La IPA beer is a gem among top-fermented beers. Characterised by a unique and easily recognisable taste, it quickly becomes irreplaceable for anyone who tries it. IPA beer meaning Indian Pale Alea name that already contains a number of clues about the brewing style to which it belongs and the history of its birth. Then, just as with wine, limiting oneself to talking about IPA beer is reductive as there are various types of IPA beer, not so much defined by the place of production, but rather by the origin of the hops and certain style choices.

IPA beer: from birth to fashion

Beer IPA meaning of the name

IPA stands for Indian Pale Ale and this denotes a beer style that belongs to the genre Ale by type Pale. Ale indicates a top-fermented beer, i.e. obtained by the fermentation of yeasts Saccharomyces cerevisiae (the same ones that complete the fermentation of the wort to make wine) that work at high temperatures and in a relatively short time. Pale means 'pale' and indicates a beer in which light malt is used. So the name Indian Pale Ale gives three pieces of information: it is a light beer (1) with high fermentation (2)... and Indian (3)? Indian tells the story of this beer, which was born to be imported to the British colonies - to India, in fact - and therefore needed to endure the long journey. And just as the British invented Port and other fortified wines, Indian Pale Ale is also a product born of their needs. Indian thus indicates a beer with a particularly high alcohol content as alcohol was an effective preservative and hops an aseptically rich ingredient, and together they enabled the beer to survive the journey effectively.

Beer IPA history

This beer was born in the British colonial period when the British, already great connoisseurs of beer, decided to import it into India so that the troops would not have to give up its consumption. Thus, at the end of the 18th century, ships laden with beer left for the East only to arrive ashore with an unwelcome surprise: the beer, after the long sea voyage, between high temperatures, saltiness and the duration of storage, was practically undrinkable. Thus the need arose to create a beer that could withstand the voyage and keep in a good state of preservation.

The first known use of the term Indian Pale Ale dates back to 1835 when an economic advertisement was published in the Liverpool Mercury, an English daily newspaper that operated between 1811 and 1905, in which this 'renewed' beer intended for export to India was mentioned. The master brewers decided to increase its stability by raising the alcohol content and adding hops, already known for their antiseptic and disinfectant properties.

The IPA beer enjoyed great success in the decades to come, until it almost disappeared in the late 1950s due to its high alcohol content, which exposed it to higher taxation. This is also why today there are versions of IPA beers with lower degrees, i.e. with an alcohol content of around 5% vol, although the most common ones hover around 6-7% vol and go as high as 9% vol in Imperial IPAs (or Double IPAs).

IPA beer: taste and types

IPA beer: 'general' sensory characteristics

Although each style of IPA beer has its own characteristics, a common thread can be defined for all beers of this type. They have an intense amber colour, a particularly compact and persistent foam and a slightly pronounced effervescence. Intense citrus, resinous and herbaceous notes follow on the nose. In the mouth it enters coherently, with a medium body, dry and with a particularly pronounced bitterness. Excellent drinkability and good taste-olfactory persistence.

IPA beer: the 'sub-styles

  • American IPAbrewed with American hops, it is particularly hoppy, bitter and often more citrusy and resinous than the classic English version. In the mouth, it has a medium-high to very high bitterness and a medium-low maltiness. The alcohol content ranges from 5% vol to 7% vol.
  • Argenta IPA: American IPA Argentina supplemented with caramel and up to 15% raw wheat. The Argentinian hops impart a characteristic pineapple aroma and taste. They have excellent drinkability due to the lighter body of English IPAs and the greater dryness of American IPAs. The alcohol content ranges from 5% vol to 6.5% vol.
  • Belgian IPADepending on whether American hops or European hops or a mix of these are used, it has aromas that can vary widely, but are in any case characterised by intense citrus notes, a honeyed note and some spicy hints that are also found on the palate. The great dryness accentuates the bitter taste. The alcohol content ranges from 6.2% vol to 9.5% vol.
  • Black IPA: hoppy, citrusy and resinous aromas blending with just hinted notes of chocolate, coffee and toast and a hint of light caramel in the background. Consistent taste, with a medium to high degree of bitterness and a hint of roast that accentuates the bitter perception. Alcohol content ranges from 5.5% vol to 9% vol.
  • Brown IPAIntense hop aroma that enriches the classic hints with dried fruit, toasted bread and chocolate. Balanced taste where the sweetness of the malt balances the bitterness of the hops. The alcohol content ranges from 5.5% vol to 7.5% vol.
  • DDH IPA (Double Dry Hopped IPA)is the most hopped version of the classic IPA, it is cold hopped at the end of brewing, then in fermentation and post-fermentation. Not overly bitter, but rather intensely perfumed depending on the hops used.
  • Imperial IPA (or Double IPA)is the higher alcohol version of the American IPA, from which it retains similar sensory characteristics. The alcohol content ranges from 7% vol to 10% vol.
  • NEIPA (New England IPA): 'Modified' American IPA characterised by a certain turbidity, a more fruity aroma and a 'juicy' and tendentially less bitter taste. The alcohol content ranges from 6% vol to 9% vol.
  • Red IPALight copper colour, intense aromas of peach, resin, caramel, toast and citrus fruits. Consistent taste, with the bitterness balanced by the malt. The alcohol content ranges from 5.5% vol to 7.5% vol.
  • Rye IPAA modern interpretation of the American IPA. Intensely hopped aroma with notes of peach, tropical fruit, citrus, resin and melon that blend with the slightly spicy rye malt aromas. Consistent, very hoppy taste with hints of caramel and toast. Clear rye flavour. Dry with medium to very high bitterness. Medium-light to medium body. The alcohol content ranges from 5.5% vol to 8% vol.
  • Session and Saison IPAThis is a lighter interpretation of the classic IPA of which it shares most of the sensory characteristics with a lower alcohol content. The alcohol content ranges from 3.5% vol to 4.5% vol.
  • West Coast IPA: regional variation of American IPA not yet classified by BJCP. Very hoppy aromas with citrus, herbaceous and resinous notes. Dry and bitter taste, medium-light body. The alcohol content ranges from 5.5% vol to 7.5% vol.
  • White IPAAn interpretation of the American IPA crossed with a Witbier. The impression of spice may come from Belgian yeast, spice additions or both. It has intense aromas of citrus and apricot, with a slight spiciness. Consistent, dry taste with high bitterness. Medium-light body. The alcohol content ranges from 5.5% vol to 7% vol.
Beer ipa meaning brewery lambrate milan

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IPA beer-food pairing

Perfect on its own as an aperitif because of its great drinkability, the IPA beer is also an excellent accompaniment to any meal. While it is excellent with any pizza, it can also be successfully paired with a cheese risotto, pumpkin tortelli, fried fish topped with aioli sauce or a gourmet beef burger. For the more daring, try it also with cappelletti reggiani in Parmigiano Reggiano sauce: a spectacle!

Cappelletti Reggiani ipa beer

Pictured is the IPA beer of the Lambrate Brewery, at Via Adelchi 5 in Milan (400 metres from the Lambrate metro green line stop). A temple for IPA beer lovers with many variations, all interesting, such as the particularly citrusy and bitter Atomic. Cost €6.5 per 0.4 litre glass. They are open Tuesday to Sunday from 6pm to 2am.