The Difference between IPA and Pale Ale

Today, the number of craft beer breweries in the US is over 3,000 and it is therefore safe to say that the industry has exploded. Both brewers and beer geeks (professional and home based) have been loving India Pale Ales (IPA) and Pale Ales. So, what is the difference between the two types of craft beer, and why did the two become the most popular in the United States craft industry? The answers to the two questions lie in legends, myths and truth. They may also lie in the old-fashioned pride of the Americans.

Pale Ales

You will always see Pale Ales in lists and guides of most popular craft beers in the world. The term “pale” originates from the light malts that brewers use to make it. Pale Ale has a coppery-gold color and tends to have low to average malt taste and equal hoppy taste. And due to the added hops, it tends to have citrusy taste. It is the craft beer to try if you are a beginner due to its lower alcohol content and being less bitter than IPA’s.

India Pale Ales (IPA)

The India Pale Ale (IPA) is known to contain a higher level of alcohol than the other craft beers in the market. IPA arose because of brewers’ determination to keep their beers fresher for longer periods on ocean trips from England to India. To preserve the beer, they would add hops. In fact, you will notice the strong flavor of hops immediately after sipping the beer which then progresses into a hoppy aftertaste. With IPA’s you will notice the bitter, spicy earthy taste that some people who are not fans of this type of beer describe as “cough syrup soaked pine cones.”

A short history of the pale ale

The term Pale Ale came into being in 1703 when a great deal of beer made in England used malt roasted with coke. Due to lack of smoke in the roasting process, the roasted malt had a lighter color. It was named Pale Ale because the ale inside glasses was visibly light than the other beers of that time. In addition to the lighter color, the flavor of coke-roasted malt was milder and therefore the hops shined through prominently. Beer enthusiasts associated the Pale Ales with the mild hop flavor in addition to the pale color.

The popularity of Pale Ales grew in Britain, where customers also called them Bitters due to their hop profile. However, they would only remain the only hoppy beers in the market for 100 years. In 1892, the IPAs joined them in the market.

Brits who ventured to the new Indian colony became homesick for the Pale Ale beers from back home. As a result, the beers had to be shipped to their new home. And to ensure that the beers did not reach them sour and flat, brewers had to fortify them with a stronger alcohol and backbone of hops, which protected them on the six-month journey. Apart from surviving the long journey, most people enjoyed the more hoppy flavor. The name IPA came into being as a result.

Most of these beers are easy to drink but if you are a beginner, start with pale ale. IPAs have a stronger taste and higher alcohol content.