The term "IPA" is an acronym for "India pale ale," and history suggests it originated in 19th-century England. In America, the style is simply referred to as "IPA" and is most often brewed with domestic ingredients — particularly the hops, a standard ingredient in beer that comes from the flower of the humulus lupulus plant, which is technically a vegetable.
So what makes a good IPA? Bob Billany, M.I.A Beer Company production manager and a certified suds judge for the Beer Judge Certification Program (as well as an avid consumer of IPAs), says, "I look for the perfect balance of hop-forward bitterness to malt sweetness and support that leads itself to a drier finish. I also look for a higher level of nice, complex hop aroma that traditionally comes form American West Coast hop varieties."
The Brewers Association recognizes three types of IPA. There's the American-style IPA, brewed with American-grown hop varieties known for their heavy citrusy and bitter piney aromas. The balance that Billany mentions refers to the difference between West Coast and East Coast IPAs. Whereas the former style tends to use more of the American-grown hops, East Coast breweries tend to use less-bitter English hops and more specialty malts, according to Washington Post reporter Greg Kitsock.
"That huge, smack-you-in-the-face hop aroma and flavor you don't get as much out of East Coast IPAs," Stone Brewing Company founder Steve Wagner told the the Post in 2007.
Billany says that's typically true. "West Coast breweries essentially pioneered the 'superbitter' recipes, while the East Coast followed a more balanced philosophy."
And that's the bitter truth about IPAs. These days, it's hard to find a brewery without an IPA in its flagship lineup. While you're out and about enjoying this day, check out at least one IPA Day event, happening at Boxelder Craft Beer Market (2825 NW Second Ave., Unit C, Miami). From 1 p.m. to midnight, five IPAs each from Founders Brewing and M.I.A. Beer will be featured.
National IPA Day is a good time to take note of the IPAs that Miami breweries offer — many of which include styles from both coasts. Here are the spots that offer the best local IPAs:
The Abbey Brewing Co. (1115-1117 16th St., Miami Beach)
Brewed by one of Miami's oldest brewpubs, Immaculate IPA from the Abbey is brewed with malt grown in the Midwest and hops from the Pacific Northwest. Users on beeradvocate.com describe it as "smooth and balanced overall" and "runs higher on the malt and lesser on the hops." Drinkers on Untappd describe it as "very smooth and a little sweet" and simply refer to it as "outstanding." Sits at 6.2 percent ABV.
Biscayne Bay Brewing Company (8000 NW 25th St., #500, Doral)
Here, head brewer Andrew Guthrie makes Double Nine IPA — a beer containing the bitterness and citrusy aromatics of three different hops, with an "intense malty foundation." Drinkers describe it as "better than your typical IPA" because it doesn't finish dry. They also recommend you check the ABV because it sits at a whopping 9.7 percent.
Concrete Beach Brewery (325 NW 24th St., Miami)
Concrete Beach brews Rica Wheat, a hoppy and wheat-forward unfiltered pale ale brewed with galena, warrior, city, centennial, and cascade hops. Drinkers describe it as bitter and having a "nice combo" of wheat and hops, with citrus and biscuit aromas. Sits at 6.5 percent ABV.
J. Wakefield Brewing Company (120 NW 24th St., Miami)
J. Wakefield Brewing brews a flagship called Hop 4 Teacher IPA, containing notes of citrus and tropical fruits and a "malt backbone." Drinkers describe it as "malt-forward" and being "lightly spicy" and "slightly minty," with a mild hop flavor. Sits at 6 percent ABV and 67 IBUs.
Legacy Caribbean Craft Brewery (new location TBA)
At Legacy, you'll find the Humble Noble IPA — a tropical IPA brewed with Noble hops containing aromas of citrus, fruits, and spices. On Untappd, drinkers describe it as a "solid" and "smooth" session IPA with "big, floral flavors" and light bitterness. Sits at 5.8 percent ABV.
Lincoln's Beard Brewing Company (7360 Bird Rd., Miami)
Lincoln's Beard Brewing, which recently opened in the Bird Road Arts District, makes P. Swayze IPA — a reference to famed actor Patrick Swayze. It's described as having a "throat-ripping tropical and piney hop charge... carried by a smooth malt backbone." It sits at 6.6 percent ABV and 76 IBUs. Untappd drinkers describe it as a "fine pale ale" and a "decent IPA" with a "great aroma."
M.I.A. Beer Company (10400 NW 33rd St., Suite 150, Doral)
At M.I.A. Beer Co., you'll find the Deco IPA. Drinkers describe it as a "fruity, hoppy delight" having a "big grapefruit finish." Sits at 6 percent ABV. M.I.A. also brews a white IPA.
Miami Brewing Company at Schnebly Redland's Winery (30205 SW 217th Ave., Homestead)
Miami Brewing makes Miami Vice IPA, which contains citrus, pine, and herbal notes and "finishes dry with a subtle sweetness." Drinkers describe this IPA as "light on the hips" and having "almost a tripel taste to it" and an "odd sweet aftertaste." Sits at 7.1 percent ABV.
The Tank Brewing Company (5100 NW 72nd Ave., Miami)
The Tank Brewing boasts of its El Farito IPA as having a "firm but smooth bitterness and undertones of light biscuit and honey linger throughout." It's brewed with sterling, cascade, and mandarina hops and sits at 6.5 percent ABV. Untappd users describe it as a "hoppy wheat" that's "deliciously juicy," with some pine and biscuit flavors.
Titanic Brewery & Restaurant (5813 Ponce de Leon Blvd., Coral Gables)
Another of Miami's oldest brewpubs, Titanic makes a White Star IPA, essentially an American interpretation of a classic English ale that's brewed with domestic and imported malts, Northwest cascade hops, and British ale yeast. Drinkers describe it as being "well balanced with a bright hop nose, deep floral, and spice bitterness, with a smooth and easy-drinking mouthfeel." Sits at 6 percent ABV.
Wynwood Brewing Company (565 NW 24th St., Miami)
Wynwood IPA is a flagship brewed by this company. It's dry-hopped — meaning more hops are tossed in the vat when it's done fermenting to give the brew more aroma. It's made with British crystal malts to balance out its hop-forwardness. Drinkers say it's a "solid" IPA with bitter and citrus flavors, and "sweet, with a little bite." Weighs in a 7.2 percent ABV.