Tap This: IPLs landing refreshingly between smooth lagers and hoppy ales
The India pale ale is well known within the craft beer landscape and has become a common term even with the most casual beer drinkers. The IPA is by far the most popular style of beer within the craft industry with an ever-increasing popularity. It has garnered enough attention, in fact, that it has begun crossbreeding with other styles to continue to further explore what hops are capable of doing within great beer.
The New England style IPA, black IPA (or Cascadian dark ale for the purists) and white IPA (a hoppy wheat ale) are not far stretches away from the base IPA style. The biggest change within these styles is a variation in malts that create a different color and mouthfeel, but the beers still drink like IPAs. However, there is a fast growing hybrid that takes the IPA to new territory, the IPL.
The IPL, or India Pale Lager, is a cross between the popular IPA and the equally appreciated lager beer that has long been a favorite among traditional beer drinkers. The result of this is a super smooth and creamy hoppy lager that makes for easy drinking but still packs a strong hop punch. The concept may be counterintuitive, after all, a lager should be mellow without a strong bittering quality, but the flavors work well together. Here are a few reasons why:
First, the smooth crisp malt profile of a lager always makes for truly easy drinking beers, after all, the Germans drink these beers by the quart. The additions of more aggressive hops are a fitting accompaniment and, due to the lagering process that takes longer than standard ales, are not as sharp as in many IPAs.
If you are not familiar with the difference between ales and lagers, the main difference lies in the yeast which changes the brewing process. Ale yeast is what is referred to as top-fermenting; this is the yeast typically used in IPAs. This yeast is best suited for warmer temperatures and will finish a beer within a few weeks.
However, lager yeast is bottom-fermenting and is best suited for colder temperatures. This means that to brew a lager typically takes months of fermentation time. This is what gives lagers their smooth mouthfeel and easy drinking qualities along with their malt-forward taste and low hop profile as the aging process allows the bittering qualities of the hops to drop out.
Typically, hoppy beers are best consumed as fresh as possible from the time they are finished fermenting. Many breweries try to make the time needed for IPAs as short as possible and get the beer into bottles and kegs fast to have a strong hop profile for drinkers. This is not too different for IPLs.
While the process for lagers is typically longer, many brewers of IPLs have found shortcuts in the lagering process that enable beers to have lager qualities but with fresh hop taste and aroma. German purist brewers would surely scoff at this, but the results are fantastic and speak for themselves.
Hops are truly the darling ingredient in the craft beer world with new hop varietals hitting the market every week. These new hops bring with them a crossbreeding of flavors and aromas that make hop-reliant beers fresh and exciting.
Some craft beer drinkers have become jaded by the onslaught of hop forward IPAs, but the introduction of the IPL is seemingly breathing new life into many hop lovers’ palates. The smooth mouthfeel and malt presence helps prevent palate fatigue typically associated with drinking very hoppy IPAs.
Whether you are a fan of IPAs or not, trying some of the wonderful IPLs that have been popping up in recent times is a great way to reconnect with the craft beer landscape and is a great style for the summer months.
Derek Warren is a beer fanatic, avid homebrewer and beer historian. Derek can be heard weekly on the Beer Geeks Radio Hour at noon on Sundays on WILK 103.1 FM with past episodes available on iTunes.