Our Last IPA Sub-Style Article Ever – or Until the Brewers Think Up Something New

Our Last IPA Sub-Style Article Ever – or Until the Brewers Think Up Something New

by Mark E. Lasbury for Indiana On Tap

People never seem to tire of drinking IPAs, but I’m glad that this is the last article on IPA sub-styles because I am an unabashed malt-forward beer drinker. Give me a wee heavy or an doppelbock and I’m happy as can be……but I’m married to a hop head. Therefore, I drink hops and I talk hops – she who must be obeyed. We have spent three articles (here, here, and here) talking about many of the sub-styles of the IPA, and today is the final installment, with IPAs that are here, there, and elsewhere.

17) Rye IPA, or RIPA – I like this version of an IPA. It’s one of the sub-styles that manipulates the grain bill rather than the hops. But let’s not kid ourselves, the hops are still the star for this beer. The question then, is how rye malts help to showcase hops. The phenolics and spice of the rye is going to go better with certain hops more than others – earthy, piney hops, like those traditionally from Europe would be great for this, although most use American hops (a mistake in my opinion).

It’s not like the rye predominates in this style. Most RIPAs use about 10-20% rye; it’s a strongly flavored grain so a little goes a long way. There are spicy compounds in there, peppers, clove and others, so they can take over a beer very quickly, especially for a beer that’s supposed to be hop-forward. As a side note, rye tends to be higher in simple sugars, so it is easier for the yeast to eat up the sugars and produce alcohol. Therefore, higher rye-containing IPAs are a bit drier than standard American IPAs.

If you want to drink an Indiana rye IPA, you have many to choose from. But if you want to start at the top (and maybe stay there) then the Saucy Intruder from Black Acre Brewing is your beer. However, for the math nuts out there, you have to ask Sean Manahan at Kopacetic Beer Factory and Wabash Brewing to make the Pryem again. This is a rye IPA made with standard ingredients, but every measurement is a prime number. It takes a geek to appreciate it, but if you do, you do.

Saucy Intruder from Black Acre Brewing. image credit: medium

18) Belgian IPA – This may be one of the easier explanations for an IPA sub-style. Use an American IPA recipe for the grain bill, the hops, and the timing of the boil. Then ferment the wort to beer using a Belgian yeast instead of an ale yeast. There you have it, a Belgian IPA. In terms of how things turn out, a Belgian IPA reminds one of a hopped up Belgian tripel; where the hop bitterness and flavors hide the candy sugar elements that you usually get with a tripel.

Belgian dubbels and quads use a good amount of caramelized Belgian candi sugar to impart chocolate and fruity notes, as well as to provide more fermentable sugar and beef up the alcohol. Unlike these, Belgian singles and tripels are more about the malt bill, and use a lighter version of sugar. This results in dubbels and quads being dark beers, while singles and tripels are yellow to deeply golden.

A Belgian tripel looks like an IPA though the malt bill usually results in a bigger, whiter head. The hop aromas and flavors of an IPA will be there too, but you will also get the esters and spiciness of the Belgian yeast. This is where the sub-style is born. Belgian yeast strains, while having flavor profiles and attenuation levels unique to each strain, almost always impart some light fruit notes, lemon, pear, apple, orange, and even some bubblegum. They also give off a spiciness in the pepper or clove region, while the higher fermentation gives a dry finish and just a touch of sweetness left over.

The delicate, but noticeable flavors from the Belgian yeast can be lost with certain hop varieties, especially the dank and grassy types; therefore, many Belgian IPAs make use of the fruity or tropical hops or the floral dominant ones. Otherwise, all you get is the hop, and if that’s your aim then why drink or make a Belgian IPA? The more delicate Belgian IPAs are be brewed with a Belgian recipe and then just hopped up a bit, while most are American recipes and are bolder.

One other offshoot of this could be the Farmhouse IPA, where the recipe and/or yeast are of the saison type. Many of the flavor characteristic are the same as the Belgians and the same caveats can apply with farmhouse IPAs so as not to overwhelm the yeast products with massive bittering hops.

Live a Rich Life from Three Floyds. image credit: Brave Brew World

As far as Indiana examples of Belgian IPAs go, there are quite a few. Walter and I have had 31 different Belgian IPAs to this date, with two-dozen of them produced by Indiana breweries. We have found the Declaration from Taxman Brewing to be a great example of the style, although a more widely distributed version which is good is Live a Rich Life from Three Floyds.

19) Wild IPA – Much like how Belgian IPAs are standard recipes brewed with a Belgian yeast, wild IPAs are standard European or American IPA recipes fermented with “wild” yeasts at some point in the process. Primary fermentation, the first time the wort meets organisms that convert sugars to alcohol, CO2, and many other compounds is one place where “wild” yeast or organisms can be used, while secondary fermentation is the slower process after yeast have consumed most of the simple sugars.

Secondary fermentation can be done in a different container, after the fresh beer is taken off the trub (fallen proteins, flocculated yeast, and other complexes), using the yeast that are still in the beer to continue fermentation, making the beer mellower, clearing it more, and acting on those complex sugars. Or, the brewer can add a different yeast during secondary to add complexity to the beer by inducing new compound formation. Therefore, wild IPAs have a lot of hops and a non-standard yeast added at some point during the fermentation.

