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Everything you need to know about IPAs

In the past few years, IPAs have grown to become one of the best-loved styles of beer in the UK. But, if you’re familiar with India Pale Ales, you’ll know that they’re not all alike – some are very hoppy, some are very alcoholic, while others are fruitier and more-ish. The term IPA has expanded to cover a whole range of beers with a variety of flavour profiles, but the technique of brewing IPA is believed to have been used as far back as the 18th century.

Here, we’ll take you through all the need-to-knows of IPAs, from its origins, through to where Greene King pale ales sit on the IPA spectrum…

IPA – How did it start?

As we mentioned, IPA stands for India Pale Ale, and it was in India during the 1780s where legend has it the first IPA was shipped for the British Empire. At that time, journeys from Britain to India would take an arduous six months by ship. Without any kind of cold storage for regular beer, there was no way a shipment of beer could survive the trip all the way to the then British Empire in the east, and India itself was too hot to brew beer domestically. So, a solution was needed.

The story goes that a London-based brewer called Hodgson brewed a beer with extra hops that would not only help the beer survive the journey, but make it taste even better upon arrival to India, like a fine wine. This worked, and the recipe was refined to be more refreshing for the hot climate. Other brewers eventually caught on and IPA gradually became weaker to suit Britain’s collective palate.

IPA then experienced a slow decline until the 1970s, when American brewers started to bring back British brewing styles that were long forgotten, and India Pale Ale was one of them. With more alcohol and more hops, the US took IPA back to its roots. Now it’s more popular than ever, with a host of different flavour profiles, hop varieties and alcohol volumes. 

What kinds of IPA are out there?

If you’re the adventurous type whenever you’re at your local, or you like to try out new beers at home, you’ll know that the term IPA is almost as broad as ‘beer’ itself. East Coast, West Coast, Double, English IPA – what does it all mean? Don’t worry, we’ll explain it all, and we’ll even point you to a few of our favourites:

English IPAs

English IPAs were the first kind of IPA to emerge over 200 years ago, but the intensely hoppy flavour and high alcohol volume have been toned down with time to create a more balanced, easily drinkable brew. Where American IPAs put bitterness at the forefront, English IPAs put equal emphasis on the maltier notes, creating a slightly toasty flavour. They’re also known for their light citrus character and are usually more dry than sweet.

Greene King IPA sits perfectly under this description. At 3.6% volume, it has the herbal, fresh hop character of an IPA while being very sessionable. That makes it a real go-to summer brew! Plus, the use of crystal and black malt adds notes of caramel while retaining the clean, dry finish you’d expect from a great English IPA.

Looking for something a little more tropical tasting for those summer gatherings and barbecues? Greene King IPA Gold and hot summer days are a match made in heaven. Featuring a blend of lemon citrus flavour with spicy notes, IPA Gold starts sweet and ends with a crisp bitterness for the perfect balance. And it goes down a treat with light dishes, too.

American IPAs

US IPAs share unlikely common ground with American hip-hop – there are two main styles, West Coast and East Coast.

West Coast IPAs typically have a bold aroma with plenty of hops, a heavy bitterness, and a big combination of fruity, citrusy and pine resin notes. Because more hops are added in the boiling process, that’s what creates that famously bitter flavour.

East Coast IPAs are a little different. Unlike West Coast, where hops are added specifically during boiling, East Coast IPA is like English IPAs, where hops can be added any time during the brewing process. While West Coast IPAs are all about that refreshing bitterness, East Coast IPAs try to find the perfect balance between sweetness and that classic IPA hoppy bitterness. Most start off sweet and then fade into bitterness, making for a complex-but-satisfying flavour profile and a brew that’s very easy to drink. 

With Greene King East Coast IPA, that’s exactly what you get. An English IPA that pays homage to this classic American brewing technique, it combines the citrusy aroma that American IPAs are known for, with the summery flavour of English pale ale. And because it’s triple-hopped, it packs all that satisfying bitterness India Pale Ales are known for.

Double IPAs

As IPA fans got used to the bitterness that comes with the sheer quantity of hops in IPAs, they began to seek out beers with even more powerful aromas and drier tastes. Because of this, brewers set themselves to creating stronger beers with even more bitter hops to satisfy seasoned IPA drinkers. The result? Double IPAs!

Essentially, double IPAs are IPAs with even more hops added. However, to balance out all those hops, brewers also use more malt, which makes for a higher alcohol volume. Double IPAs tend to be over 7%, so while they’re not sessionable, they do make for a delightfully bitter once-in-a-while tipple.


There you have it – the need-to-knows of India Pale Ale. And remember, the IPAs we’ve mentioned here aren’t the only ones we brew here at Greene King. Whether you’re already familiar with the ins and outs of IPAs or looking to try something new, you may just find your new favourite beer in our range of IPA beers.