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The Difference Between India Pale Ale and American Pale Ale

Brewers are pushing the boundaries of American Pale Ale and India Pale Ale like never before, bringing these two styles of ales closer together where the alcohol by volume (ABV) percent hits 6. American Pale Ale has a soft, palatable and not-so-bitter taste, with an ABV between 5 and 6 percent. India Pale Ale has a stronger, hoppier taste with an ABV between 6 and 10 percent.

There are many genres of specialty IPAs. The Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) recognizes Belgian IPA, Black IPA, Brown IPA, Red IPA, Rye IPA and White IPA as different avenues with which brewers can experiment within the IPA style. Other authorities recognize Fruited IPA, New England IPA and Session IPA, which retains IPA’s hop-forward flavor while providing a lower ABV range between 3.2 and 4.6. APAs do not have distinguished categories but feature a wide range of flavors including malty, hoppy, wheaty and sweet.

The BJCP classifies American Pale Ale as a Pale American Ale, with vital stats of OG 1.045 – 1.060, IBUs 30– 50, FG 1.010 – 1.015, SRM 5 – 10; and ABV of 4.5 – 6.2 percent. Commercial examples include Sierra Nevada Pale Ale3 Floyds Zombie Dust, and Great Lakes Burning River Pale Ale.

The BJCP classifies India Pale Ale as a modern American IPA. The organization groups English IPAs with other English-derived beers. The organization groups Double IPAs, which are brewed with more hops than typical IPAs, with Strong American Ales. There is a spectrum of vital stats for IPA subcategories. Vital stats for an American IPA are OG 1.056 – 1.070, IBUs 40 – 70, FG 1.008 – 1.014, SRM 6 – 14, and ABV 5.5 – 7.5 percent. Commercial examples include Alpine Duet and Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA.

APAs and IPAs share a common heritage.

“Any time you think of an American beer, that beverage has its roots in another country. Both ales are British island styles that made their way over to the U.S.,” said Andy Sparhawk, Craft Beer Program Web Manager for the Brewers Association, a trade organization dedicated to promoting the interests of craft breweries and homebrewers.

“Any time you think of an American IPA or American Pale Ale, they have their roots in another country. Both ales are British island styles that made their way over to the U.S.,” said Andy Sparhawk, Craft Beer Program Web Manager for the Brewers Association.

Sparhawk said APAs often showcase American hops called the “C hops:” Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, and Columbus. A more recent inclusion into the “C hop” category is Citra, which is featured in a multitude of IPAs and APAs that are being brewed today. IPA brewers also use C hops, but are experimenting with additional varieties, including Ekuanot (equinox), Simcoe and Strata hops.

“This has resulted in many varieties of IPAs with a tropical, fruity note. Fortunately the bitterness arms race of the mid 2000s has gone away. We’re seeing IPAs lending a softer mouthfeel with juicy and/or hazy IPAs, and a super dry finish (in) Brut IPAs,” said Sparhawk.

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