8 May 2012

Ai-Pee-Ei

In some corners of the beer drinking population IPA is no doubt one of the most popular styles, if not the most. It even seems that in some countries micro breweries are almost legally bound to brew an IPA, if they expect to be taken seriously.

But what is IPA? What does IPA mean? That is the question that a few days ago Boak & Bailey were asking themselves and the one that Ghost Drinker is asking today. All this is somehow related to Greene King IPA, which doesn't quite fit within the idea many people have of IPA (it doesn't get to 4% ABV and it's not very hoppy). The thing is, this beer has been brewed since forever and it doesn't seem to have changed much throughout the decades. Now, if we consider that this beer precedes the modern concept of styles and all the existing American IPA's and the BJCP, then we could say that it is Greene King who are right and everyone else is wrong, but well, let's not go there.

Controversy aside, and referring to what Ron Pattinson said some time ago when he was talking about the inflation of IPA, I believe that IPA has become a label, not too different from "Premium" or, at least in some countries, "Pilsen", something that GK seemes to have understood. It doesn't mean "India Pale Ale" anymore, it's just "IPA" and everyone is free to add descriptor to it, "Black", "White", "Double", etc. and do what they want with the term.

Come to think of it, this is nothing new, "Pale Ale" has always been a bit of a lie. Historically speaking the early, hoppy Pale Ales weren't Ales, but Beers.

And since we are on topic. Isn't IPA going through the same thing as "Stout" did? It started as a descriptor used for (not only) Porters that were stronger than usual. At some point it stopped being and adjective to become a noun and today we have at least half a dozen different styles that have the word "Stout" in their names, all more or less widely accepted and well defined.

But anyway, at the end of the day, the choice of the right words to put on the labels is more a problem of the brewers than of the consumers and if it wasn't for competitions like the World Beer Cup, there would a lot fewer people concerned about alleged taxonomic discrepancies.

Na Zdraví!

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2 comments:

  1. Beer seems to be in constant evolution and I am glad for it. But some people might be dissapointed when they order an IPA and get its older version. When I order a wheat beer I also dont expect it to taste like in the middle ages. Cheers

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    1. That's why I say the nomenclature is something brewers should sort out. If I buy something that doesn't meet my expectations, at worst, I would have lost a bit of money, the brewer, on the other hand, could loose my business.

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