With the city awash with craft IPAs (Indian pale ale)—we tell you what it is and where it came from.
The craft beer craze shows no signs of abating as we head into 2014 with new bars and new beers heading to the city. At the vanguard of it all is a wide range of craft Indian Pale Ales arriving in Bangkok from as far afield as Japan, Scotland and the USA. But what exactly is an IPA, why is it such a hit with beer lovers and where did it originate?
While craft beers are a relatively new trend, the origins of IPA actually go a long way back. In fact, its roots can be dated back to the 19th Century and a time when Britain’s Empire was at its peak. Many a colonial ruler started to miss a drop of the good stuff from back home creating a growing market in Britain’s largest colony, India. As a result, British brewers started to make a version of pale ale, which had more hops and a longer shelf life, especially for export.
“IPA was originally designed to survive the long trip from England to India without going sour,” explains Kan Navikapol, part-owner of Smiling Mad Dog Co., Ltd., who import craft beers from the likes of BrewDog and St. Bernardus.
However, the popularity of IPA soon spread and it wasn’t just homesick admin clerks in Bombay who were enjoying the distinctive flavor of the IPAs, which had a much hoppier or bitter flavor and a stronger alcohol level than other ales of the time. As a result, IPAs began to be brewed more extensively and spread to America, Canada and Australia by the beginning of the 1900s. “These days, it just means that the beer is ‘hopped’ and has a strong hoppy flavor,” confirms Kan.
Indeed, it’s the hoppiness (a bitter, tanginess) of IPAs and its flexibility when it comes to brewing with other flavors that have made India Pale Ale such a hit with brewers, beer lovers and foodies. “From tropical fruits to pine and citrus, it really depends on the brew master who can mix these for an endless range of flavors,” explains Brian Bartusch, GM of Beervana.
Much like wines, the profiles and flavors of different craft beers are heavily influenced by the regions or countries where they are brewed. That means that American IPAs have a very different flavor profile when compared to their British cousins.
“American IPAs use tons of hops, and to get technical, people would call these beers ‘American India Pale Ales,” confirms Kan. “English IPAs use locally sourced ingredients and are usually more balanced between a hoppy taste (bitterness) and the sweet and smooth maltiness.”
But it can be broken down further than that, with IPA fans able to recognize major differences between the different states. The characters of the West Coast IPAs seems to be more flowery with hints of pine and fruits, while the East Coast tend to be sweeter with malty undertones.
As the popularity of craft beer explodes, more and more people are experimenting with brewing combinations and flavors, and it’s now common for breweries to use ingredients, from types of hops to fruit varieties, from all over the world. Sometimes you’ll even find those brewers who emphasize a single-origin idea, such as the BrewDog’s IPA is Dead series, which uses the same base beer but four different hops or come with new styles, such as Deschutes’ black and white IPAs.
Brian believes that the next big trend will see people brewing more sour beer and utilizing wild yeast, while Kan believes that we’ll see more gypsy brewers, individuals like Mikkeler who make amazing beer but don’t have an actually brewery. Moving forward it seems that the sky is pretty much the limit with IPAs.
Try these different IPAs:
Scotland: BrewDog Punk IPA (B240)
Punk IPA is just one of a range of ales from Scottish craft brewer BrewDog who claim to make irreverent beer with a soul. It is based on a classic Indian Pale Ale, meaning it’s brewed using pale malts, which in turn produce a paler beer, but Punk is given a modern twist thanks to the addition of lots of fruity hops to ensure a real burst of flavor.
Get it at: Beerosophy, Beerology, Brew Beers & Ciders, Niche Cafe and Hobs.
US: Deschutes Chainbreaker White IPA (B220)
Part of the Deschutes family of beers, who have been brewing out of Bend, Oregon (the heartland of American craft beers), since 1988. The beer itself is unusual in that it is a hybrid; brewed with both wheat and pilsner malt, plus orange and coriander, the end result is a distinctive blend of traditional Belgian-style wheat beer and a classic Indian Pale Ale.
Get it at: www.seekbeervana.com
Denmark: Mikkeller Invasion Farmhouse IPA (B1,490 for 750 ml)
Best known for being a gypsy brewer, Mikkel Borg Bjergsø started off his passion by brewing his beer in different breweries including BrewDog and many other countries before his label became famous for its great diversity, including a range of IPAs, and is now served at many top restaurants.
England: Greene King IPA (B195)
Definitely more classic than the other IPAs on this list this beer has a much milder taste, with only a slight hint of hoppiness making it much more reminiscent of a standard English pale ale. It certainly makes it eminently drinkable, though it still packs a potent punch and you can even enjoy it on draught at certain British pubs around town.
MORE: Meet the guys behind Bangkok's Craft Beer Revolution, find out where to enjoy these beers and more with our round up of the Best Beer Bars in Bangkok and discover how you can also have them delivered to your door with our guide to Bangkok's Best Beer Delivery Services.