MOVIES & BOOZE: The American IPA

To-day on the show we are looking at how the American IPA style has evolved, and how new sub-styl...
Claire Collins
Claire Collins

14.45 30 Aug 2019

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MOVIES & BOOZE: The Americ...

MOVIES & BOOZE: The American IPA

Claire Collins
Claire Collins

14.45 30 Aug 2019

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Dean McGuinness reviews 5 Barrel Project Pineapple Milkshake IPA and Crafty Dan 13 Guns IPA

To-day on the show we are looking at how the American IPA style has evolved, and how new sub-styles of this style are being interpreted by English breweries.

Our two beers for today are Black Sheep 5 Barrel Project Pineapple Milkshake IPA and Crafty Dan 13 Guns American IPA.  Both beers are IPA’s, but, while they are both brewed in England, they are both influenced heavily by how the IPA style has evolved in the U.S.



Beer Style Evolution –

Beer styles evolve.  The idea of a beer style was expounded by beer writer Michael Jackson as he tried to work out a way to explain the diversity of beers brewed in Belgium.  Belgians often brew beers specifically with the goal of brewing a beer that expresses their individuality.  Understanding all of these beers is a challenge, so Jackson attempted to put them into groups to help people know what to expect from a particular group of beers.

As the concept of beer styles has become more common, the development of styles started to work from the style outwards.  Seeing that a particular style is popular, brewers brew their interpretation of the style to capitalise on this popularity.  This continues to a point where there is a large number of beers belonging to a style, with the result that the style can be defined more clearly by the common characteristics of the beers in these families.

This evolution then takes a third step.  Craft beer has grown out of diversity, individuality, creativity and choice.  As brewers see that beers brewed to style tend to become more homogenous, some brewers seek to make themselves stand out.  They take the style, but twist it so that it is similar to the original style but different.  This leads to the emergence of sub-styles.  And, as a sub-style emerges, the cycle starts again – other brewers copy the sub-style and the sub-style becomes more clearly defined as the membership of the sub-style family builds up.

Throughout all of this process there are beers that are described as belonging to a particular style that don’t really, and there are beers that belong to a particular style but find that the definition of that style evolves over time to a point where they find themselves on the fringes of the style rather than at its centre.

This evolutionary process happens all the more when a particular style is very popular.  The more people that are interested in drinking a particular style of beer, the more breweries choose to brew it, and the more creativity that is injected into different versions of the style.  Over time, the style splinters, and the core style becomes a family of styles, each one having something in common, but each sub-style slightly different from the last.


IPA Style Evolution –

The IPA style has emerged as the most popular craft beer style.  With this popularity, the definition of IPA has evolved and developed over time.  India Pale Ales started out as a pale ale, brewed with a notable hop content and above average strength.  In the context of the time, ‘pale’ usually meant deep or burnished amber, and above average strength put the beer in the region of 7% a.b.v.

This combination of characteristics placed the India Pale Ale in an interesting position.  Paler beers tend to be more refreshing in hot weather.  Above average strength beers tend to last better because the alcohol acts as a preservative in the beer.  Hop bitterness serves to balance sweetness in beer – this sweetness can be cloying in hot weather, so balancing (or reducing) the perception of sweetness further contributed to the refreshing character of the beer in hot climate.  It is also surmised that the use of large quantities of hops had a further preservative effect on the beer.

All of these characteristics gave India Pale Ales an above average chance of succeeding as a beer exported from England to the colonies in India.  And succeed they did.  Over time, these pale ales were promoted by breweries as “pale ales popular in the Indian colonies”, and over time this shortened to India Pale Ales.

Jumping forward some years, and as craft beers started to emerge in popularity, craft brewers sought styles that they could brew that were more interesting and flavourful.  Mainstream brewers had been reducing flavour in beer, and in many instances this meant reducing hop character.  Likewise, paler beers were still popular.  German Wheat Beers and India Pale Ales came through as two contenders for styles to brew and emulate – both have developed in popularity, but the India Pale Ale punched through as the one that is most associated with craft beer.

As American brewers brewed India Pale Ales, it was only natural that they would use local hops.  This lead to the emergence of two distinct styles – the English India Pale Ale (brewed with English hops, and having an earthy, minerally, herbal character) and the American IPA (brewed with American hops and having a more fruity character, often balanced with pine hop character).

Further innovation lead brewers to challenge the three pillars of the India Pale Ale style – colour (a pale beer), alcohol content (above average) and hop character.

A range of different sub-styles of India Pale Ale emerged – Black IPA, Red IPA, White IPA and so on.  In each instance, the beer style evolved as a hybrid of the IPA style and another relevant style (stout, red ale, witbier and so on), but there needed to be something that made these IPA sub-styles stand out from their parents in the hybrid style.  In all instances, hop character became the dominant factor in any beer that is described as IPA, and where, for example, colour is varied, the goal is that the flavour associated with that colour does not overly dominate.

Challenging alcohol content lead to the emergence of Session IPA’s (typically 3.5% to 5.0%) and Imperial IPA’s, or Double IPA’s (typically 7.5% to 12%).  The range in the centre was the homeplace of the ‘classic’ IPA style.

One will notice that this evolution of sub-styles also lead to an evolution of the name.  In the last five or so years, beer people accepted that this family of styles could not be described as a ‘pale’ style family if it included red, black and brown beers.  As a result ‘IPA’ supplanted ‘India Pale Ale’ as the name for the style family.

