IPA has a rich and storied history. It’s a style that has continued to develop as hops have evolved through the years. While all beer depends intensely on its ingredients, American IPA’s are an amplification of hops. Without new and more pungent hop varieties and hybrids there would not be nearly as many IPA’s available.  


Without the historic India Pale Ales of the UK, specifically Burton on Trent, we would never have the American IPA. Originally in England, all beer was dark. The porter was the most famous of all, with hundreds of breweries dedicated only to that style.  All malted grain was dark and had a smoky characteristic due to the high kilning temperatures and poor heating sources.  In the mid 1600’s maltsers began to use a byproduct of coal, called coke, in the kiln. As a result, they were able to use lower kilning temperatures, which allowed them to create a pale malt devoid of off flavors and aromas. This development led to the pale ale which was first recorded in 1675. One of these pale styles was called an “October Beer” which was aged in barrels with dry hops for long periods of time after its initial 30-day fermentation. At this time, hops were known to be a preservative and hopping rates were increased with aged beers. The process for the October Beer would be the foundation for the India Pale Ale which surfaced in the late 1700’s.


Prior to Prohibition, there were many American IPAs but only one resurfaced after the law was repealed. That beer was Ballantine IPA, a true British style India Pale Ale. Ballantine IPA and their XXX Ale thrived until the 1960’s. They brewed beer until the early 1970’s and unfortunately went out of business after being sold and relocated a number of times. 


In 1968, experimental hop number 56013 was first harvested for research. Although the variety received positive feedback during rub evaluations it did not develop much interest. The hop ended up in the hands of John Segal who continued trials on three acres of his land. When Verticillium wilt affected the noble hops of Germany, some American brewers began to take note of Segal’s hops. By 1972, the hop that boasted a great citrus and grapefruit aroma was released to the public. It was now known as Cascade, in homage to the Pacific Northwest mountain range.

A young Fritz Maytag had purchased the San Francisco based Anchor Brewery in 1965, which at the time was about to close its doors.  For years he and his brewers, inspired by Ballantine IPA, developed a recipe for what would become Liberty Ale. When the beer was complete in 1975, it was the first to feature the now famous Cascade hop.  The hops added big citrus notes and a balanced bitterness.  And with the help of that hop, Anchor Brewing had just created the framework for the American IPA.

A few years later, another brewer was inspired by the Cascade hop; his name was Ken Grossman. He had been home brewing since the 1960’s and was very familiar with the American hops that were available at that time, like Brewer’s Gold and Bullion. Grossman and Paul Camusi were starting a brewery named Sierra Nevada. From the beginning they used Cascade hops in nearly all their beers. In 1981 Ken was creating a Christmas beer. He wanted to brew an IPA inspired by Ballantine. This recipe was hopped exclusively with Cascade hops and it was the first beer that they dry hopped. The result was a bitter, hop forward IPA bursting with flavor which is still brewed and “celebrated” today.

These two beers were the first American IPAs. It all started with one hop and some inspiration from one beer.  As more hop varieties became available the style began to flourish. Now IPA’s are recognized by their abundance of hop flavor and aroma but the beauty of the style is that there are many variations on the market, from balanced to completely hop-crazy. 


  • Ballantine’s IPA (originally Bullion hops replaced with Brewers Gold and Yakima Goldings) – first brewed 1878 and closed down in early 1970
  • Liberty Ale (first commercial beer to use cascade hops) – first brewed in 1975 and still brewed the same way today.
  • Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale (cascade, chinook and centennial hops) - first brewed in 1981 and still brewed today.
  • Bert Grant’s India Pale Ale (cascade and galena hops) – first brewed in 1983. The brewery closed in 2004.
  • Blind Pig Inaugural Ale – not to be confused with Russian River’s IPA Blind Pig – this was supposedly the blueprint for over the top hoppy IPA (and DIPA’s).


Well, I think we’ve established that hops are important to this style. I can’t say that I’ve ever brewed the same IPA twice because I always seem to change up the hops. Most brewers have their favorite hop that they use most often; mine is Simcoe. It’s not necessarily my all-time favorite because that decision would just be too hard but I probably use it more than any other hop…but then there’s Citra! See!! There are too many amazing hops out there. So choose your favorite(s) and brew with it but realize that not all hops are made to bitter and not all hops can be used for flavor and aroma.

