Leah’s Beer School: Lesson 11

India Pale Lagers

There’s no question that IPAs rule the craft beer world, but after dominating beer trends for the last decade, there is renewed interest in less intense, more palatable brews. The India Pale Lager, a substylistic hybrid of both the IPA and lager, offers the best of both worlds with an approachably hoppy, refreshing beer.

The key differences between IPLs and IPAs are in the type of yeast used and temperature of fermentation. IPAs use ale yeasts that are high in esters, where IPLs are brewed with more neutral lager yeasts. In contrast to IPAs that are fermented at warm temperatures, IPLs are cool fermented or “lagered” to achieve a crisp, clean finish.

For the first time this year, the “American-style India Pale Lager” has been added to the Brewer’s Association 2019 Beer Style Guidelines. The rules governing IPLs are fairly vague, and therefore there’s a lot of room for interpretation. Many brewers are producing sessionable, hop-kissed lagers, while others are making hop bombs that finish clean. Hazy IPLs can be difficult to discern because the crisp, clean lager qualities get muddled among other yeasts responsible for its signature haze.

Some brewers argue that the hazy IPL goes against the style’s purpose, which is to showcase a subtle hop character with the clean fermentation of a lager. Alternatively, proponents of this subtype contend that hazy IPLs offer a less bitter alternative to the New England style of IPAs.

Overall, IPLs offer a hoppier alternative to more traditional lagers and a refreshing, less bitter counterpart to so many IPAs currently dominating the market. As a relative newcomer to the beer scene, there is no definitive set of rules, so brewers can enjoy the freedom to experiment and create their own version of an India Pale Lager.