Uncovering the Origin of IPA

Do you love a good IPA, but hate how strong and heavy it can be? Look no further: the low-gravity IPA is for you! Not only does it have a more sessionable ABV range, but it also taps into the history of the IPAs of the 1830's- it's strong enough to satisfy, but light enough to make it easier to enjoy longer, more relaxed drinking sessions! So, if you want to go back to the roots of IPA, while still embracing its modern characteristics, the low-gravity IPA may be the perfect choice for you.

Low-Gravity IPA: History and Novel Exploration

India Pale Ale (IPA) is an iconic beer style within the craft beer community. Since the range of craft beer styles continues to increase, creative brewers have begun to stretch the boundaries of what an IPA can and should be. Low-gravity IPA is one such style, rooted in the history of the original IPAs yet amplified with modern innovation. In this article, we explore the history of low-gravity IPA, discuss the definition of low-gravity styles, and discuss the potential for further exploration.

The History of IPA

The original IPAs were not strong beers. At least not by the standards of the day. Back in the 1830s, IPA was definitely in session-beer country. With 7% ABV and below, these beers were light, crisp, and perfect for daytime consumption. As brewers began to experiment and play with ingredients, hopping rates increased, ABV crept up, and the modern IPA was born.

What is Low-Gravity IPA?

Low-gravity IPA is an exploration of the past. This beer style takes tinkering of historic IPA recipes, hops, and yeast strains and brings them bang up to date for modern tastes. Low-gravity ales typically have an ABV between 3-7%, easy to drink but still hop-forward.

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These beers don’t just have to be limited to English-style IPAs either. Brewers can take any IPA beer style and reduce the ABV, from a hoppy, New England-style NEIPA to an equally hoppy, citrus-forward West Coast-style IPA. In this way, low-gravity IPA is an exploration of style and innovation that doesn’t just bring back classic styles but continues their evolution in new directions.

Low-Gravity IPA Characteristics

  • ABV: 3-7%
  • BIV: 8-10%
  • IBU: 40-70
  • Color: Color depends on base beer style. Most will fall between 3-18 SRM.
  • Flavor: Hops are often at the forefront, with juicy, citrusy aromatics, complex malt, and a smooth, moderate finish.

Exploring Low-Gravity IPA

Brewing low-gravity beers is a great opportunity for experimentation and exploration. This style of beer is deceptively complex as brewers have to condense the flavor of a high ABV beer into a lower ABV package. This means dialing up hop rates, manipulating yeast strains, and adjusting the malt bill to bring out the desired character.

One of the best things about exploring low-gravity IPA is its versatility. This style of beer is incredibly accessible, thanks to its lower ABV, a factor that appeals to the craft beer community. With such huge possibilities comes a range of different explorations which we discuss in detail below.

  1. New & Old Styles: As touched upon earlier, this is an opportunity to bring old IPA styles back and to tinker with existing ones. Brewers can take inspiration from classic British IPAs of the 1800s, along with newer styles such as NEIPA and West Coast-style IPA.
  2. Hop Management: Hops are the backbone of any IPA, so careful planning is paramount. This refers to the hop bill used, along with adjusting hopping methods. Placing focus on mid- to late-addition hopping, with reduced dry-hopping, is a great way to capture flavor and aroma without overpowering the beer.
  3. Yeast Selection: There are a range of yeast strains which can be used to explore the IPA style. For dry, hoppy beers, we'd recommend neutral strains such as English-ale or German ale yeast. For fruity IPAs, go for homebrew strains such as WLP001 or Kölsch yeasts.
  4. Malt Bill Adjustment: Adjusting the malt bill is ever-important when brewing a low-gravity beer, as the malt's flavor has a greater impact. Consider including adjunct or even cereal malts, along with specialty malts, to bring out toasty, biscuit, and nutty accents in your beer.
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