50 shades of … IPA?

Have you ever tried an IPA expecting one thing and tasted a totally different thing? Did you write it off as a bad IPA? I know I’ve done that. I reckon most of us know the difference between an English IPA v. an American IPA, but there is a lot more to it than that. I want to help you out – so that when you’re getting resinous rather than tropical notes, you know what’s potting.

English IPA:
The “original” IPA that originated from adding more hops to a pale ale. Pale, remember, is a relative term. In the days of old, beer was generally dark (think stouts & porters), so anything lighter was considered pale.
Typically in an English IPA you’ll find earthy tones from the English hops, rather than fruity, floral or pine. You’re looking for grassy, mild and just a light citrus. Often they’re judged as being earthy, herbal & spicy.
Examples: Poison City – Punk Rocker, Citizen – Saboteur, Darling – Thunderbird

West Coast IPA
These guys are big on citrus aroma. They use the “big C” hops – Cascade, Centennial, Citra  – to achieve high bitterness. You’re looking for citrus, pine, dank, weedy flavours. The hops are front and centre because the yeast that’s used is clean; it doesn’t impart any of its own flavours. There also generally isn’t a big malt contribution to the flavour.
Examples: Woodstock – Californicator, Devils Peak – King’s Blockhouse

East Coast IPA
While there is debate as to whether East v. West even exists as a divide, these IPAs generally have less bitterness and are more balanced. The difference here is that the grain bill plays a bigger role, as does the yeast. So you might get the big aromas of the West Coast, but the malt complexity too. Broadly speaking, you may be looking for tropical fruit flavours: pineapple, guava, granadilla and litchi.
Examples: Riot – Valve, Frontier – Karma Citra

New England / North East IPA (NEIPA)
A fairly new addition to the IPA stable – these ones have an interesting “juicy” flavour. The main difference between NEIPAs and others is the addition of oats or wheat, to enhance body. Some even put lactose (milk sugar) in to smooth it out. It’s similar to the difference between orange juice and Tropica. Also, the bitterness is played down somewhat – citrusy hop aromas are still there, and the beer is bitter – but it’s not stripping the inside of your mouth out. You’re looking for a hazy IPA with a softer, creamier mouthfeel while still giving you the wonderful fruity hop aromas and flavours.
Examples: Devil’s Peak – Juicy Lucy, Woodstock & Copperlake have new ones too, but I don’t know their names

Black IPA
This is one of my favourites. A black IPA (or Cascadian Dark Ale) has the toasty, richer character of a stout while still reaching high bitterness. In a black IPA, the malt profile is layered to give you some caramel, coffee or chocolate depth but it should still be very much an IPA. If the hops are not present, it’s not a Black IPA. You might find the hop profile of these guys tends to be quite floral and even citrusy, but normally quite tropical.
Examples: The 400 – Harambe, Brewhogs – Black IPL (no 3)

Session IPA
This is just an IPA that has less of a kick when it comes to the alcohol; generally 5% or less.
Examples: And Union – Handwerk

Double/Imperial IPA
This IPA has extra everything: extra hops, extra bitterness and is high in alcohol.
Examples: CBC – Cape of Good Hops, Darling – Warlord



An IPA made with some red malts – they may impart a caramel or toffee characteristic along with the rest of the flavours.

White IPA
An IPA using some or mostly wheat instead of barley. It’s meant to be a bit of a fusion between IPA and Witbier (with characteristic orange & coriander flavours). The wheat adds head and some body as well as adding some haze. You might find it slightly spicier than normal IPAs but still having lots of citrus qualities.
Examples: Darling – White Bird (not sure if it’s still in production)

Similar to the White IPA – but this time using some Rye in the grain bill. Rye adds some spiciness and makes the beer finish dry.


If you have any more variations of the style you’d like to add in here, leave it in the comments and I’ll add to the post. 





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