5 Different Types of IPA to Know About -- and the Differences Between Them

All you need to know.

December 15, 2023

The umbrella of IPA actually encompasses some amazingly distinct and different beers from all corners of the planet. If you’re a novice or you just want to bolster your repertoire and impress your pals, here are five varieties of IPA that everyone should sup at least once in their life.

English India Pale Ale

The English India Pale Ale, or simply English IPA, is a popular type of IPA known for its strong hop flavor. This style originates from the 19th century when British brewers began adding extra hops to beers destined for soldiers in India. The bitterness helped preserve the beer during long sea voyages and became highly sought after back home.

English IPAs tend to be less fruity and earthier than their American counterparts. They also typically have lower alcohol content around 5% to 7%. You may notice flavors like caramel, nuttiness and light fruit while enjoying an English IPA.

A widely recognized brand featuring this style is Samuel Smith’s Brewery with their classic India Ale. Another notable example is Fuller’s Bengal Lancer, which showcases the unique balance of hops and malt found only in traditional English IPAs. Enjoying one at a rooftop bar in Manchester, or a far-flung pub elsewhere in the world, will remind you of why it’s such an enduring style.

Cold IPA

A relative newcomer to the IPA scene, cold IPAs have quickly gathered a following among craft beer enthusiasts. They're essentially brewed as lagers with lower fermentation temperatures, allowing for a crisp profile that sharply contrasts the typically heavy character of other IPAs.

Wherever you are on your beer journey, there are a number of emerging cold IPA trends worth exploring. This includes breweries experimenting with ingredients like wheat or rye which are not typical in traditional IPAs.

Fremont Brewing’s Legend, for example, is renowned for its exhilarating blend of Citra, Centennial, Citra Cryo and Strata hops along with pilsner and pale malts that bring bursts of citrus fruit flavor against an exceptionally clear backdrop.

Similarly, Wayfinder's simply named Cold IPA pushes boundaries with big malt hits, while maintaining familiar citrus notes, inviting everyone from beginners to aficionados to enjoy this style’s refreshing departure from the norm of West Coast IPAs.

Double or Imperial IPA

If you're a fan of assertive, hop-forward beers, then a double or imperial IPA is just for you. These robust brews push the limits on what can be expected from traditional IPAs. From increased malt presence to elevated hop bitterness and remarkably high alcohol content, ranging from 7% to over 20%, their intense character and full body make them unforgettable.

Dogfish Head Brewery’s 90 Minute IPA revolutionized this style by continuously adding hops throughout its brewing process rather than at fixed intervals. The result is an intensely complex beer that manages balance despite its strength.

Russian River’s Pliny the Elder, another iconic example of imperial craftsmanship, has been vying for top spots in worldwide 'best beer' rankings since it exploded onto the scene two decades ago, solidifying this style's enduring prominence among seasoned craft beer connoisseurs.

Belgian Style IPA

When Belgium's layered brewing tradition meets the hop-forward focus of IPAs, you get Belgian Style IPAs. This style merges distinct Belgian yeast strains with aggressive hopping. The result is a taste evolution featuring fruity esters, pronounced spiciness and effervescent mouthfeel balanced against refreshing bitterness.

Flying Dog Brewery’s Raging Bitch exemplifies what happens when two beer cultures intersect on common ground. This blend features aromatic hops intertwined with notes of banana and clove affectionately coined as ‘forest fruit’.

Stone Brewing’s perhaps audaciously named Cali-Belgique IPA, another take on blending the Belgo-American styles, adds an elegant twist to typical West Coast IPAs using Trappist yeast, causing intriguingly dry smokiness tinged by hints of tropical fruit.

Whether you're new or accustomed to international flavors, these charm-packed options will lead you further into exploring how regional influences shape your beer experience.

American IPA

Among the diverse spectrum of IPAs, American IPAs have arguably made the most impact. Bold and bitter with pronounced hop profiles, they've been influential in pushing the boundaries of flavor within the craft beer industry.

Unlike English counterparts leaning toward maltiness, classic American versions shine spotlight on hops, resulting in citrusy, floral or pine-like notes against a backdrop of balancing malt character. Alcohol content typically hovers between 5% to 7%.

Sierra Nevada Brewing's Torpedo Extra IPA, renowned for its use of whole-cone hops in a custom 'Hop Torpedo', captures quintessential tastes that enthusiasts love about American styles.

Bell’s Brewery’s Two Hearted Ale, another flagship example that has become synonymous with this style, impresses users with its harmonious play between strong grapefruit aromas and sweet malts, embodying many nuances sophisticated drinkers seek out when selecting an IPA.

Wrapping Up

There’s an IPA style out there for everyone, so keep an eye out for them on your next bar visit, or order a few of the ones we’ve mentioned to stock your fridge with tasty beverages.