The India Pale Ale (aka IPA) is a beloved craft beer drank around the world. At Firestone Walker, we’ve taken our IPA brew game to the next level with styles including hazy, West Coast, low calorie and double IPAs.
National IPA Day is a celebratory holiday that comes around once a year, but in reality, we celebrate our passion for all-things IPA every single day at Firestone Walker. From the first IPA we brewed to the future beers in the making, our brew team eats, sleep, dream and drinks IPA.
Why IPAs Are So Popular
When the craft brewing movement began in the United States, small craft brewers were rebelling against the monochromatic beer world which had been distilled down to very few breweries, most of whom were making very similar light colored, lightly hopped, industrialized lager beer.
These early Craft Brewers turned to old-world English, Belgian and German beer culture and researched historical beer recipes that were made with more malt and hops resulting in flavors which included heightened bitterness and spicy hop aroma and flavors.
Many of the hop-driven recipes these brewers turned to were of English Ale origins. The fact that these beers are made with top-fermenting yeast and fermented at warmer temperatures added additional fruity and estery flavors to the brew, which pairs well with hop character.
These bold flavors stood out when compared to popular lager beers and helped to differentiate and define them.
Above all, hops, as a basic beer ingredient, was then and still is the most significant differentiating point used by craft brewers.
Hops helped to define the movement and hoppy IPAs have become the most popular craft-brewed beers. When the national average bitterness level for common lager beer was 10-15 IBUS most Craft Beers were clocking in a 30-40 IBUs. When you use more hops, you don’t just get bitterness, you get the complex herbal, spicy, floral and fruity character of the hop that is held in the essential oils.
Pale Ales and IPA styles focus on these hop flavors and completely transform a water and malt sugar-based beverage into an enticingly aromatically and flavored beer, balanced by hop bitterness. Pale ales and IPAs have pulled out well ahead of all other craft brewed beers, largely because the flavor and aroma of hops found mass appeal among drinkers who were looking for more from beer.
— Brewmaster Matt Brynildson
Once you develop a taste for these kinds of beers, it’s hard to turn back.
Our Favorite IPAs
According to Brewmaster Matt Brynildson, “this is like asking which is your favorite child, an impossible question to answer.”
He finds himself oscillating between Luponic Distortion and Mind Haze a lot of the time because we change the hops up in Luponic and he’s always so curious to understand how each hop blend works in the beer… but at the same time, Mind Haze is such a gentle and sessionable IPA, he must have it in his fridge.
Then, of course, there’s Union Jack – Firestone’s tried and true West Coast masterpiece that has been such a joy to brew over the years.
At the end of the day, it’s nice not having to choose.
Hop Selection for IPAs
IPAs are all about hops and we focus heavily on our hop procurement and quality program.
We have developed relationships with and source hops from some of the best growers around the globe. We use a ton of American Grown hops in our IPAs and they are the cornerstone of our IPA brewing program. US Growers have become famous around the world for growing hops that work particularly well in modern IPAs.
That said, we have found some amazing IPA hops in Germany, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Hop breeders and growers globally have keyed into Craft IPA brewer’s needs and are delivering some of the best hops ever grown. The focus is on aroma and flavor with alpha acid or bitterness taking a back seat.
— Brewmaster Matt Brynildson
It is an amazing time to be an IPA brewer and hops are at the center of the massive IPA movement in beer.