What’s the Difference Between a Pale Ale and an IPA
I enjoy a beer as much as the next guy, except when they are bitter. I've come to learn that IPAs are bitter, so I've stayed away. It's also been my assumption that since IPA stands for India Pale Ale, all Pale Ales must be bitter, so I've avoided those too. However, that's just not the case. So what's the difference?
Back in the day, a "Pale Ale" was used as a color describing term, referring to a beer that was literally more pale or lighter in color to the others, like a Miller Lite to a Newcastle for instance. Nowadays, "Pale" is more a taste definition than color, and it concerns the flavor and balance of the hops, especially in relation to the malt. Pale ales tend to be a bit sweeter and crisper than others. One of the best known would be that brewed by the Sierra Nevada Brewery. These are also known as American Pale Ales.
Then, there's the IPAs or India Pale Ales, described as a much more "hoppy" beer, bringing up the more bitter taste. IPAs are the hottest trends right now, especially among microbrews and home brewers. IPA came about because ships sailing around the horn of Africa would end up with plenty of spoiled beer by the time they got to India and back to Europe. Hops are a natural preservative. So, if you increase the amount of them in a beer, it’ll be preserved for a longer period. It's also important that more hops will also create a higher alcohol content, which much just explain the beer's popularity, especially with home brewers.
In summary, IPAs and Pale Ales are NOT the same. IPAs tend to not only be a bit more bitter than an pale ale, but they also have more carbonation, more dominating flavors from the hops, and potentially a higher alcohol content. For me, I'll continue to avoid them, but will now be more open to Pale Ales. As for you, feel free to sample both of them, side by side, at Cedar Rapids Beer Summit, Saturday, March 12 at the Double Tree in Downtown Cedar Rapids. And it's not just Pale Ales and IPAs you'll be sampling as there'll be over 100 craft brews to choose from. The full beer list has not been published yet, but will be soon. In the mean time, get your tickets and get ready for unlimited beer sampling for three hours, for just $30. Can't beat that!