This is getting away a bit from the IPA part of the wild IPA, but “wild” can have several nuances in brewing. It can mean anything other than the S. cerevisiae or S. Pastorianus strains that are usually employed in brewing beer. Or, it could mean yeasts or other organisms that fall out of the air to ferment wort (also called spontaneous fermentation). In the middle are yeasts and yeast combinations, including Brettanomyces yeasts and some bacterial strains that add acid and complex flavors to the beer. Many of these are cultured in labs and sold as products; only a portion of these have been fully characterized so that we know exactly what’s in there.

Therefore, “wild” can mean unknown to you, but found to do good things for beer, it can mean a characterized Brett or bacteria, or it can mean completely wild – a total crap shoot. Most fall way toward the known or partially characterized end of the scale. Depending on what stage a brewer adds these to the fermenter, there can be strong flavors or mild flavors added to the IPA, with hops still looking to play a major role. If added early enough, the IPA can actually become quite tart, or sour. Some breweries have started making what they call sour IPAs, especially in Colorado. In the end, what most brewers are looking for is a hop-forward beer that has a certain stinky cheese cellar addition, or maybe it’s more like sweaty horse saddle – you decide.

Metazoa uses animals in their names, so a Kangaroo is fine for when you use Australian hops. image credit: Metazoa Brewing

Wild IPAs have been around for more than a couple years now. It’s hard to say just how many there are because UnTappd doesn’t have a wild IPA category. Central State Brewing in Indianapolis makes a handful of wild IPAs for you to try. We have tried several and have found that the Phase Shift is one of the more definitive examples of a wild IPA in Indiana.

20) International IPA – I have to admit that this is sub-style is a bit of a mystery to me; it seems to really be more about the origin of the ingredients than how bitter the beer might be or about the process of brewing or finishing the beer. However, flavor is a major portion of this sub-style, because the hops are the major discriminator.

We have talked before about how different hop varieties have different levels of various oils and alpha-acids and these affect the flavors that come through in the beer. Secondarily, where the hops are grown can affect the levels of various oils and other compounds, called terroir, and will also have significant effects on the flavors imparted to the beer.

Hops from places other than America or Europe are now becoming quite popular, and since they were developed and are grown in different places, they tend to have different flavor profiles. Right now I’m a fool for Australian and New Zealand hop varieties. They tend to have more delicate flavors, floral and tropical fruit, rather than the big bold flavors of American hops (citrus, grass, dank) or European hops, earthy and herbal.

Because of the lighter characteristics of the Southern Hemisphere hops (including Australia, New Zealand, but also South Africa and South America), International IPAs tend to be more malt forward. They can have a bit of caramel character, and taste like an American IPA that has oxidized a bit, the hops have faded and the beer has become a bit more malt intense. That’s the description from Ron Smith, and I thank him for walking me through this sub-style, if it’s indeed a sub-style at all.

Unlike the wild IPA, UnTappd does categorize beers under the International IPA label. This is probably a newer moniker, since Walter and I are recorded as only having drank seven International IPAs. Kanga-brew from Metazoa Brewing is a great example from Indiana. The name alone clues you in to the idea that this uses Australian hops. Look for this style to expand and become more readily available.

Half Moon Brewery in Kokomo makes a nice passion fruit IPA. image credit: Half Moon Restaurant & Brewery

Finally a bonus IPA sub-style. I was opposed to calling this a sub-style, but I am slowly warming up to it, having learned about the choices that must be made in the brewing process.

21) Fruit IPA – by definition; it’s an IPA with fruit added. In general, that’s enough of an explanation; dry hopping is a bit more intricate, Belgian IPAs are a bit more delicate to produce. Perhaps it should be called IPA with fruit rather than a fruit IPA, but if you want to call it a sub-style, then let’s talk about what makes it more than a plain IPA with fruit. And there are a few decisions to be made when brewing a fruit IPA.

Most commonly, the fruit used in the IPA accentuates the fruit flavors in the hops – orange, blood orange, or grapefruit for citrusy hops, mango or pineapple for tropical hops. Instead balancing hop and malt, in this case you are balancing fruit against the hop, enough to call it something other than a plain IPA, while not enough to turn it completely into a fruit beer.

The fruit can be in the form of juice, flesh, puree, or peel. The flavor and oils will be different with each, meaning that aromas and taste can vary. It also matters when you add the fruit. An addition during primary fermentation will get rid of a lot of the sugar and make the beer drier, but will keep the flavor (although some if might be metabolized to other compounds). Addition after fermentation or late in fermentation will make the beer sweeter and probably truer to the specific fruit being used.

If you’re going to talk about fruit IPAs in Indiana, you have to talk about the Centerpoint Brewing (Blood) Orange IPA. This beer has become very popular anywhere where it has been distributed, and accounts for a good portion of the production schedule at Centerpoint. If you want something more toward the tropical end of the scale, look for Half Moon Brewery in Kokomo to bring back the passion fruit IPA, it was awfully good.

So that’s it for now, 21 different IPA sub-styles. Each has it’s own fans and foes. Some people look at these defilers of the true IPA, while others welcome them as innovative and steps toward craft beer’s future. One thing is for sure, it won’t stop now. Look for another installment of this series in the future, although what new sub-styles it might entail I have no idea.

banner image credit: Kegerator Learning Center


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