There are three little letters you might hear all the time when the topic is craft beer: IPA. Knowing what an IPA is–and can be–can be the key to unlocking your own pathway to your craft beer palate. Get to know the world of IPAs, and start to get cozy with words like “hoppy” and IPA’s cousin, the ISA.
Granville Island Brewing Beer Merchant, Mike Sharpham, helps with a definition: “IPA, which stands for India Pale Ale, is a style that originated in Britain and was shipped to India for English colonists located there.”
Those beers were designed to hold up to a journey by sea, so they were “more highly hopped,” and had a higher alcohol content than other Pale Ales of the era.
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Over in North America, the IPA became a favourite for home and craft brewers, and in developing flavours, brewers turned to their own terroir, to borrow a term from the world of wine. What emerged was an east coast and west coast set of distinct flavour profiles. Sharpham adds that local ingredients, including hops, found in the Pacific Northwest gave IPAs in the region notes of grapefruit and pine.
Now the ISA has emerged as a branch off the IPA tree; it stands for India Session Ale. “Session” is a term taken from English pub culture, explains Sharpham, “where drinkers may spend hours enjoying the company of others while drinking lower alcohol beers.” So the ISA is brewed a bit differently to make it a bit more easy-going; it’s got less alcohol and less bitterness than an IPA.
For their part, Granville Island Brewing has released their ISA, Two Tides India Session Ale, which is a great way to get to know the hoppy flavours that are a hallmark of an IPA, but in a more “toned down” version.
One other way to get to know IPAs in Vancouver is to check out the 30 Days of IPA Festival on at Donnelly pubs around town this August. In its fourth year, the month-long celebration is sure to get IPA fans and newcomers alike hopping–from pub to pub, that is. Each day at opening a different IPA is tapped at one of 10 participating venues, and will be pouring until it runs out. With a wide range of BC and import IPAs, there are tons to taste and try that cover the spectrum. Day 31 will find a rare Brooklyn Brewery Defender IPA tapped at Blackbird Public House. Check Donnelly’s site for a full schedule.
In addition to the GIB Two Tides ISA and the 31 offerings on tap from the Donnelly Group this month, there are plenty of terrific BC-brewed IPAs to tickle your tastebuds. Culled from recent picks from our own beer enthusiasts, and 2015’s BC Beer Awards, here are 12 BC IPAs to try.
Big Rock – White Rocket Unfiltered IPA
“Refreshingly bold, with a bitter edge and tonnes of flavour, this Galaxy hopped brew has the wheat base and spicy notes of a Belgian Wit. A beer that is both fruity and spicy, this adds a little more kick to the season than a simple Wit.”
Storm Brewing – Basil IPA/Hurricane IPA
They call it a “favourite” from their list of “weekly rotating beer creations” called Brainstorms, and it was a standout at Vancouver Craft Beer Week. If this isn’t pouring at Storm, their regular rotation IPA is called Hurricane, which they say is packed “with enough hops to circumvent the no longer British dominated globe twelve times over.” POW!
Main Street Brewing – Naked Fox IPA
Released in March 2016, Main Street’s dry IPA is made with a mix of North American and Southern Hemisphere hops. Thanks to its drier malt flavour profile, the hops really stand out in this sly one.
Bridge Brewing – Imperial White IPA
North Vancouver’s Bridge brewing took home a first place award in the Wood/Barrel Aged category in the 2015 BC Beer Awards for this brew in their limited Ironworkers Series.
Central City Brewers + Distillers – Red Racer IPA
This hoppy beer earned 1st place for North American IPAs at the 2015 BC Beer Awards. One of their brewmaster’s choice beers, this Red Racer core year-round brew pairs well with spicy curries and BBQ meats. (To level up, check out their hoppy-tropical Super Stellar IPA, too.)
Red Truck Beer – Red Truck IPA
Red Truck’s IPA took 2nd place for North American IPAs at the 2015 BC Beer Awards, and a nod in third place for North American IPAs from the Vancouver International Craft Beer Awards in 2016. It promises “floral, pine, and citrus,” flavours, and is recommended to pair with spicy foods.
Hearthstone Brewery – Hearthstone IPA
“You like your hops?! Good, then strap on your moon boots comrade, because you are in for a ride,” beckons Hearthstone in describing their India Pale Ale. This brew nabbed 3rd place for North American IPAs at the 2015 BC Beer Awards, and will be on tap Saturday, August 20 at The Blackbird as part of Donnelly’s 30 Days of IPA.
Bridge Brewing – Black Rye IPA
It was a beer described as “big, bold, and intense” that earned a Gold, taking 1st place for Speciality IPAs at the 2015 BC Beer Awards. It pours jet black, and takes its flavour cues of citrus and pine from a meld of Pacific Northwest and New Zealand hops.
Moon Under Water Brewery – Hip As Funk
This unique brew from Victoria’s Moon is meant to evoke “Skittles in the attic,” according to the brewery. Taste it for yourself on Sunday, August 21 at Granville Room during 30 Days of Hops. Hip As Funk took 2nd place for Speciality IPAs at the 2015 BC Beer Awards, too.
Four Winds Brewing– Juxtapose Wild IPA
Scoring an impressive first place in the Sours/Wild Ale category at the 2015 BC Beer Awards, as well as a second place in 2016 for Specialty beers in the Vancouver International Craft Beer Awards, Delta’s Four Winds’ Juxtapose is, says the brewery, “where orchards meet pastures.”