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The expert guide to IPAs

BY Rachel Walker

1st Jan 2015 Drinks

The expert guide to IPAs

Why not pair a warm stew or seasonal treat with one of our selected pale ales this winter? Our food and drink expert, Rachel Walker, is on hand to suggest all the IPAs you need in your cupboard. 

Hop to it!


Indian Pale Ale (or ‘IPA’) is known for its big, hoppy notes—a flavour which originated out of necessity rather than taste. In the mid-nineteenth century, British brewers began adding extra hops to the ales which were being shipped to the Indian subcontinent via the Cape of Good Hope, as a way of preserving them over the months-long journey.  

The brassy flavour stuck, and IPAs are seeing something of a resurgence now. It’s an ale which showcases the taste of the hops, making it the antithesis to bland and bloating mass-produced pints. What’s more, IPA pairs well with food. The dry, hoppy notes sit happily alongside spicy food, and the bitter twang has a cooling effect, making it the perfect tipple for Thai or Indian dishes (or indeed a spicy butterbean and butternut squash stew!)   

The good news is that there’s never been a better time to drink IPAs. It’s the darling of the craft beer movement—which is responsible for the explosion of small, independent breweries cropping up round Britain (200 opening in the UK each year). It has created a competitive marketplace, with small-scale brewers continually pushing-up each other͛s standards. Great news for beer-enthusiasts who have witnessed a surge in both quality and variety of ales on offer.  

British IPAs are more subtle than their American counterparts. But those with a robust palette (think, black coffee or big red wines) may enjoy IPAs from the West Coast of America, where the hops have bold resinous, citric notes.  

Beware of the high alcohol levels of hoppy ales. While a session ale should fall under the 5% mark, recent trends have seen some creep up to 8%. Luckily this is countered by another trend of sharing-size bottles. Lots are similar sizes to bottles of wine, making them perfect for the dinner table—so my advice is to buy big and sip slowly.  


Why not try…


Meantime IPA, Waitrose, £5.35/750ml (7.4%) 



Brew Dog Punk Indian Pale Ale, Tesco, £2.49/660ml (5.6%) 



Thornbridge Jaipur Indian Pale Ale, Ocado, £2.55/500ml (5.9%) 



Sierra Nevada Torpedo, shop.fullers.co.uk, £28/12 x 350ml (7.2%)  


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