If you're a beer drinker located in the United States chances are HIGH you've become familiar with a beer style known as IPA - or India Pale Ale. The history of the IPA is long and confusing. Essentially, the popular explanation tells of British brewers who increased the number of hops in their pale ales to act as a preservative for traveling long distances to British colonies in India in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Whether it is true or not, IPAs were invented long ago but have re-emerged over the past two decades, undergoing a steady increase in popularity.
According to the latest data from AmericanCraftBeer.com, IPAs were the third fastest-growing beer category in America from 2017-2018 and take up 6% of the craft beer market. For more by-the-numbers stats, IPAs grew their sales numbers by 10% YOY last year and brought in $895.8 million in that time frame.
To the average beer drinker, IPAs are obviously plentiful at every bar, tap room, bottle shop or gas station you might pop into, especially here in San Diego, and the numbers only add more proof to the pudding that IPAs are here to stay. But in an ever-expanding category, the question must be asked: how different styles of IPA are there?
It's hard to keep track as new categories get added to the BJCP/BA official list each year - think "New England-style" or "Hazy IPAs" in 2018 - AND - clever marketing teams at breweries across the country always add an unofficial twist to their own styles: think "West Coast IPA" from many So Cal brewers including yours truly or "Fresh Hop IPA" from craft beer legends like Sierra Nevada.
Let's start with official beer categories as determined by one of the governing bodies in craft beer, the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP). According to the BJCP, there are nine (9) separate IPA styles:
Now let's look at another reference for official style categories, this time from the Brewer's Association. They classify only a handful of styles - including:
English-Style India Pale Ale
Session India Pale Ale
American-Style India Pale Ale
Juicy or Hazy India Pale Ale
American-Style Imperial or Double India Pale Ale
Juicy or Hazy Imperial or Double India Pale Ale
Now we have an idea of how many official IPA styles exist. Excluding repeats from BJCP/BA, this gives us a total of twelve (12) official IPA categories!
So, we've determined we have a good base of twelve different official IPA categories, but leave it to brewers to be creative! Other sub-categories can number in the hundreds when you examine them on Untappd, but let's take a nicely condensed list from CraftBeer.com that reminds us of a few fan-favorite categories:
West Coast-Style IPA
Wet Hop IPA
For good measure, we'll rattle off a few sub-sub-categories that we've seen around town in San Diego and have come to love! Including:
Fresh Hop IPA
The list goes on and on and that is part of the beauty of the beer industry. Creators gonna create! We'll see where inventive brewers take IPAs in the coming years. For hop-heads and beer snobs, this is a category where we will continue to not be disappointed!
Share your favorite IPA styles with us @longshipbrewery on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter! Enjoy IPAs but don't be afraid to try something new and always remember to VOYAGE ON