things like coffee, rubber, sugarcane, corn, and wheat, not to mention a variety of spices – crops aren’t as varied in England. During the first half of the 1700s, Britain had a strong trading presence in India (think “The British East India Trading Company”), but as time went on, British troops waged a successful war, and the monarchy eventually ruled there for almost 200 years. During that time, a great many things continued to be traded between the two places, and Britain sent beer to their soldiers in India; it was a light, refreshing, thirst quenching beverage. Because of the difference in climates, the brewers believed that the beer required a great deal of hops in order to endure the long (4,600+ mile) sea voyage and arrive fresh at its destination.

Feeling Hoppy

IPAs are, simply put, pale ales that were made to be transported from England to India; that’s why they’re called “India Pale Ales” instead of just pale ales. The hops involved in the creation of IPAs in the 17- and 1800s were East Kent Goldings hops, grown in England; today, IPA brewers use a wide variety of hops. Hops grow well in Washington state (in fact, Washington produces over 70 percent of the nation’s hops), and the IPAs made in this part of the U.S. use aroma and alpha (including super alpha) varieties of hops, including Willamette, Mt. Hood, Columbus/Tomahawk, Galena, Cascade, Nugget, and Zeus.

What are Hops, and Why are They Used to Make Beer?

The basic ingredients in beer are water, yeast (for fermentation), hops, and grain (frequently malted barley). The different ingredients have unique functions, and hops are no exception; hops give beer the following qualities:

  • Stability – That’s why it was used in beers that were transported all the way from England to India; hops make beer last longer
  • Aroma and flavor – There’s a strong relationship between what hops smell and taste like; when you crush the hops
  • Bitterness – Where malt is sweet, hops are more bitter, so they serve to balance the flavor

Put simply, hops make beer fun, interesting, and tasty. Why do wine drinkers like to drink wine? It’s the same reason IPA drinkers drink IPAs. Maybe it’s not your taste preference, but IPAs come in so many different, unique, and interesting varieties that many individuals have discovered that they enjoy the surprises, nuances, and diversity found in India Pale Ales.

Interested in Testing Your Tastes?

Currently on tap, we have a couple of America’s most popular craft beer, the IPA:

  • Dirty Bucket’s Sicyne IPA features an earthy, grassy, piney flavor of hops, with a clean, light, mildly sweet flavor and aroma gives this beer depth of character, something you may have to try more than once to completely appreciate.
  • Georgetown Brewing Company’s Lucille IPA has floral and citrus notes; they call it “innocent,” but if you’ve ever met anyone called “Lucy,” that notion alone might give you just enough pause to makes you want to try it.

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