So it was IPA day and I went out into my garage to get a holiday-appropriate brew and ran into a small issue. I grabbed AleSmith’s X, and I didn’t know right away whether it was an IPA or not. The bottle says it is an extra pale ale, but doesn’t give a classification beyond that. So after an internet search, I determined that it is, in fact, classified as an American pale ale. On any other day, the classification of a beer is just something I use to help me to select beers I might like and has very little impact on my thoughts on a beer. But today was IPA day and I needed an IPA. Fortunately I had AleSmith’s IPA in the fridge, so I was covered. This small ordeal got me thinking about what the differences between APAs and IPAs actually is. So I decided to do some research and share the information with you, because I am such a nice guy (and because it was an excuse to drink and review both of the beers).
So lets start with the APA. A quick summary of the BJCP style guide for the America Pale Ales basically says it should be a clear amber color, and should taste and smell of a strong hop aroma (usually citrus) and may have a little malt smell and taste too. IBUs should be in 30s or 40s, and it should be between 4.5% and 6.2% ABV. It gave some examples too, including: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Stone Pale Ale, Great Lakes Burning River Pale Ale. The top rated APA on Beer Advocate is Three Floyd’s Zombie Dust, a beer I love and have in my fridge.
The history of the APA dates back to the late 70s and early 80s in California when Sierra Nevada was brewing early versions of their pale ale and Anchor was brewing their Liberty Ale, depending on who you ask, following the English tradition but using American ingredients, especially hop varieties including Cascade and Columbus.
The BJCP style guide says an American (as opposed to English or Belgian) IPA should be gold or copper in color and should have an intense hop aroma consisting of citrus, flora, pine, and grass, with very light malty character. It should taste as hoppy as it smells, with a good amount of bitterness and clean subtle malt flavor. It should have 40-70 IBU and an alcohol content of around 6.5%. Some examples would be: Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale, AleSmith IPA, Great Divide Titan IPA. The top AIPA on Beer Advocate is Ballast Point’s Sculpin, another beer I love and currently have in the fridge.
Most of us have heard that IPAs came from a purposeful decision to brew a beer with more hops and more alcohol so that it would survive the long trip from England to India on a boat. This is not 100% accurate; people had been shipping all sorts of beer to India without it tasting horrible for years but the extra hops and higher alcohol helped IPAs, a beer type people had been enjoying in England for some time before they started shipping them to India, taste better when the beer got there. The truth of it is more a comment on new roasting techniques, logistics, and personal taste and is far less interesting. Here is a Wikipedia article that tells you more.
So, in summary, they share roots and are similar enough to have some potential areas for crossover. As a general rule, the AIPA should have more hops and more alcohol than the APA, while the APA should be a bit more sessionable. So if you are like me, into big bold flavors, IPAs are probably more our speed. If, however, you like to be able to sit and enjoy a six-pack of something refreshing, APAs are probably more up your alley.
Beer Name: AleSmith X
Beer style: APA
Size: 22oz bottle
Beer Advocate Score: 89
Rate Beer Score: 96
It smells like sweet grapefruit or tangerine, with maybe a slight hint of grass as well as a bit of sweet malt. It starts of with sweet malt and citrus, but then finishes up with a nice clean, pithy bitterness with just a bit of residual sweetness. This beer is not big or bold, but as we learned it shouldn’t be; it is well balanced and very drinkable. I would say it fits in very well as an APA.
Sessionability: I give it a 5-pack. There is nothing offensive here and it is very crisp.
Overall: I give it a 4-pack. As I said I am a big fan of big and bold; if i was judging this for its style, it would get a 5.
Would be best consumed: Patio drinking, but not on IPA day.
Beer Name: AleSmith IPA
Size: 22oz bottle
Beer Advocate Score: 95
Rate Beer Score: 99 (number one rated IPA)
It smells of floral and pine with a hint of citrus. There is not much malt character on the nose; its a hop party. This beer starts off very piney, but retains a bit of its malt sweetness for a good ten seconds after swallowing and then the bitter creeps up on you starting at the throat and works its way up to hit all of your mouth after maybe thirty seconds. This beer is big, hoppy, complex, and most of all delicious.
Sessionability: I give it a 4-pack. Even at 7%, this beer is so good that you are going to want a bunch.
Overall: I give it a 5-pack, pushing a 6. It is ultra complex and very tasty, but I have liked some other IPAs better.
Would be best consumed: On IPA day of course!