Beer

Do Call It an IPA: Thirteen Variations on This Popular Beer Style and Where to Find Them

Peach Milkshake IPA from Dry Dock Brewing.
Peach Milkshake IPA from Dry Dock Brewing. Dry Dock Brewing
India pale ales, often referred to as IPAs, have exploded to be one of the most beloved beer styles in the United States in the last decade or so. This popular brew is characterized by its hoppy and bitter flavor, and if you're at a brewery in Colorado, it's likely there is at least one IPA (if not multiple versions) on the menu.

But this bold beer has surpassed the "fad" stage. Not only are IPAs still a go-to for many craft beer lovers, but the style is constantly evolving and even branching out to different twists, with numerous variations on brewing styles, ingredients and alcohol content. These different types of IPAs each offer a unique and totally different beer-drinking experience.

Here are some standout variations of the hop-lovers’ favorite style, and a few local options for trying them:

click to enlarge
Evolution – Mutation #39 from Golden City Brewery.
Golden City Brewery
American IPA / Colorado IPA

The American IPA, as we know it, is constantly evolving. “As the industry matures, new ingredients and technologies become available to us, changing what is possible in an IPA," explains Derek Sturdavant, head brewer at Golden City Brewery. "That, paired with the fickle taste of the most boisterous craft beer consumers, fuels constant innovation." Many Colorado brewers fancy this style of IPA, which is less harsh and bitter than the classic West Coast IPAs that preceded it, Sturdavant says. “However, over time, West Coast brewers came to the same conclusion that we did. People love the flavor of hops, just not bitterness,” he concludes.

Examples:

Fiction Beer Company
: Metafictional Progress
Golden City Brewery (Golden): Evolution — Mutation #39
Green Mountain Beer Company (Lakewood): Kama Citra
Jackass Hill Brewery (Littleton): Stone Hazy IPA
Woods Boss Brewing / Instagram
New England IPA / Hazy IPA / Juicy IPA / East Coast

West Coast IPAs are generally bitter and clear, with piney and citrusy aromas and flavors, explains Andy Parker, director of innovation at Denver Beer Co. Juicyhazy IPAs, on the other hand, are generally not very bitter, with more tropical and stone fruit aromas and flavors, and a lingering haze. “The haze itself is not the defining factor of a hazy/juicy IPA. The far more important part is how the hops are used,” Parker explains. “Less bitterness, newer hop varieties that move away from the traditional pine/citrus aromas.”

Examples:

Woods Boss Brewing: The Oswald (Full O’ Hops)
Westbound and Down Brewing Company (Idaho Springs): Juice Caboose
Altitude Brewing & Supply: Stratagraphic Haze IPA
Denver Beer Co.: Throwin’ Haze
Grandma’s House: Foggy Memory
click to enlarge
Antidote West Coast IPA from Ratio Beer Works
Marika-Evanger-Clark / Ratio Beeworks
West Coast IPA

Bitterness, dryness and clarity are the defining characteristics of a West Coast IPA for the team at Ratio Beer. “As compared to other styles of IPA, the best examples of West Coast IPA are well attenuated, bitter, clear and true hop showcases,” says head brewer Phil Joyce. He explains that West Coast IPAs have evolved from the inception during the "IBU wars," when breweries were competing to make the most bitter beer possible, oftentimes almost un-drinkably so, he adds. “Our favorite examples of the style continue to focus on showcasing hop flavor and aroma without sacrificing drinkability,” he says.

Examples:

Baere Brewing: C3(i)PA
Jagged Mountain Brewery: Texas Suitcase
Spangalang Brewery: Train IPA 
Ratio Beerworks: Antidote
Mango Rico Tropical IPA from Cerveceria Colorado.
Cerveceria Colorado / Instagram

Fruit IPA / Tropical IPA

Fruit IPAs and tropical IPAs are exactly what you’d imagine — a fruit-forward version of this hoppy beer style. These flavors can vary depending on what’s added, and can include citrus, stone fruits, tropical fruits and more. Often, these are fermented with real fruit.

Examples:

Mockery Brewing: Pina Muerte Pineapple IPA with Peach and Pink Peppercorn
Odell Brewing Co. (Fort Collins): Imperial Tangerine IPA
Cerveceria Colorado: Mango Rico Tropical IPA

click to enlarge
10 Barrel Brewing's Rock Hop Cold IPA.
10 Barrel Brewing

Cold IPA

“First and foremost, Cold IPA is a lager, so it's crystal clear and bright golden in color, but additionally, it retains the firm bitterness and intense hop flavor and aroma commonly associated with West Coast IPAs," says Kay Witkiewicz, head brewer at 10 Barrel Denver. “Since I brew this style frequently at the pub, the best way I explain it to our staff is to say that Cold IPA is a lighter-bodied, higher-ABV, hoppier version of our helles."

Gus Erikson, marketing specialist for Epic Brewing Co., says the differences are nuanced, but they result in completely different flavors. For Yelling at Clouds, Epic uses American lager yeast at warm fermentation temperatures to evoke flavors and a mouthfeel similar to that of lagers. It then hops the beer with Simcoe, Sabro and Idaho7 hops during High Kraussen to induce biotransformation of the yeast cells. “The combination of yeast and biotransformation makes this beer incredibly crispy like a lager and juicy like an IPA. Normal IPAs are neither as tropical in flavor nor as crisp,” he says.

