What is a India Pale Ale?
Modern IPA's are decidedly hoppy and bitter, with strong hoppy and floral aromas, specially from American hops such as Citrus and Mosaic. Some versions are dry-hopped to get an even more intense aroma. Its color ranges from medium-gold to amber and even to dark brown and black in the case of Black IPA's. The body is medium-light and the ABV is not very high, in the range of 5 to 7,5% ABV. The English styles have a more sweet character derived of the malts used (giving them a caramel, bread, and toast touch).
IPA stands for India Pale Ale. Its origins trace back to the 18th century, around 1780s, when the first pale ales started to be exported to India. This beers were exported to middle and upper class European expats in India—civil servants, military staff, etc. Some of the very first exporters of this kind of beer were Hodgson—regarded as the pioneer of IPA—, Bass or Allsopp. The beer was strongly hopped as that was thought to be necesary when sending beer to warm latitudes in order to survive the long journey. During the journey, the strong waves and temperature changes were by chance the factors that turned the original October Ale exported by Hodgson into a more mature hoppy beer that was highly appreciated by the customer in the East Indias. Around 1835, the style was first named as East India Pale Ale. Althought these beers were not made for local comsumption, the style started to get popular in the UK, allegedly after a shipwreck on the coast of Lancashire in 1839, were the locals could taste some of the samples that were being sent abroad. After that, and with the arrival of the railway, the style became popular all over UK. It evolved through the 19th and 20th century, becoming something weaker, analog to a plain old pale ale, and with the advent of refrigeration, it slowly died in the 70's. The 80's saw the resurrection of the India Pale Ale, thanks to the efforts of American craft brewers that started recreating old English styles, packing IPA's with a high amount of hops. American style IPA's became popular in the 90's, crossing the Atlantic back again to UK and continental Europe and they are now one of the most popular styles when it comes to craft beer.