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American Pale Ales vs. India Pale Ales

It’s been a good weekend so far. We had some good friends come in from out of town who share the same affinity for good beer. So, yesterday we managed to design the entire day around brewing, bottling, and drinking beer.

The day started with a trip to the local homebrew supply store ( The Weekend Brewer) where the local homebrewers club (James River Homebrewers) was having its annual “Cluster Brew”. Once a year the club members pack up there brewing equipment and converge on The Weekend Brewer where they set everything back up in the parking lot and brew a variety of beers. The goal this year was to clone a particular commercial beer chosen at random. Each team had something different. It was very impressive. They had equipment set ups that NASA would be proud of. We were spectators this event and so we spent our time meeting a lot of great people and tasting some great beer. I was introduced to an awesome beer called Indian Brown Ale made by Dogfish Head  Craft Brewery. It’s a wonderfully surprising combination of the hoppiness of the India pale ale nicely balanced with the color and maltiness of an American brown ale. Very tasty and highly recommended.

Afterwards, we went inside to pick up supplies to prepare for an afternoon of brewing and Hokie football. I gave my IPA recipe to the store owner where he quickly pointed out that it was an American pale ale (APA) and not an Indian pale ale (IPA). Always trying to learn more I asked him why it was considered an APA. He mentioned the hops which were Kent Goldings, Simcoe, and cascade. The simple answer is the difference in hops. The IPA is made with English hops and the APA is made with American hops. I had heard this before but never dug into it. So, I decided to see what I could find on the topic and like most things in life the answer is a little murkier than simply the hops.

The origins of the “India Pale Ale” dates back to the 18th century.  English troops stationed in India were not able to get traditional English pale ales. Due to the long sea voyage and high temperatures these ales would spoil by the time they arrived in India. To remedy this problem they created an ale using larger amounts of hops and had a higher level of alcohol. The hops (a natural preservative) and the higher alcohol content preserved the ales longer and therefore enabling them to make the long journey. As an unintended consequence, the 4 months of rolling around at sea combined with the varying temperatures increased the attenuation process easing or smoothing out the pronounced hoppy flavor.

American pale ales are American adaptations of English pale ales NOT IPA’s.  Now, according to the Style Guidelines for the Beer Judging Certificate Program (BJCP) the ingredients used to create English pale ales and IPA’s are all English and as you would expect APA’s are made with all American ingredients. For comparison purposes I have listed several examples of commercial beers in each of these categories.

So, to summarize, India Pale Ales are hoppier stronger versions of the traditional English Pale Ales. American Pale Ales are adaptations of the English Pale Ales. American IPA’s are hoppier stronger versions of the American Pale Ale and typically made with American ingredients. I have learned in this exercise that the title “India Pale Ale” and “IPA” are often misused and could provide fodder for hours of discussions.

As I mentioned earlier, we managed to design a day completely around beer. By the end of the day we had bottled 5 gallons of beer, brewed 5 gallons of beer, and by the end of the day we damn near drank 5 gallons of beer. Oh, and the Hokies won 41-30 over NC State. It was a great weekend.

As always please feel free to leave comments or questions.  Cheers!

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One Response to American Pale Ales vs. India Pale Ales

  1. Thanks for the information!


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