Craft beer lovers need no introduction to the American IPA. The IPA is far and above the most popular beer style among craft beer drinkers and the notoriety is realized by even the least informed beer drinker. However, the style has a variety of sub-genres that is always growing.
The standard IPA is the most well known and most approachable for any beer drinker. The hop flavor is present but not overpowering and the bitterness is often crisp or refreshing instead of aggressive. A bitter beer is off putting to some no matter how subtle the bitterness. Also under this umbrella comes the a variety of color variants with the standard IPA including white, black and Belgian IPAs. They are similar in hop quality to the standard IPA.
The double or imperial IPA is the next category and the hop presence grows ever stronger in this beer. It is roughly double the hops and double the malts for a higher ABV and has a much more aggressive bittering quality.
There is a wide range of beers within the imperial IPA category. In this category there can be IPAs that clock in around 8 percent ABV all the way up to 18 percent ABV and higher.
The Beer Judge Certification Program, plays a large part in defining beer styles, but what does this mean to the casual beer lover? Absolutely nothing.
Style guidelines are set in order for beer judging to be able to compare beers in a like-for-like manner.
It would be quite difficult to judge a beer in a category with no set guidelines, someone may brew a world class IPA but if it is entered into an American stout category it will be judged poorly. The guidelines ensure that beers will be judged fairly and equally allowing judges to have a set parameter to work with when scoring a beer.
The difficulty with the IPA category is the wide range of beers that fall into the double IPA category. Consumers may not be fully aware of just what falls into this category, which is why there has been a push to begin labeling higher ABV DIPAs as Triple IPA’s.
This new classification, which has not yet been recognized as an “official” category, enable breweries to make the point that the beer inside packs much more of a hop punch than others. The higher ABV that accompanies many of these beers is something that should be noted by drinkers as it now reaches into the double digit realm.
IPA’s are a beloved style and that trend is not stopping any time soon. If you feel that you have tried every IPA under the sun then you have not tried hard enough. The growing style and ever increasing hoppier versions shows that the style is no slowing down any time soon. So get out there and find the triple IPAs for a true challenge to your taste buds. Hop lovers will surely be rewarded.
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.