According to the latest guidelines from the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP), there are currently nine different styles of IPA, including subcategories. You could probably even break these down into further subcategories with relative ease, thanks to the prevalence of beers brewed in what is arguably craft beer's most popular style.
Newcomers to the genre include fruited IPAs that have had their hop flavours enhanced by fruits such as grapefruit and tangerine, and what’s been dubbed the “New England” IPA, which refers to the hazy - to the point of being turbid - beers that are very much the style du jour.
The problem with subcategorising such a diverse set of styles under one umbrella is that they become flashes in the pan, as opposed to a flame that stays lit. The result of this is that really great styles, such as one of my favourites Black IPA, get swept back under the rug while other more popular styles like New England IPA get what I feel is an unfair share of the limelight.
If you haven’t had a Black IPA for a while, I urge you to seek some out, especially now that autumn is drawing in and demanding that you up your dark beer intake. I’d start with the latest iteration of IPA Black from Bermondsey’s The Kernel. This beer combines subtle notes of roasted coffee and liquorice before giving way to familiar aromas of grapefruit and pine, just as you’d expect from an American style IPA.
Right now The Kernel is, in my opinion, currently knocking out the best beers I think they’ve ever produced. IPA Black is just one example - IPA Mosaic Nelson Sauvin is another. When The Kernel are in this kind of form, there are few better breweries in the world, let alone the country, so take my advice and dive in.
Music Pairing: Neil Young – Hey Hey My My (Into The Black)
When I saw Neil Young live in Hyde Park back in 2009 he opened his set with this sensationally groovy track. I remember waiting in the queue for the bar at the time, before practically being knocked off my feet by a blast wave of fuzz guitar as the first notes rang out. Stick on this fantastic live version, as performed by Neil Young and Crazy Horse in 1991, before taking his advice and heading into the black (IPA).
You can find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis at his excellent beer blog, Total Ales, and Good Beer Hunting, and on Twitter @totalcurtis. And make sure you drink along by getting a bottle (or 10) of Kernel IPA Black delivered to your door via our online shop.