View Full Version : IPA vs. APA

06-21-2011, 04:40
Wade and I were discussing these beer styles recently. A point came up I thought useful to mention here, which is that India Pale Ale is an English style of beer originally. It was a relatively pale coloured beer, strongly hopped with quality, English hop varietals to allow it to last the voyage to India. It was popular there with various parts of the British administration when India was under British control. Before that, pale ales were known in England but seemed to be stronger and not necessarily highly hopped - the innovation of the first exporters was to take that beer, bring it down from barley wine strength, make it very bitter and send it off in ships. In America this (English) style took root from the 1800's. Ballantine IPA amongst others were examples. They may have used English or American hop varieties, probably both, but the taste - I recall it well - was in the English tradition of pale ale/IPA.

In Canada, before the craft beer era, Alexander Keith's India Pale Ale was in production in Nova Scotia and now is made both there and elsewhere in Canada. It is an excellent example of a commercial IPA, i.e., it's relatively light-bodied and refreshing but with a noticeable flowery hop taste and estery quality.

In 1974, Anchor Brewing, a long-established regional brewery in San Francisco, released Liberty Ale. It wasn't styled an IPA, but it was similar to an English IPA in that it was top-fermented and light-coloured - not black like porter and stout and not brown like a brown ale. Its hopping though was different, it used hops grown on the West Coast - a traditional hop growing area - but in large amounts and the Cascade hop figured in its production. This is a hop with a big grapefruit-like taste, some people say deeply citric or piny. Apparently, homebrewers had been making strongly-hopped ales with locally grown hops, and Liberty Ale possibly was inspired by them, or may have been a truly original type.

Starting around 1978 with the revivalist U.S. craft brewers, a style emerged called pale ale or IPA which is now called APA - American Pale Ale. This ale similarly used large amounts of American hops, either Cascade or sometimes Centennial or other varieties which to many have a kind of "house" similarity. Liberty Ale is the grandfather of this style IMO. The best known example today is probably Sierra Nevada Pale Ale which started around 1980 and still is one of the best APAs around. But there are hundreds of APAs now available, and a recent trend is double IPA - bigger in every way than the regular APA i.e., in alcohol, body, hops.

Thus, APA is in the English pale ale/IPA tradition, but became a recognized sub-style in the 1970's. In essence it is a regional variant of English pale ale, just as Alexander Keith's IPA is a surviving Canadian example of IPA as made by a large established brewery.

And so when we speak of liking "hoppy" beers, a further distinction should be made between the English and American pale ale/IPA types. The English type can be bitter indeed but tends to a softer, more flowery taste than APA. However, APA has taken root in England recently, not just as an import but in the form of a local production which use American-grown hops. Brew Dog in Scotland makes a well-known example. And so America has returned the favor of pale ale you might say.


06-21-2011, 05:48
Great post Gary!!

06-21-2011, 07:18
Thanks for sharing. Really interesting!

T Comp
06-21-2011, 11:53
I always enjoy the historical approach that Gary brings which logically clears up the blurry interpretations that have evolved.

06-21-2011, 12:53
Thanks gents and again historically, bitter, pale ale and India Pale Ale are all the same thing, essentially. "Bitter" was the slang term used by the drinker in the pub, so it came to be used for the draft product. Pale ale was the brewer's term, so it went on the labels of bottles: Bass Pale Ale.

Pale Ale was and is more bitter than "regular" ale. Regular ale was, and still can be, mild ale. Mild ale meant originally, not weak beer, but beer that was not strongly hopped, meant for immediate consumption. Because not strongly hopped, it was not stored or shipped. Pale ale in contrast was a shipped or long stored beer (same thing basically, the idea of a beer maturing over time: the hops would mellow down a bit, the beer would round out but crucially would be preserved). Mild ale didn't need preservation because it was drunk fast.

Once refrigeration came in (end 1800's), pale ales stopped being stored for long periods and shipped beers went out of fashion. So as Thad said, the categories blurred especially when you factor that all beers use less hops today than 100 years ago and more.

