India Pale Ales are much loved in New Zealand, here, beer expert Geoff Griggs answers some common IPA questions and recommends some of his favourites
Is India Pale Ale actually from India?
India Pale Ale, or IPA, dates back to the 18th century and was first brewed in England and sent by boat to ex-pats living and working in the sub-continent. In the days before refrigeration brewers knew that alcohol and hops both have antibacterial qualities, so only the strongest, well hopped beers could withstand the rigours of the three- or four-month sea journey, crossing the equator twice along the way. So that’s the kind of beer they sent.
The history books tell us that the most successful beers to be despatched by London brewers to India in the 1750s were examples of the strong, well hopped ‘October’ beers of the time. At home these so-called ‘stock’ beers were often blended with weaker brews and usually took at least two years to mature, but after rolling around in the holds of the East Indiaman ships for 12 to 16 weeks they arrived in Calcutta, Bombay and Madras in prime condition. Dry, quenching and well carbonated, the original beers were well received in India and soon became known as India Pale Ales.
What does an IPA taste like?
Characterised by lashings of floral, fruity, citrus-like, piney, tropical and resinous American and New World hops, these days India Pale Ales are all about hop flavour, aroma and bitterness. However, it’s worth noting the characteristics we associate with the style today would have been unrecognisable to its original brewers.
What is an AIPA?
Fast forward to the American craft beer revolution of the late 1970s and early 80s, when American brewers embraced the IPA style, but recreated it using locally grown hops. Unlike British hops, which tend to be earthy, grassy and herbaceous, American cultivars exhibit bold bursts of citrus, pine, and, in more recent times, tropical notes, and are often referred to as AIPAs.
What’s good eating with an IPA?
When thinking of food matches for IPAs your first consideration should be the hop intensity of the beer. Recommendations include spicy Indian and Mexican dishes and salty blue cheeses.
IPAs To Try
Lagunitas IPA (AIPA)
One of the few IPAs you’ll find all over America, and there’s a good reason for that. The aroma and palate of this classic, amber coloured, IPA offer a combination of pine, lemon, lime and stonefruit notes from the hops, balanced with lightly caramelised malt. When fresh it’s a delightfully rounded ‘old school’ American IPA which manages to be both complex and rewarding, yet slender-bodied and very sessionable. And that’s no mean feat. RRP$24.99, 6 pack 355ml
Epic Armageddon (AIPA)
New Zealand’s most awarded IPA, Armageddon pours a bright amber colour with a deep off-white head. Hopped exclusively with American varieties, when fresh the beer literally jumps out of the glass and assaults the nose with a combination of citrus zest, sweet, lollyish, tropical fruit notes and sweet caramel. A first sip confirms the intensity of the hop attack and, despite some caramelised sweet maltiness, the inside of the mouth is left dry with a coating of hop resin. Great stuff. RRP$9.99, 500ml
Monteith’s Phoenix IPA is made with a fusion of American Simco, Chinook and Citra hops, and takes its name from the original Phoenix Brewery established by Stewart Monteith in 1868. This IPA has a great hop-to-malt balance, with a heady aroma of pine and citrus and flavours of freshly cut grass, passionfruit and a touch of spice. RRP$22.99, 12 pack 330ml
Black Dog Boneyard IPA twists the heck out of an old IPA style with with Waimea, Chinook and Taheke hops that make for a big talking pale ale. RRP$22.99, 6 pack 330ml
Tuatara Grapefruit IPA has robust bitterness and juicy fruit and aromatic pine flavours and aromas plus succulent grapefruit. RRP$22.99, 6 pack 330ml