The most recent challenge to the IPA style has come in the form of interpreting what hop character is appropriate to the style.  As the style evolves, the one factor that has remained true is that IPA’s are built around hop character.  However, hops can be used in different ways in beer.  As American IPA’s developed, in the earlier days many brewers sought to challenge beer drinkers taste buds by increasing the bitterness in the beer (bitterness is one of the flavours that comes from the use of hops in beer).  Pushing this to an extreme, it is perhaps no surprise that some brewers had a backlash to the extreme levels of bitterness in some beers.  The result was that a ‘West-Coast’ – ‘East Coast’ distinction emerged.  West Coast IPA’s retained their relatively high levels of bitterness, and are built around (most commonly) citrus and pine flavours, with often other fruit flavours present to complement.  The East Coast IPA (New England IPA, or sometimes ‘Juicy’ or ‘Hazy’ IPA) has emerged as an IPA that recoils from high levels of bitterness, and instead focuses its hop character around late hop and dry hop flavours – most often peachy, stone fruit and sometimes tropical fruit flavours.  The high levels of dry hopping often lead to these beers being notoriously cloudy, though management of the cloudy presentation of a beer often presents challenges to a brewer (keeping a beer cloudy consistently is quite an art).

The ‘Milkshake IPA’ is a further evolution of the IPA style.  Growing out of the New England IPA, it makes use of lactose sugars to add a dimension of body and sweetness to complement the juicy fruit flavours associated with the New England IPA style.

No doubt this will not be the last evolution of this style ...

5 Barrel Project Pineapple Milkshake IPA –

Beer Style                            -  Fruit Milkshake IPA

Alcohol by Volume          -  5.3% a.b.v.

Brewed by                          -  Black Sheep Brewery

Brewed in                            -  Masham, Yorkshire, England.

The unmistakeable aroma of pineapple is the first thing that hits you with this beer.  The bright golden colour reflects the tropical fruit aromas in the beer.  These aromas develop as the suggestion of lactose sweetness and vanilla emerges behind the pineapple in this beer.

On tasting this beer, it is particularly distinctive.  Pineapple juice is used in the brewing of this beer, and this fruit can be a particularly refreshing and acidic fruit.  Pineapple sweetness comes through first, and combines with lactose sweetness.  The acidity of the pineapple fruit causes this beer to be incredibly mouthwatering – with each mouthful, one’s mouth explodes with fruit flavour, and it is impossible not to salivate.  The acidity of the fruit combines with the lactose character giving the ‘milk’ of the ‘milkshake’ name a distinctly yoghurty character.  Mildly herbal hop character complements the fruity hop aromas.  Bitterness is notably restrained, and the acidity of the fruit provides the balance for the fruit and lactose sweetness.  This beer has a luscious mouthfeel – initially body is full and rewarding, but again it is balanced by the acidity of the fruit with the result that this tastes (at the same time) as a light and refreshing beer that is full and luscious on the palate.  The pineapple acidity cuts through the lactose sweetness in the finish with the result that the finish on the palate is relatively quick, but the memory of the fruit and lactose flavours and aromas lingers pleasantly.

This beer reflects the leading edge of IPA creativity at this point in time.  As the ‘Milkshake IPA’ style emerges from the New England IPA, there could be an expectation of significant haziness (a characteristic associated with the New England IPA).  This particular beer is bright (no cloudiness whatsoever), so this differs somewhat from the origins of the New England IPA style.  However, this haziness is an interesting style characteristic – two competing sub-style names are bandied about for New England IPA – ‘Hazy IPA’ and ‘Juicy IPA’ – which leads one to wonder which of these two characteristics is considered more intrinsic to the style.  With this Pineapple Milkshake IPA, there is no doubt that ‘juicy’ is the predominant character.

But whatever its specific sub-style classification, this beer is simply incredibly delicious.

Crafty Dan 13 Guns IPA –

Beer Style                            -  American IPA

Alcohol by Volume          -  5.5% a.b.v.

Brewed by                          -  by Marsdens for the Crafty Dan Brewery

Brewed in                            -  England.

Crafty Dan 13 Guns IPA is reflective of the more classic IPA style.  The name – 13 Guns – comes from the original 13 States of the Union, and the beer is built around classic American Hop character complemented by the colour that is more associated with the pale ales of the start of the craft brewing movement – more deep to burnished amber.

Crafty Dan 13 Guns is brewed with a blend of six American hops – Centennial, Citra, Amarillo, Apollo, Chinook and Kohatu.  This complex blend, in turn, provides a complex hop character – citrus (lemon/lime), tropical fruit (lychee) and stone fruit (peach, apricot) all combine with a background of hop pine character.  Hop bitterness is in evidence – much more so than in the previous beer – and it serves to balance the flavour in the beer.

The malt backbone in this beer is more substantial.  Using a blend of Pale, Caramalt, Munich Malt and Rye, this malt character comes through as a substantial caramel, toast base complemented subtle with rye spiciness.  The result is a solid foundation to provide a base for the substantial hop character of the beer together with a further complementary balancing factor in the form of the spice of the rye.

13 Guns provides complexity in the form of a beer that can be simply be alternatively drunk to enjoy.  Dissecting the flavour allows one to appreciate the complexity and balance afforded by the blend of grains and the integration of six different hops, but the flavours delivered by each of these aspects of the beer integrate with the result that the beer is superbly balanced and simply delicious.

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