Firstly, a “Pale Ale” is generally a beer brewed with mostly pale malts*, and a balanced hop to malt ratio. Due to the malt used the beer should be lighter in color and light to medium in flavor. Worldwide there is variation in the Pale Ale from country to country.
American Pale Ales and British Pale Ales are generally the most popular variations of the style. British variations are often maltier, smooth, and have a buttery mouth feel due to Nitrogen being used to produce the bubbles in the beer as opposed to the standard method of carbonation. American Pale Ales are known for haveing very well defined tastes, higher bitterness levels, and a more aggressive bubbling drink due to the carbonation. Historically the two variations differed further in that some hops were unavailable in one region or the other, however, modern systems of trade and transport have reduced this difference.
An India Pale Ale falls under the same blanket category of “Pale Ale”, but almost any discerning beer drinker and critic alike will tell you that they are not the same beer. India Pale ales were advertised as early as the early 1800’s, and gained in popularity amongst sailors first due to its staying ability over the high seas. This original staying power was due to the high alcohol content of the IPA’s of the time. In modern times we would call those particular strength IPA’s “Barley Wines”
The Primary defining characteristic that separates IPA’s from the traditional Pale Ale is the increased bitterness from hops. Essentially the IPA has a taste based around the bitterness of hops instead of a balanced profile that combines malt and hop bitterness tastes. IPA’s will be dominated by the hop bitterness and the malt will fall to a secondary flavor.
Any thoughts on the differences between the two? What is your favorite, Pale Ale, or IPA?
*Malt: a partially germinated grain that was intentionally halted from germinating