Beer styles

What Does IPA Mean?

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In his latest post, Ron Pattinson rails against those who deride Greene King IPA as “not a proper India Pale Ale” while they blindly accept Guinness’s right to call itself a stout. IPA, Ron points out, was not always strong, even in the nineteenth century; and, anyway, British beer styles evolve over time: an 1850 IPA would bear little resemblance to one brewed in, say, 1946.

The fact is, though, that GK do seem out of step with the current usage of the term IPA.

On the one hand, more traditional ale brewers in the UK tend to give the name to the beer in their range which, compared to their standard bitter, is lighter in colour (often orange-hued) and more evidently hoppy.

On the other, “new wave” British brewers tend to make IPAs in the US manner — strong, deep amber, and with heavy, piney, citrusy hopping.

Not many breweries (in fact, only GK?) produce an “IPA” which is deep brown and lightly-hopped.

So, although of course GK aren’t doing anything wrong, it’s easy to see why some people might be puzzled or disappointed if they’re used to other breweries’ IPAs. (Although feeling almost physically angry is a little over-zealous.)

Of course, for all that, there are lots of people who like GK IPA and couldn’t give a flying one whether it’s a “proper IPA” by either historical or beer geek standards. In fact, the only IPA they know is GK’s so perhaps, in twenty years time, IPA will come to mean brown, lightly hopped beer, just as Guinness now defines stout for most drinkers.