The first Thursday in August marks National IPA Day: a celebration of one of the world’s most popular beer styles. In recognition of the occasion, we met with Sam Tierney, Brewing Manager at our Propagator R&D Brewhouse in Venice, to learn more about the IPA terminology we use here at Firestone Walker. Whether you’re an IPA connoisseur or a newbie to the craft beer world, we bet you’ll learn a thing or two about these hoppy brews.
Session IPAs are generally 4.5% alcohol by volume or below, providing big hop aroma and flavor without the alcohol, calories, and carbs of their bigger IPA and Double IPA siblings. We originally crafted Easy Jack to bring the flavors of some of our favorite new hop varieties from the USA and Germany to a refreshing and balanced package at a lower ABV. After we started making Mind Haze, we decided that we wanted to do the same for Hazy IPAs and created Flyjack to deliver the same juicy hop flavor with fewer calories and carbs.
Beer examples: Easy Jack and Flyjack
Double IPAs (often used interchangeably with “Imperial IPA”) are higher in alcohol (8-10% ABV) and generally hopped at higher rates than standard IPAs. We made our first Double IPA, Double Jack, in 2009, which went on to be considered a classic of the West Coast style. After brewing multiple different Double IPAs in both West Coast and Hazy styles at The Propagator, we released Double Mind Haze this year as our most hoppy and juiciest IPA to date.
Beer examples: Double Mind Haze
Single-hop IPAs are brewed with a single hop variety in order to showcase the flavor and aroma of that hop. In contrast, most IPAs use several different varieties. When we started brewing at The Propagator, single-hop IPAs were one of our most frequent styles because they allow us to get to know new hop varieties and learn how they will work for developing new IPAs. We now include some of our favorites from that series in our mix packs to showcase the best hops that we find from around the world.
Beer examples: Crafted Thru Hops Mixed Pack – Idaho Gem and Strata
The kettle is where we boil wort with hops in order to extract bitterness and aroma. Hops added early in the boil process (typically an hour) extract more bitterness, while those added at the end extract less bitterness but preserve more aromatics.
Beer examples: All of our IPAs, except Mind Haze and Strata, which are Whirlpool-hopped.
Whirlpool hops are added after the boil in the kettle is finished and the wort is pumped tangentially into a whirlpool vessel in order to collect solids in the center and allow clear wort to be drawn off to the chiller. Hops added at this step provide lower bitterness and more aroma because they are not boiled. For some IPAs we also partially chill the wort in the whirlpool to further optimize aromatic extraction and reduce bitterness.
Beer examples: All of our IPAs, however Mind Haze and Strata are only ones with strictly whirlpool hops and no kettle hops.
All of our IPAs are dry-hopped, which means we add hops to the fermentation tank during or after fermentation. Adding hops at this step in the process adds mostly aroma and flavor without significant bitterness.
Beer examples: Luponic Distortion
Double dry-hopped beers have one dose of hops added near the end of fermentation in order to take advantage of biotransformation by yeast, and a second dose added after fermentation to layer on more aroma. This technique is mostly reserved for Double IPAs.
Beer examples: Double Mind Haze
There are a handful of recognized IPA styles, each with a particular ingredient or technique in the brewing process that lends a unique profile to the resulting beer. At Firestone-Walker, we primarily brew West Coast and Hazy IPA styles. But what’s the difference between these styles? Keep reading for more.
West Coast IPA
Classic West Coast IPAs are relatively dry, clear and bitter with big pine, citrus, and dank aromas. Newer versions retain the dryness and clarity but tend to have slightly lower bitterness and juicier, more tropical aromas.
Beer examples: Union Jack, Luponic Distortion, Idaho Gem
Hazy IPAs are brewed with high portions of wheat and oats for a rounder texture and a stable haze that supports a juicy and saturated hop flavor and aroma. They are typically low in bitterness compared to their West Coast brethren and use yeast strains that accentuate their rounder, fruitier character.
The brewing world can be complex, and IPAs are no exception. Learning the meaning behind those terms printed on your favorite IPA cans will help you pinpoint the characteristics you prefer in each beer and give you confidence to try new varieties. Not sure where to start? Browse the complete list of Firestone Walker beers here (use the filter to see only IPAs), and then check our Beer Finder to locate a pack near you.