What is IPA Beer?

Everything you need to know about India Pale Ale


IPA has spearheaded the 21st-century craft beer movement, becoming one of the most popular beer styles in the world. Get caught up with this beer fan favorite by learning what IPA stands for, its history, and the steps you can take to get the most out of your IPA journey.

What does IPA stand for?

IPA stands for India Pale Ale, so it would make sense that this beer is Indian in origin, right?

Not so fast - the name is actually a little misleading.
Two SPIEGELAU Craft Beer Glasses for IPA on a slate tray. One of them is filled with IPA beer, the glass behind is empty. Behind them is a plate with potato chips and a blackboard with a beer menu on it.<br/>

The history of IPA

Despite being associated with the 21st craft beer movement, IPA has been brewed for over 200 years. Contrary to what its name suggests, IPA originated in England, but the inclusion of India in the name is relevant. The exact date of IPA's invention is a little unclear, but it is thought to go back to the late 18th century/early 19th century, during the British colonization of India.

Sailing from Britain to India could take upwards of six months, meaning beer sent by boat from Britain to British soldiers and officials in India would often spoil before arriving at its destination. The heat and humidity in India prevented good beer from being brewed there, at the time, so British brewers sought to find a solution to ensure beers could survive the long voyage to India without spoiling. The solution reached was to add extra hops, which helped preserve the beer and add bitterness to its flavor profile, and this is the style of brewing that led to the IPAs we enjoy today.

Following its creation, IPA grew in popularity in Britain and among the British in India. This popularity declined during the 20th century, but IPA began enjoying a resurgence in the latter part of the century which has skyrocketed since the turn of the millennium. Today, India Pale Ale is second only to lager in global beer popularity and has led the iconic craft beer movement that changed how we consume and perceive beer.

How to get the most out of your IPA

If you are reading this article, there is a good chance you are at least open to maximizing the quality of your IPA-drinking experiences. To do just that, we recommend adopting the following approaches:
A group of SPIEGELAU Craft Beer Glasses for IPA on a table. One standing on a wooden coaster, filled with IPA beer. Next to this glass are some potato chips.<br/>

Choose the right glass. 

At Spiegelau, our passion for glassware stems from the fact that the glass you use is crucial for communicating your drink's qualities to your palate. When you use the wrong glass for an IPA, its flavors and aromas can become dulled or lost. A good IPA glass develops and concentrates an IPA's aromas, maintains the beer's carbonation, and smoothly delivers the IPA onto the drinker's palate.

Introduced in 2013, the Spiegelau IPA Glass was designed in partnership with leading IPA brewers at Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada Brewing Company to give us expert input helping us create an IPA glass of the highest quality. The Spiegelau IPA Glass accentuates the complex aromatic profiles and maintains the carbonation of IPA beer by preserving the frothy head with its ribbed base, as well as delivering an unmatched mouthfeel with its wide opening and fine rim.

Pour it correctly.

Correct pouring matters for any beer you indulge in, and IPA is no exception. Proper pouring helps express your IPA's qualities and enhances its aesthetic - a crucial component of enjoying any drink.

To pour your IPA perfectly every time, it helps to:

1. Chill the glass in the fridge before pouring, if possible. A chilled glass will help to keep your IPA cool and retain its carbonation. 

2. Tilt your Spiegelau IPA Glass at a 45-degree angle and begin pouring your IPA slowly down the side of the glass. Doing this helps release your beer's aromas and will prevent your beer from producing too much foam. A foamy head is an important component of a well-poured IPA, but pouring straight into upright glass risks turning your beer into around 80% foam - probably a little much for even the biggest beer foam lovers. 

3. Straighten the glass. Once the glass is half full, gradually straighten it until it is upright while continuing the pour. Doing this will ensure that you end up with roughly an inch of foam on top of your IPA, which will contain a lot of the beer's aromas and sustain its carbonation for longer.

4. Avoid completely filling your glass. Leaving a little space at the top of your Spiegelau IPA Glass will allow room for your IPA's aromas to express themselves, enhancing your nosing experience. It also reduces the risk of suffering any unwanted spillages!

Once you have poured the perfect IPA, remember to savor each sip, taking time to appreciate its appearance, aromas, flavor, and mouthfeel.

On the left side of the frame is the Spiegelau Craft Beer IPA glass filled with Heaps Normal XPA non-alcoholic beer. Above the glass is a hand pouring the beer into the glass and on the right of the glass is a Heaps Normal XPA non-alcoholic Beer can. Beer nuts are scattered around the glass and in a bowl to the right.

Try a wide range of IPAs.

With its surge in popularity, there is now a wide variety of IPA styles and flavors to explore. A crisp, citrusy West Coast IPA differs quite considerably from a sweet, bready Belgian IPA - as does a creamy Lactose IPA. Even within each style, you will experience variety between brewers. There is so much to explore, so if one IPA style or brewer doesn't align with your preferences, the next one might hit the spot perfectly!

Enjoy it with foods that complement it.

We all love it when food and drink work together to enhance each other's qualities, leading to an experience that is even greater than the sum of its parts. Like other drinks like wine, IPA has foods it complements perfectly that we recommend you enjoy it alongside to get the most out of your experience.

When selecting foods to pair with IPAs, we recommend choosing something that will complement IPA's bold, hoppy flavors. Spicy foods are a classic choice, which is why beer and curry is such a popular combination. If curry isn't for you, Mexican cuisine also provides a range of spicy dishes that can enhance the flavors of your IPA.

If you wish to completely steer clear of spicy food, salty and smoky foods can cut through and balance out your IPA’s hoppy bitterness. Chicken wings or salty snacks such as pretzels are popular options, while rich, creamy dishes like macaroni cheese, risotto, or various strong cheeses enjoyed on their own do an excellent job of standing up to an IPA's expressive flavors.

After plant-based options? Consider a dish that matches the citrus notes that many IPAs exhibit. Citrus-based salads that include a creamy element like avocado do a great job of accommodating an IPA’s qualities while keeping your food firmly rooted in the plant-based category.

There are also certain flavors that work against IPA's qualities that we encourage you to avoid choosing as a pairing. Seafood dishes like sushi possess delicate flavors that can easily be overpowered by the hoppy bitterness of IPAs, with the same going for milder cheeses. When sipping your IPA alongside a snack, we recommend avoiding sweet foods. Sweeter, sugary snacks can enhance the bitterness of your IPA, making for an unpleasant sensation if you take a sip after enjoying a mouthful of something like ice cream or chocolate. Sticking to salty, savory snacks will ensure you complement your IPAs flavors and maintain a balance in your palate for the duration of your indulgence.

Finally, be open to all kinds of brewing styles.

Of course, it is also important to remember that IPA is just one of a number of beer styles that you might enjoy. Different beer types each bring their own individual qualities to the table, which is why our Craft Beer Collection features custom-made glasses tailored for specific beer styles. If IPAs leave you unsatisfied, perhaps a barrel-aged beer, a stout, or a wheat beer from a Spiegelau Craft Beer Glass will leave you feeling hoppy as can be.

A group of SPIEGELAU Craft Beer Glasses for IPA on a table. One standing on a wooden coaster, filled with IPA beer. Next to this glass are some potato chips.<br/>

Browse the

Spiegelau Craft Beer Collection