The wide world of IPAs

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First Posted: 4/22/2014

The IPA style is one that many craft beer drinkers have grown to cherish and revere above many other styles. This, coupled with the fact that many newcomers to craft beer start by drinking IPAs, has made the style one of the most popular beer styles in the country.

However, when dealing with a specific style, especially one like the IPA, drinkers can soon reach a level of “burnout.” The highlight for the IPA style is the hops; this is the ingredient that gives the beer its aroma and perceived bitterness. There are new hops coming to market continually every year; however, there seems to be a level of saturation that is becoming reached for the style.

Fear not, though, faithful IPA drinkers, for many brewers have seen this trend coming and have begun expanding upon the IPA style and are starting to use ingredients not typically used with this beer. This has given rise to many new variations on the IPA style.

One variation that has been around a few years but is gaining in popularity continually every year is the Black IPA style, or Cascadian Dark Ale, as some call I,t but that’s a debate for another time. This style features a roasted malt characteristic, imparting subtle coffee, chocolate, and caramel flavors combined with piney citrus hop notes. Some of the best to try in this style are: Stone Brewing Co., Sublimely Self Righteous Black Ale; 21st Amendment, Back in Black; New Holland Brewing Company, Black Hatter; Otter Creek, Black IPA; Sierra Nevada, DevESTATEtion; and Deschutes Brewery, Hop in the Dark.

Another newer variation is the white IPA style. This is typically a combination between a Belgian Tripel or Witbier and an IPA; it is typically unfiltered and quite cloudy, with strong notes of citrus. The style is credited to a collaboration beer that was introduced in 2010 by Boulevard Brewing and Deschutes called Conflux No. 2, although it is very much a style in its very early stages. Some of the best of white IPAs to try are: Harpoon Brewery, The Long Thaw White IPA; New Holland Brewing Company, White Hatter; Deschutes Brewery, Chainbreaker White IPA; Saranac, White IPA; and Sierra Nevada, Snow Wit White IPA.

Another example of new IPAs does not technically have its own category to hold all of them, so instead we will call these experimental IPAs. However, by saying “experimental” this does not simply mean very hoppy beers, as many beers are classified experimental simply because of their claims to have 1000 IBUs; this is a different kind of experimental. Within this classification, many of brewers have taken the standard American IPA and combined it with other ingredients for a wide variety of combinations and flavors.

These combinations range from Dogfish Head’s Sixty-One Minute IPA, which is a beer/wine hybrid, blending the IPA with Syrah grape must. Stone Brewing Co. is also no stranger in the IPA arena and has made numerous experimental IPAs, ranging from their R&R Coconut IPA to their fantastic Dayman Coffee IPA. Our own local heroes at Breaker Brewing Company have also thrown their hat in the ring with their world-class Blasting Cap Coffee IPA.

If you are a fan of the IPA style, these are beers to be on the lookout for, or even if you are new to the style, these are certainly beers that deserve a place on your table.