Let’s start with the bittering charge. You can add them as a first wort addition or add them to your boil for at least 45 minutes and I suggest no more than 90 minutes. Anything over 90 minutes can produce an astringent and harsh quality to the bitterness. There have been many experiments with results showing that both methods have a similar impact with mostly undetectable differences in most cases. I prefer a 60 minute addition in almost all of my IPA’s. When choosing hops stick with high alpha hops but also pay attention to co-humulone percentage which at high levels will impart a harsher bitterness.

Flavor additions should be added forty to ten minutes before the end of the boil and aroma is ten to zero minutes. Whirlpooling has also become a very popular time to add aroma hops. In fact, I add most of my hops at that time as well. When whirlpooling you can either recirculate your wort with a pump or just swirl a spoon or paddle to create a natural whirlpool. Because you are not cooling during a whirlpool you are still isomerizing alpha acids from the hops. 

Finally, there is dry hopping. In my opinion, this is the most important part of the American IPA process. Dry hopping means to add add hops directly to the fermenter once primary fermentation is complete. The length of contact time in your beer is disputable but most research shows that three days is enough. After that amount of time, there are no additional aromatic benefits from the hops imparted to the beer. I tend to go with three days but have gone as long as seven days without negative results. When choosing hops for dry hopping and aroma additions, it’s important to look at the myrcene oil content. Myrcene oil is one of four essential oils in a hop and can impact both flavor and aroma. It is volatile at high temperatures so hops with high myrcene oil content should be added in the final minutes of the boil or during the whirlpool. They are also great for dry hopping.

IPAs can have a simple grain bill but make there is enough of a malt backbone to balance the hops. Choose a base grain you like because that will be most of your grist. I like to go with Marris Otter if I’m using a simple grain bill. It’s sweeter with a nice malty flavor. If I’m going to use a bit more complexity in the grain bill, I’ll stick with a 2-row pale malt or even a pilsner malt along with Vienna or Munich for toastiness, cara pils, wheat or oats for body and head retention and caramel malt for color. I like a nice dry IPA so I often will not add caramel malts, but that’s up to the brewer.

There is pretty much one decision to make when deciding yeast for an American IPA: an English or American strain. I’ve had great success using the English ESB yeast strain from Wyeast: 1968. In fact, I’ve heard that Stone, Lagunitas and Three Floyds, among others, use this strain in their IPA’s. I’ve also made great IPA’s with the Chico strain (Wyeast 1056 and White Labs 001) and this is likely the most popular choice with brewers. Regardless the strain, the temperature will be very important. You do not want many, if any, esters at all from the yeast. Ferment within arrange of 66-70F and that means internal temperature not ambient! The key to this beer is a clean fermentation.

I have a lot of IPA recipes I could add but I’m going to go with my award winner. I also happen to think it’s a Hell of a recipe!  I won silver for this American IPA which is hopped to hell. I don’t use hop bags, spiders or blockers but after making this beer for the first time I had to rethink that decision. It’s a pain to transfer this hop juice from the kettle to the fermenter. A nice whirpool will certainly help but not that much. I add about extra one gallon water due to trub loss.

Adam’s American IPA Home Brew Recipe

6.00 gal  

OG 1.061

IBU 92.4 IBUs

Efficiency 70.00 %

12 lbs Pale Malt, Maris Otter (85.6 %)     
1 lbs Carahell (8 %)
9.2 oz Melanoiden Malt (4.1 %)       
4.6 oz Caramel Malt - 60L (2.1 %)  

0.75 oz Crystal - 60.0 min
0.75 oz Chinook - 45.0 min
0.68 oz Crystal - 30.0 min
1.37 oz Simcoe - 5.0 min
3.00 oz Citra - Flame Out
1.50 oz Chinook Whirlpool 30 min
1.50 oz Crystal Whirlpool 30 min    
1.50 oz Simcoe Whirlpool 30 min

3.00 oz Citra - Dry Hop 3.0 Days         
3.00 oz Crystal - Dry Hop 3.0 Days

Remove first charge of dry hops (or rack to secondary) and add second Dry Hop

3.00 oz Simcoe - Dry Hop 3.0 Days

Mash Schedule: Single Infusion

Batch Sparge

Mash - 6 gallons - 152.0 F - 60 min      

Batch sparge with 5 gallons of 168.0 F water

60 minute boil

Chill to 65F and pitched 2L starter Wyeast 1056

Ferment at 68F for 10 days before adding first dry hop addition