Examples:

Cerebral Brewing: Power User
10 Barrel Brewing Co.: Rock Hop Cold IPA
Seedstock Brewery: Cold IPA
Epic Brewing Co.: Yelling at Clouds


Black IPA

A black IPA is, as the name suggests, a dark-colored version of an IPA. “These beers should be, first and foremost, about showcasing hops, so malt character will be lower than with other similarly colored dark ales like porters and stouts,” says Left Hand Brewing head brewer Gary Glass. In Left Hand’s black IPA, for example, there is some very low roast malt notes, but they are much more restrained than you would find in its stouts. “It does have the hop flavor and aroma that you would expect to find in a West Coast IPA, with lots of citrus and pine notes,” Glass adds. “Bitterness is a bit lower than you’d find in a typical West Coast IPA, but more assertive than a hazy IPA.”

Diebolt Brewing: Party On, Darth
Wah Gwaan Brewing Co.: Blacker The Cherry IPA
Left Hand Brewing Co. (Longmont): Left Hand Black IPA
Big Choice Brewing (Brighton): Starry Night Cascadian Dark Ale

click to enlarge
Our Mutual Friend Brewing
Double IPA

Double IPA, and specifically, a West Coast double IPA, has a higher ABV (usually over 7 percent) than a single IPA and should have a hoppier aroma and flavor than a regular IPA, according to Jan Chodkowski, head brewer at Our Mutual Friend Brewing. The stronger ABV can allow the hops to be more expressive and allow you to play with different malts that contribute to the overall balance of the beer, he adds: “Overall, a double IPA is just a beer that is more complex than a standard IPA.”

Examples:

Our Mutual Friend Brewery: California Transplant
Cerebral Brewing: Forbidden Idol
Zuni Street Brewing Company: White Wood IIPA
Lowdown Brewery: Impotent IPA
Comrade Brewing Co / Instagram
Triple IPA

Skip Schwartz, head brewer at WeldWerks, says that its triple IPA uses more hops than other IPAs in both the whirlpool and dry hop additions, and also has a higher ABV, usually 10 percent or more. “The key for us is to make a beer that is high-octane while still being super drinkable and not have the alcohol level be the dominant flavor, but rather have the hop character, flavors and aromas run the show like they would in our lower-ABV IPAs,” he says.

Examples:

Comrade Brewing: Hell’s Bells
Odd 13 Brewing (Lafayette): 1331 H4XOR
WeldWerks Brewing (Greeley): Cosmic Torero
click to enlarge
Copper Kettle Brewing
Session IPA

A session IPA is, by definition, a lower ABV version of the style. “This tends to make them easier to drink, but doesn't mean they need to lack flavor,” says Greg Moore, head brewer at Copper Kettle Brewing Co. Years ago, this usually meant a thin-bodied, medium-IBU pine bomb, he says. “With Contains Happiness, we tried to produce a session IPA that represents a more modern take on the style," he notes. The result is a light-bodied, well-balanced, less than 5 percent ABV beer that uses the current hopping techniques to produce a flavor profile with notes of pineapple, guava, citrus and just a hint of pine, while also letting the malt choices shine through. In general, a session IPA is going to hover around 5 percent ABV or lower.

Copper Kettle Brewing: Contains Happiness 
Counter Culture Brewery: Slaphappy Session IPA
Bent Barley Brewing (Aurora): Half Bent Session IPA

Grapefruit IPA

A grapefruit IPA is, you guessed it, an IPA with an extra punch of grapefruit goodness. For example, Blue Spruce Brewing’s grapefruit IPA is a West Coast IPA brewed with pure grapefruit. At Station 26, pure grapefruit purée is used during fermentation for its Grapefruit Juicy Banger IPA, and all parts of the grapefruit are used, including the pits and the rind.

Strange Craft Beer Company: Breakfast Grapefruit IPA
Station 26 Brewing: Grapefruit Juicy Banger IPA
Blue Spruce Brewing (Littleton / Centennial): Bitter Seed Grapefruit IPA

click to enlarge
Brutish Boy Brut IPA from Grist Brewing.
Grist Brewing

Brut IPA

Bruts are often referred to as “champagne style” IPAs for their pale color, high carbonation and super dryness. “They are very fizzy, effervescent sparkling beers and bone-dry, with lots of hop flavor but not as much hop bitterness,” says Kaleb Hilton, director of operations at Grist Brewing Company.

14er Brewing: Brut Force One IPA
Frolic Brewing (Westminster): Brut IPA
Grist Brewing (Highlands Ranch): Brutish Boy

Milkshake IPA

“The addition of lactose is essential for creating the milkshake qualities of this style of IPA,” says Dry Dock co-founder Kevin DeLange. Lactose is an unfermentable milk sugar that adds sweetness. “We also add vanilla to get the ice cream quality you want in this type of beer.” Dry Dock’s milkshake IPAs start from a base of the hazy IPA, "but the addition of fruit and lactose adds a light sweetness that mellows the beer so that it tastes less hoppy than a hazy,” DeLange notes.

14er Brewing: Strawberry Superstitions
Berkeley Alley Beer Company: Blackberry Milkshake IPA
4 Noses Brewing (Broomfield): Pineapple Velvet
Dry Dock Brewing (Aurora): Peach Milkshake IPA

Rye IPA


Malted rye adds a fullness and richness to the malt character and imparts a spicy zest to this style of beer, says Erik Peterson, minister of progress at Bull & Bush Brewery. “We also added caraway seeds,” he notes. The result is a nutty, bittersweet sharpness with a hint of citrus and anise.

Bull & Bush Brewery: Ryecession IPA
FlyteCO Brewing: Late A-RYE-VAL RIPA
Wynkoop Brewing: Kris Rye-ant IPA
Westminster Brewing (Westminster): Farmer’s Bane
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Kristen Kuchar is a Colorado writer covering dining and the beverage industry, including wine, beer, cider and spirits. Her articles have appeared in VinePair, the Beer Connoisseur, Beer Advocate, Craftbeer.com, Zymurgy and more. She has a WSET Level 1 certificate and is a Certified Beer Server by the Cicerone Certification Program.