In a world where innovation only breeds innovation, it’s natural that craft beer, an industry born from ingenuity, is ever-evolving. Today, there are no laws that dictate how beer must be brewed, and the creative ability of craft brewers is seemingly unlimited—as evidenced by the boundless flavor combinations being brewed. Older styles are continuously being manipulated to create newer styles and sub-categories. As a result, style guidelines and categories are constantly changing to keep up with evolution of craft brewing.
The Three Defined Categories of IPA
One of the most manipulated styles today is the India Pale Ale (IPA). According the Brewers Association, there are three official categories of IPA (four if you include the American Black Ale, often referred to as a Black IPA):
- English-style India Pale Ale
- American-style India Pale Ale
- Imperial (Double) India Pale Ale
Although those are the only styles of IPA that are defined and judged, the spectrum of IPA sub-categories is not limited to three. Essentially, outside of changing its color, there are two ways that brewers manipulate the style. Take an IPA base recipe and ferment it with an atypical yeast strand, or take a different style of beer and hop it as if it were an IPA.
Today, I am attempting to name and describe some of the not-yet defined sub-categories of IPA emerging in the marketplace. Please note that as with most experimental beer styles without official guidelines, these sub-categories are still slightly ambiguous and open to interpretation.
The “Other” IPAs
IPA base recipe fermented with Belgian yeast. Similar appearance, malt content, hop aroma and flavor profile as an IPA with noticeable fruity esters and flavors characteristic of Belgian yeast.
- New Belgium Brewing | Fort Collins, CO | Belgo IPA
- The Haymarket Pub & Brewery | Chicago, IL | Last Chance Belgian IPA
- Flying Dog Brewery | Frederick, MD | Raging Bitch Belgian-Style IPA
- Anchorage Brewing Company | Anchorage, AK | Bitter Monk Belgian Double IPA
- Funkwerks | Ft. Collins, CO | Belgian-Style IPA
Saison / farmhouse ale hopped like an IPA. Similar color, body and esters as a farmhouse ale with noticeable hop aroma, flavor and bitterness.
- New Holland Brewing Company | Holland, MI | Farmhouse Hatter
- Equinox Brewing | Fort Collins, CO | Remi’s Saison IPA
- Westbrook Brewing | Mount Pleasant, SC | Farmouse IPA
Belgian witbier hopped like an IPA. Similar color, body and esters as a witbier with noticeable hop aroma, flavor and bitterness.
- Boulevard Brewing Company | Kansas City, MO | No. 2 White IPA
- Deschutes Brewery | Bend, OR | Chainbreaker White IPA
- Saranac | Utica, NY | White IPA
- Blue Point Brewing Company | Patchogue, NY | White IPA
Brettanomyces/ Wild IPA
An IPA or IPA sub-category that goes through primary, secondary or other fermentation with wild yeast (Brettanomyces).
- Victory Brewing Company | Downingtown, PA | Wild Devil
- Devils Backbone Brewing Company | Roseland, VA | Brett-fermented Eight Point IPA
- Avery Brewing Company | Boulder, CO | Brett IPA
- Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project | Denver, CO | Wild Wild Brett Green
American red ale brewed at a higher strength and hopped like an IPA. Typically, redder in color than an IPA with deep ruby hues.
- Midnight Sun Brewing Company | Anchorage, AK | Sockeye Red IPA
- Blue Hills Brewery | Canton, MA | Imperial Red IPA
- Samuel Adams | Boston, MA | Tasmanian Red
- SanTan Brewing Company | Chandler, AZ | Count Hopula Blood Red IPA.
- Green Flash Brewing Co. | San Diego, CA | Hop Head Red
IPA brewed with the addition of rye as an ingredient.
- Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. | Chico, CA | Ruthless Rye IPA
- Bear Republic Brewery | Healdsburg, CA | Hop Rod Rye IPA
- Firestone Walker Brewing Company | Paso Robles, CA | Wookey Jack
- Harpoon Brewery | Boston, MA | Rich & Dan’s Rye IPA
- Founders Brewing Co. | Grand Rapids, MI | Red’s Rye PA
Spiced/ Herbed IPA
IPA brewed with the addition of spices, herbs or flowers.
- Elysian Brewing Company | Seattle, WA | Avatar Jasmine IPA
- Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing | Santa Cruz, CA | Pepe’s Lavender IPA
- Odell Brewing Company | Fort Collins, CO | Alpenglow Lavender IPA
- Twisted Pine Brewing Co. | Boulder, CO | Roots Revival Carrot IPA
The black IPA is arguably the most discussed beer sub-category these days. Technically, the style has already been named and defined by the Brewers Association as the American-style Black Ale. It is essentially an IPA brewed with the addition of dark specialty malts resulting in a dark brown to black colored IPA with a hint of roasted malt flavor.
- New Glarus Brewing | New Glaurs, WI | Black Top Black IPA
- 21st Amendment Brewery | San Francisco, CA | Back in Black
- Arcadia Ales | Battle Creek, MI | B-Craft Black Double IPA
- Hill Farmstead Brewery | Greensboro Bend, VT | Jim Black IPA
Newly Explored IPA Styles
As you can imagine, the potential for sub-categories of sub-categories becomes exponential when these styles are combined. As more and more brewers step outside of the traditional style guidelines, expect to see more variations of the IPA to appear in the marketplace. Here are a few more recent subsets of the IPA style. Do you know of others? Leave a comment!
- Session IPA (IPA flavor at lower than average ABV)
- India Pale Lager (IPA-style, but fermented with lager yeast)
- Imperial Black IPA
Ashley Routson, known amongst the craft beer community as The Beer Wench, is a self-proclaimed craft beer evangelist and social media puppeteer on a mission to advance the craft beer industry through education, inspiration and advocacy. When she is not preoccupied with the craft beer revolution or her addiction to the Internet, Ashley enjoys cooking, artisan spirits, boutique wines, fine cigars, and college football (she bleeds Scarlet and Gray for The Ohio State University). You can find her musings at Drink With The Wench.
Last Updated: December 11, 2012