Lesson of the Day #4 - Pale Ale, IPA, Double IPA — What's all that about?


Beers in the Pale Ale family are basically the light roast coffee version of ale. 

Pale Ale - To understand Pale Ale, you first need to understand what malt is. Malt is a germinated & dried cereal grain, and typically in beer it's barley. Dried barley does not ferment well, but malted barley does. So the barley goes through the malting process: it's first soaked so it sprouts, then further germination is halted by heating/drying it with hot air. 

Because the heating and drying process was hard to control before the 1700's, ales, such as porters and stouts were usually dark because the malt was 'dark roasted' . Then as more controllable fuel sources emerged, the malt could be dried yet kept lighter. Beers made this way became known as Pale Ales, and were originally more expensive. 

IPA - India Pale Ale. The distinction for an IPA is that it is made with more hops. The type and amounts of hops & malt, as well as alcohol content can vary, hence there is wide diversity within this style — as we are learning is true with every style of beer. IPA’s can also be classified into English & American. English IPA’s are made with English hops and tend to be earthy & woody. American IPA’s are often more hoppy, with pine and bitter grapefruit flavors.

Double IPA - Also called Imperial IPA, is what the name suggests; double the hops or even triple, though the amount of malts is often increased to balance the bitterness. This is a uniquely American style, meaning Americans always have to take things to the extreme.

Trivia Question - Why is it called India Pale Ale?

Answer - Despite the name, it did not originate in India, but was concocted in England and shipped to India. At the height of the British Empire (late 1700s), English troops were stationed all over the world. And English troops like beer! However, India was too hot for brewing. So a brewer created a beer with more hops and alcohol. As we learned, hops provide stability. Because of it's increased preservation, this beer could withstand the long journey to India (as well as other colonies), and thus India Pale Ale was born.  

Michael Breyette