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What Color Is Your IPA?

Michael Donato, December 09, 2014 -   

It’s no surprise that Untappd, like craft beer as a whole, is awash with IPAs, but all those IPAs are not as alike as you might think. We can actually break down the style by something other than hops; the colors. We’ve got Black IPAs, White IPAs and even Red IPAs. There is no rule governing these different colors, they’re not even all official styles, but they’re all distinct nonetheless.

Let’s start with Black IPAs. Black IPAs use various forms of dark malts, usually debittered, to get those roaster flavors often found in stouts and porters into a beer bittered by hops. It’s still got that hop bite, but it’s a distinctly different style than your typical India Pale Ale.

 

Black IPA

Rating

BAR

Average Score

 

3.82

 

Best

Pyynikin Käsityöläispanimo Herwood Black IPA

4.53

6.22

Worst

Wicked Beaver Brewing Company Midnight Ale

3.01

-4.22

Most Popular

Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale

4.07

4.33

Check-ins

218,798

 

 

Unique

605

 

 

There are 605 Black IPAs in the database, with an overall rating of 3.82. I’ve never heard of that beer that’s rated the highest, nor can I pronounce it. By BAR, the best beer is Firestone Walker’s Wookie Jack, which you’d know if you listened to last week’s Drinking With Shirt Podcast. The podcast also featured Stone’s Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale, which is the most checked-in beer in our sample. I’d like to mention the second highest rated beer too, mainly because I think it’s a pretty cool name: Yeastie Boys nevaRRaven with a 4.4 rating and a 5.7 BAR.

Next up is Red IPAs. Red in this case often means red or amber ale with extra hops. In some cases the addition of rye malt often adds a malty layer of complexity to the beer, but there are a lot more Rye IPAs than Red IPAs so we’ll stick to red for now.

 

Red IPA

Rating

BAR

Average Score

 

3.7

 

Best

Prancing Pony India Red Ale

4.21

5.41

Worst

Beaver Beer Big Red IPA

3.1

-3.14

Most Popular

Sierra Nevada Flipside Red IPA

3.73

0.87

Check-ins

28,455

   

Unique

37

   

Never heard of the best or worst beer there. Sierra Nevada’s Flipside is okay, and you’ll notice the most popular beer also comes real close to the average. That’s basically the replacement level.  Flipside is a basic red ale, with some chocolate and caramel malts and a lot of hops. It’s a decent beer, I’ve got some in the basement, but it’s definitely replacement level. There are a lot less red IPAs than black ones, and in my experience just adding a whole lot of hops to appeal to hopheads isn’t always the formula for good beer. Much more interesting are the ones that introduce rye malt to an IPA rather than trying to make a red ale an IPA.

White IPAs are a style you’re seeing more of lately. White usually means it has some witbier or wheat characteristics.

 

White IPA

Rating

BAR

Average Score

 

3.66

 

Best

Cigar City Brewing Jai Alai White Oak Aged IPA

4.26

8.54

Worst

CAP Great White Hype

3.25

 

Most Popular

New Belgium Brewing Company Accumulation Winter White IPA

3.65

1.48

Check-ins

54,798

   

Unique

46

   

Much like red, there isn’t a ton of variation in quality here. The best beer is only a point better than the worst and only hits 4.26. With only 46 beers in this sample, perhaps no one’s made a truly remarkable version yet. Cigar City’s Jai Alai is really just a regular IPA aged in White Oak, and might not even deserve to be on this list. Again the most popular beer in this group is right around the same rating as the average. Most White IPAs I’ve had have been disappointing.

So now that we’ve removed a few colors from the total IPA sample, what’s that looking like?

 

Other

Rating

BAR

Average Score

 

3.88

 

Best

Alchemist Heady Topper

4.82

19.15

Worst

Tailgate Beer IPA

2.43

-8.74

Most Popular

Lagunitas IPA

3.9

5.77

Check-ins

3,985,639

   

Unique

5616

   

It’s basically the same as always. Heady Topper leads the group of thousands of IPAs and nearly 4 million check-ins. Separating out Black, White, and Red barely makes a dent. The most popular IPA, Lagunitas, is right around the overall average again. The larger sample means the highs are higher and the lows are lower. -8.74 BAR is pretty impressive for what appears to be a very poorly made session IPA.

The other types of IPAs emerging from within the style are more interesting. Not all of them are colors of course; Rye IPAs and Belgian IPAs are out there as well as other experiments like Wild IPAs. Some of them are forgettable, but there are some tasty varieties to be found.

I’ll leave you with one last table.

 

Green IPA

Rating

BAR

Average Score

 

3.83

-

Best

Other Half All Green Everything

4.27

4

Worst

Lake Louie Bunny Green Toe IPA

3.55

-0.13

Most Popular

Two Brothers Laughing Panda Green Tea IPA

3.66

1.09

Check-ins

3,129

 

 

Unique

14

 

 

Michael can be found on Twitter and Untappd where he's wondering what a recipe for a purple IPA would look like. 

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