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What is the difference between an IPA and a Pale Ale?

Two of the most popular beer styles in the craft beer world are – without a doubt – the India Pale Ale (IPA) and the Pale Ale. While they actually are different beers, most people would struggle to identify the difference in a blind tasting as both are hoppy beers and have other similar characteristics. What is the actual difference between an IPA and a Pale Ale? Find out the answer by a little history lesson.

As you might guess (or know) the Pale Ale was born first. This beer finds its origin in the fact that somewhere in the early 1700s brewers began using lighter malts. The use of lighter malts led to the lighter color of the beer – pale – and a lighter flavor. Because of the lighter flavor, the hops were more prominent in these beers.

Around the 1820s the India Pale Ale saw the light of day. The myth goes that the British colonies in India brewed these beers because they desired the beers from home. Because of the long distance they had to pass during these six-month journeys, they increased the amount of hops and alcohol so that the beer wouldn’t spoil.

What does this mean? Because of this origin, you could say that the IPA is a more intense and stronger beer than the Pale Ale. It has a higher ABV and IBU. However this might be the origin, it is all relative nowadays. Brewers have their own recipes, which might make one’s IPA less strong than another one’s Pale Ale. Also, every person has different taste buds and breweries have a certain degree of freedom to classify a beer however they want to.
In the end, we can at least count on IPAs and Pale Ales to be hoppy and bitter.

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