The Economist on the history of the IPA, they even get it mostly correct that IPAs were not made specifically for the long trip to Britain’s colony in India. The truth is that they were made and sold in London before that but became more popular in the domestic market because they smart beer marketing people put “India” in the name of their beers to make them seem exotic. I am still amazed at how popular IPAs are. It’s the most bitter beer style there is — the hops are what make it bitter — yet I still hear people drinking it saying “I don’t like bitter beer” and to sell beer, the big breweries used to advertise that their beers had “no aftertaste” or bitterness. It turns out, apparently, that people do like bitter beers!
I think IPA is the only style that is allowed so much leeway and still be called an IPA. The alcohol can range from 5% to 8% (although I’m seeing 9% IPAs these days and Imperial IPAs go up to 12% or even 20%), the color can range from the color of hay to pitch black, and the level of hops can range from subtle to harsh. I’m hoping the new Black IPA style, which is black in color, will help styles like Porter and Stout rise in popularity. Stouts and Porters taste like chocolate and/or coffee and are generally lower in alcohol and have lighter bodies yet people think they’re “strong” (high alcohol) and very “heavy” (whatever that means).