Want to find the best beers? Check out our favourite British beers, lagers to try and our guide to craft beers here. We also have our best stouts, or for cocktail lovers, we have our best beer cocktails to try.
What is IPA?
IPAS are a broad category of beer that encompass many different styles, from easy-going session brews to boozy DIPAs and piney West Coast numbers.
The origins of IPA, or India Pale Ale, is disputed, but it's thought that they were originally pale ales brewed with more hops and at a higher ABV in order to survive the arduous journey from the UK to India during the 18th and 19th centuries.
There are many different categories of IPA but the following are the most common you'll come across.
- British IPAs will have that bitter hoppiness characteristic of IPAS, but with more of a toasty, caramelly malt base.
- American-style IPAS – which have exploded in popularity in recent years – make the most of the fruity flavours in hops.
- A classic example of the above are West Coast IPAS, beers known for their opulent tropical, pine and citrus notes, clean, crisp body, and vibrant yet well-balanced bitterness.
Other styles you might come across include New England IPAs – hazy, unfiltered, fruity beers – and East Coast IPAS, more malty than West Coast IPAS. Increasingly popular are double or triple IPAS – beers with an even higher hop concentration and alcohol content. These are also known as Imperial IPAS and can reach hefty ABVs, 10% or more is not uncommon.
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IPAs and pale ales: What’s the difference?
These two types of pale ale are quite different in style. IPA (India pale ale) was traditionally brewed with more hops and at a much higher ABV than standard pale ale. Modern IPAs remain hoppier but often cut down the alcohol to session level (though there are still a lot of 7-8% beasts out there). Pale ale started out in Britain more than 300 years ago and was then adopted as a beer style in the US by brewers using indigenous hops that result in beers with distinct citrus, resin, pine and tropical fruit flavours. English pale ales, in comparison, have a maltier character, with floral, earthy, grassy notes.
5 best IPAs to try at a glance
- Best tropical IPA: Tiny Rebel Clwb Tropica, £7/4 x 330ml
- Best classic IPA: Allsopp's India Pale Ale, £24/8 x 500ml
- Best hoppy IPA: Siren Lumina Session IPA, £2.10/330ml
- Best citrussy IPA: Fourpure Citrus Session IPA, £1.95/330ml
- Best New England IPA: Firebrand Thundercloud NEIPA, £2.80/330ml
5 best IPAs to try
Tiny Rebel Clwb Tropica
Best tropical IPA
A lighter Welsh IPA brewed with citrussy American hops and packed with passion fruit, pineapple and mango.
Allsopp’s India Pale Ale
- Available from Allsopp's (£24/8 x 500ml)
Best classic IPA
Samuel Allsopp was one of the first to brew this now world-famous beer. 200 years later, his ancestor Jamie has made this very modern version of a popular classic. Rich, grassy, light and lingering.
Allsopp's (£24/8 x 500ml)
Siren Lumina Session IPA
- Available from Siren Craft Brew (£2.10/330ml), Laithwaites (£2.10/330ml), Beerhunter (£36.95/12 x 330ml)
Best hoppy IPA
All summery tropical hoppiness, this winningly accessible IPA has a beautifully soft mouthfeel thanks to the addition of oats in the beer.
Fourpure Citrus Session IPA
Best citrussy IPA
This crisp, refreshing IPA (previously known as Easy Peeler) packs in the citrus fruit for a light and lovely thirst-quencher.
Firebrand Thundercloud NEIPA
- Available from Firebrand Brewing Co. (£2.80/330ml)
Best New England IPA
Cornish brewery Firebrand make beers inspired by their North Cornwall roots using local spring water, natural ingredients and American hops to create their cult core range. This Thundercloud NEIPA (New England IPA) is typically hazy with a lot more heft than a session beer. The big hoppy, intense flavours are balanced with juicy tropical fruit and at 5.5% ABV is more of a sipper than a quaffer, so one for when the nights draw in.
Firebrand Brewing Co. (£2.80/330ml)