Why Do IPA Beers Have Higher Alcohol Content?

India Pale Ale is a type of beer that comes in various colors depending on its variety. IPAs are primarily brewed in England but are standard in the United States too. With the ever-gaining popularity of these crafted beers, you might wonder if they have a higher alcohol content.

IPAs typically have higher alcohol content than other beers. This is because of their darker color, high specific gravity, and bitter taste. One of the most distinctive features of an IPA is its intense aroma, which comes from an abundance of hops.

IPA Beer is incredibly popular these days. It turns out that the higher alcohol content in IPAs has a simple explanation: it’s all about science. This article will discuss the alcohol content of IPAs in more depth, and I’ll also descrbe the different types of IPAs available. 

How Alcohol Content Is Measured

Before discussing why IPAs have a higher alcohol content than other beers, it’s worth explaining how alcohol content is measured. 

If you’ve ever experienced a buzz from a glass of wine or an ice-cold IPA beer, you know that alcohol can affect your body’s functions. 

You may also know that the higher the alcohol content in your drink, the more likely you will get drunk faster. But how can you tell how much alcohol is in your beer before it gets you too tipsy to remember?

The answer is Alcohol by Volume (ABV), which refers to the percentage of pure alcohol contained in a drink.

The higher this number is, the more alcohol is present, and the more you’ll feel its effects on your body. It’s common to see an ABV percentage on wine bottles, beer cans, and spirits. 

The alcohol content of a beverage is determined by two factors: 

  • Type of drink
  • Proof

The type of drink, in general, has a lot to do with alcohol content. Spirits have more alcohol than beer and wine – thus a higher % ABV.

For example, if a beer has 5% ABV, it contains 5% alcohol by weight, meaning that every 100 grams of beer would contain 5 grams of alcohol.

IPAs Are Brewed With Greater Specific Densities

The term specific gravity is used in chemistry to measure the density present in a particular substance. In beer, it’s the ratio of the thickness of the liquid to the density of water at a specific temperature.

When it comes to beer, brewers are concerned about the densities of their finished products because they impact how alcohol content is perceived by consumers. 

Alcohol content and, consequently, perceived strength are affected by both alcohol volume and alcohol percentage, but it’s alcohol volume that brewers manipulate to make different strengths among their beers.

Water has a gravity of 1 – as you might expect, anything with a higher specific gravity can be considered denser, while anything with lower specific gravity than water will be less dense. 

The higher your specific gravity, the stronger your beer will be since more fermentable sugars have been converted into alcohol rather than carbon dioxide and residual sugars.

This measurement allows us to determine how much sugar is in the beer and, thus, how much alcohol is present.

The specific gravity of an IPA will be higher than the average beer because they contain additional hops and sugar, which contribute to its higher density.

In layman’s terms, specific gravity is how much sugar is dissolved in the beer at any given time – the weight per volume of dissolved sugars. When you have more dissolved sugar, your brew will have a greater specific density. 

Since alcohol is produced when yeast ferments in your brew, having a more significant amount of sugar means more glucose is available to ferment into alcohol.

For additional information on how IPAs are made, here is an informative YouTube video:

Different Types of IPAs

It’s important to note that despite IPAs being more potent than most general beers (such as Budweiser), different types of IPA beers are likely to vary in ABV percentage

IPAs will vary between 6-10% ABV. While other beer types usually contain around 5% ABV, it’s safe to say that all IPAs will be stronger. 

Let’s look at the different types of IPA beers: 

English IPAs 

This style of beer has been around for hundreds of years, but it’s recently made a resurgence in the past few decades. 

English India Pale Ales got their name from their alcoholic strength and ability to withstand long-barrelled voyages from Britain to the British colonies in India.

English IPAs were well-loved for their intense bitterness and assertive hop flavors. 

The traditional English hops for IPAs were Fuggles, Goldings, and Styrians, which have a floral aroma that is softer than American hops.

In recent years, craft brewers have experimented with different hops that aren’t native to the UK. Cascade hops are sometimes used in addition to traditional English varieties. They give off an intensely citrusy flavor that some people love, and others find too overpowering.

Generally, English IPAs will be found at a 6-7% ABV.

American IPAs 

American IPAs, known as West Coast IPAs, were first brewed in California. 

American-style IPAs are known for their strong, hoppy flavors and aromas. The hops are added during the boiling process to retain much of their fragrance. The hoppy flavor and bitterness are what give American IPAs their signature taste.

The characteristics of American IPAs come from the way they’re made. The most crucial ingredient is hops, which give the beer a robust flavor and aroma.

Hops used in American IPAs tend to be more floral and fruity than other types of hops used in different IPAs.

This gives American IPAs like Brut and Lagunitas a distinct taste compared to other types of beers, such as English IPAs, even though they have a similar ABV.

Double IPAs

Double IPAs are the strongest IPA beers you can find, and they’re also some of the most popular. 

They usually have a high ABV (between 7-10%), which means they’re more potent than the English and American IPAs.

Double IPAs are brewed with more malts than their lighter cousins, which gives them their malty flavor. They also contain more hops than an average IPA – amplifying its characteristics to get a more prominent flavor profile. 

They often have higher International Bitterness Units (IBU) than any other IPA beer.

The alcohol content makes the taste too intense for novice beer drinkers, and the bitterness makes them acrid and hard to swallow for those accustomed to lighter-flavored beers.

Nonetheless, if you know what to expect, you’ll find that Double IPAs have many unique properties that make them worth the try.

Summary

Alcohol by Volume or ABV is the amount of alcohol available in your beer. Although some alcohol evaporates during the brewing process, the % ABV refers to how much alcohol is present in your beer when you buy it.

Indian Pale Ales have higher Alcohol By Volume (ABV) content because they use higher specific gravities in brewing than regular beers. 

If you’re going to drink beer, you might as well make it an IPA. Even though it has been around for many years, the style is unique, and I love everything about them.

About HomeBrewAdvice

Hello, my name is Simon. Together with a group of writers I write about brewing beer and making wine. We all share a passion for the great things in life, such as making stuff from scratch.

The business of HomeBrewAdvice is to bring you great information, stories and product reviews from brewing at home, and making wine


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