So today, many pale ales really are mild ales (low-hopped) by 1800's standards but not all. A number of English pale ales and APAs are still strongly hopped and would probably resemble the old shipped IPAs.

The old Indian market vanished after about 1880. People there as all over the world turned to light lagers.


Tennessee Dave
06-21-2011, 14:02
Great thread. Thanks for sharing.

06-21-2011, 15:42
I think there is a difference between APA and the American IPA, neither of which is really like the English IPA.

To me, the American IPA is a more aggressively hopped than the APA. It's a style that started in the Pacific Northwest, but my favorite examples are Midwestern: Tyranena Bitter Woman, Three Floyds Alpha King, New Holland Mad Hatter, Founders Centennial, and Bell's Two-Hearted.

Where the APA gets your attention with the Centennial/Cascade/Warrior/Simcoe/etc hop nose and a nice astringent finish, the American IPA aroma jumps higher out of the glass, and it is downright bitter. The APA gives you hints of grapefruit, while the American IPA squirts you in the eye.

There are great examples from other parts of the country (even New Belgium, purveyors of the mild mass market Fat Tire, make a decent IPA in their Ranger), but, now that I've got the luxury, I like to "drink local".

The Imperial IPA, or Double IPA, or 2IPA that has gained so much ground these days is, well, those things concentrated. More malt = higher specific gravity = higher ABV, and with the hops to match. While I do like them, I am not a fan of the trend toward higher ABV, since it limits how many I'm going to drink.

06-21-2011, 16:13
I don't necessarily disagree, e.g., pale ale in 1850 as sold in England was somewhat less hopped than what they sent overseas. But both were way more hopped than mild ale...

It's all on a continuum, and each producer anyway would have had his take on it: the terminology wasn't (still isn't) precise, in other words.


06-21-2011, 17:38
Where does a beer like Hopslam fit in to these various profiles?

06-22-2011, 08:41
Where does a beer like Hopslam fit in to these various profiles?

That would be a typical Double IPA to me.


06-22-2011, 09:27
Thanks for the great info! IPA's are my favorite beers and the more hops the better, hence my love of Stone's Ruination IPA.
Do IPA's lose their bitterness over time if stored in the bottle, or was it in casks that they mellowed on their journey?

06-22-2011, 10:46
Both. Beer was exported to India and elsewhere from England and would have undergone, in the days before refrigeration and tight filtering, a slow additional fermentation in either container. Hop character tends to diminish over time, in any type of container similarly.

One of the rationales to use a ton of hops was, it will do its job of preserving the beer from sourness and then by the time it is consumed, the bitterness will have toned down. It's a reminder that hops originally were used to preserve beer: flavouring was a secondary feature although ultimately, once people got the taste for hopped beer, the flavour of hops became the sole reason for its use.

Incidentally, Philadelphia sent some porter to India too and that city had an excellent reputation for the beer then.


06-22-2011, 11:01
Incidentally, Philadelphia sent some porter to India too and that city had an excellent reputation for the beer then.Gary

Next a history lesson on porter, stouts (Imperial, milk, etc) styles?

06-22-2011, 12:14
Sure. :)


06-22-2011, 12:49
Next a history lesson on porter, stouts (Imperial, milk, etc) styles?

Sure. :)


Awesome! Looking forward to growing more beer brains!!

07-01-2011, 12:44
I enjoy the occasional American IPA (but I find the whole race to overhop beers a bit silly) and my favorite beer right now is an APA, Axl Pale Ale from Milking It Productions here in Royal Oak, MI. The brewery is run by the former owner of King Brewery in Pontiac, and a Ms. Mills (get it, Mill-King?), who also worked at King and was one of my favorite barmaids at my favorite Detroit Pub, Grand Trunk.

Anyway, very nice discussion, thanks Gary!

Bourbon Boiler
07-03-2011, 19:36
Thanks for the thread. Everytime i visit a microbrew I start with the house *PA. It's not always my favorite, but is a majority of the time.