Hoppy or Bitter? How do you like your IPA's?

What’s an IPA

As Australian’s we should feel a close affinity with the IPA,  as the term IPA or India pale ale first appear in an ad for beer in Australia’s first newspaper (The Sydney Gazette) in 1829.

But the IPA itself started life about 30 years before that. 

With the rise of the East India Company and the UK seeking to capitalise on their markets in India, lots of ships made the long and arduous trek down the coast of Africa and around Cape Horn and then across to India. 

A trip like that is long by any measure and the beer on board for the men colonising India at the time as well as those involved in the East India Company, well it just couldn’t go the distance. The extreme temperatures and prolonged storage without a means to keep the beer cool were less than ideal conditions for transporting beer and it would get spoilt on the way. 

So British brewers had to come up with a solution, so they worked with what they had - alcohol and hops. Both of these work as preservatives and buy increasing the quantities of both in the finished product, it helped ensure a better tasting product at the end of the long journey to India. 

According to legend, it was George Hodgson of East London’s Bow Brewery who eventually created the first IPA around 1793. It was bitter and highly alcoholic, but it could make the long ocean trip. Like all things to do with beer, some of the facts around these stories can get a little muddied, as there is another school of thought that the reason his beer took off in this market, was that he extended generous credit to the ship captains making the trek and his pub was close to the port.  Another school of thought was that everything to do with the IPA was just a big marketing ploy to sell beer into the growing Indian market. 

It doesn’t really matter the reason, IPA drinkers the world over just love trying new varieties of great beer type in spite of or because of its perceived bitterness. 

So yes the IPA is a stronger and more bitter beer than say a typical Pale Ale.  But the strength or bitterness of an IPA various across the range. 

The IPAs we drink today have a key item in common, they have an abundance of hops. Our own IPA, Flash Kate has four varieties in the mix, American Cashmere, Citra, Equinox & Mosaic.  It is the hops that affect flavor, aroma, and bitterness. IPAs often smell like citrus, pine, or flowers.


There are three main styles of IPA produced today. They are American-style, English-style, and Double or Imperial with Flash Kate being an American (West Coast) Style IPA. Modern IPAs tend to have ABVs (alcohol by volume) between 5.5 and 7.5 percent. 

IPA’s and Bitterness

Along with sight, smell, touch and hearing, taste is one of our five senses. Our taste buds recognize sweet, salty, sour, umami and bitter.

Bitter is certainly a major factor when tasting an IPA, as the style employs an increased amount of hops which can add what is often described as evident, bracing and even aggressive bitterness. Since everyone has slightly different tastes, what may be evident bitterness to one craft beer drinker may be bracing to another.

Flash Kate IPA leans more into the hoppy side of the IPA family rather than the bitter side. So yes, she has bite (like her namesake), but not so bracing that you won't want to  come back to try her again and again. 

What Glass should I drink andIPA from?

IPA beers are most typically served in Pint glasses, however in recent years, German glassware maker Spiegelau has released a series of different beer glasses designed for specific beer styles. In 2013 they teamed up with American brewery's  Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada to design a beer glass specifically made for IPA’s.

The result is a beer glass that looks a little like a stemmed tulip beer glass with a wide ‘stem’ that also holds some of the beer. The wide ‘stem’ has ridges in it which assists to agitate the beer with every sip and thereby release more of the beer's aromatics which enhance the flavour.

Does this make a difference to taste? We will let you be the judge of that one.  Sounds like more marketing talk to us!

What food goes well with an IPA?

They go well with strongly flavored foods, including salty dishes, spicy curries, and grilled meats. Pizza is perfect with all beers, but especially with an IPA as the bitterness is a great counter balance for the cheese content of pizza. 

The  bitterness of the beer cuts through the layers of cheese, so you can enjoy the delicious combination again and again while also cleansing your palate in between each bite.  If you are eating a spicy meal, or enjoying some strong meat dishes (such as a german sausage) then an IPA is a great counterbalance to those flavours. 

 If you’re already an IPA fan, you’ll know what we mean.

Leanne O'SullivanComment