Every year on the first Thursday of August, hopheads and craft beer enthusiasts from all corners of the globe come together to celebrate and raise a toast to the beloved India Pale Ale on National IPA Day. This illustrious day honors the beer style that has taken the world by storm, igniting taste buds and captivating palates with its bold flavors and aromatic hops. 

The journey of the India Pale Ale dates back to the 18th century when British brewers were exploring ways to preserve beer during long voyages to their colonies in India. The traditional ales would spoil during the arduous journey, so brewers experimented with higher hop content and increased alcohol levels to enhance the beer’s longevity.

This innovative approach proved successful, and the IPA was born. The hop bitterness and higher alcohol content acted as natural preservatives, ensuring the beer could withstand the months-long sea journey to India without spoiling. As sailors and soldiers stationed in India tasted this unique ale, its popularity spread back to England and beyond, eventually becoming a global sensation.

What sets IPAs apart from other beer styles is the prominent presence of hops. Hops contribute a distinct bitter flavor, floral or citrusy aromas, and a refreshing finish. From piney and resinous American hops to fruity and spicy European varieties, there’s an IPA for every discerning palate.

Furthermore, within the IPA category, there are various sub-styles, each with its unique characteristics. Some of the popular sub-styles include:

  • American IPA: Known for its assertive hop bitterness and aroma, with a strong emphasis on citrusy and tropical fruit notes.
  • Double IPA (DIPA): Also known as Imperial IPA, it packs an even bigger hop punch and higher alcohol content than its American counterpart.
  • New England IPA (NEIPA): Famous for its hazy appearance and juicy, fruit-forward hop character, often with a less bitter finish.
  • English IPA: A more balanced version with a noticeable malt presence, showcasing earthy, herbal, and floral hop flavors. 

The rise of IPA in recent years has been instrumental in the craft beer revolution. Craft brewers worldwide have embraced the IPA style as a canvas for innovation, creativity, and experimentation. They continuously push the boundaries by introducing new hop combinations, exploring different brewing techniques, and infusing IPAs with adjuncts like fruits, spices, and even barrel aging.

This level of creativity has led to an unprecedented diversity of IPAs that cater to a vast spectrum of tastes. Whether you prefer a crisp and bitter West Coast IPA or a smooth and hazy New England IPA, the options are virtually limitless.

On National IPA Day, beer enthusiasts and breweries alike come together to celebrate. Pubs, bars, and breweries host events and tastings, showcasing a variety of IPAs for enthusiasts to indulge in. It’s a day to appreciate the craftsmanship of brewers, the complexity of hops, and the community of beer lovers that share a passion for this bitter elixir.

For those looking to participate, here are some ways to celebrate National IPA Day:

  • Visit a Brewery: Head to your favorite local brewery or brewpub and enjoy their latest IPA offerings. Many breweries release special limited-edition IPAs on this day.
  • IPA Tasting: Organize an IPA tasting session with friends or join one at a nearby beer bar. Sample a range of IPAs to discover the diversity within the style.
  • Homebrewing: If you’re into homebrewing, why not try your hand at brewing your own IPA? It’s a great way to get creative and experiment with different hop combinations.
  • IPA and Food Pairing: Explore how different IPAs pair with various dishes. The hop bitterness can complement spicy and savory foods, making for an exciting culinary experience.

National IPA Day is a time to savor the bitterness, embrace the complexity, and celebrate the camaraderie that beer fosters. As you raise your glass of IPA on this special day, take a moment to appreciate the history, craftsmanship, and passion that goes into creating this iconic beer style. Cheers to IPA and the joy it brings to beer enthusiasts worldwide!

Brian Campbell is co-founder and Brand Manager of the Buffalo Beer League, and writes the weekly Buffalo Beer Buzz column. If you have beer news that should be included in the Beer Buzz, Brian can be reached at brian@buffalobeerleague.com, on Twitter (@buffbeerleague), Instagram (@buffalobeerleague), and Facebook (@thebuffalobeerleague).