Ipa vs Beer: A Tale of the World’s Most Popular Beverages

Ipa vs beer the differences

IPA vs beer, their differences and similarities, is an age-old debate between beer mavens across the globe. While beer is one of the world’s oldest alcoholic drinks and beverages, India Pale Ale or IPA is a newer form of beer.

The first evidence of beer being brewed is from the pre-historic ages, but the IPA is a more recent discovery that came into being during 18th Century England. Read this carefully curated guide to get a detailed comparative study between the two.

IPA vs Beer Comparison Table

Origin18th century, United Kingdom3500 – 3100 BC, Godin Tepe in the Zagros Mountains of western Iran
Types6 – 10 varieties2 broad categories, IPA is a subcategory
ABV4.5 – 20 percentDepends on brewers
IBU25 – 120Depends on hop usage

What Is the Difference Between IPA and Beer?

The main difference between an IPA and beer is that all IPAs come under the category of beer, but all beers can not be called an IPA. Any IPA is basically a subcategory of the broader category of beers. Beyond that, let us check out the other differences and similarities in the guide below.

What Is IPA Best For?

IPA is best for those who are looking for a hoppier, more flavorful style of beer than the usual. There are a lot of varieties when it comes to IPAs, and they usually pair well with roasted, grilled, and spicy dishes.

– Taste

As a standard, most IPAs are always on the hoppier side. The amount of hop usage is always much more than any other beer. This leads to a very strong, bitter flavor in most IPAs. Beer lovers often believe that drinking an IPA is an acquired taste due to its strong flavor profile.

They can be quite harsh on the tongue, making it a little harder to drink than other light beers like lager or pilsners. IPAs generally also have a strong taste of alcohol in them to balance out the strong hoppy flavors. Due to the advent of the craft beer industry, IPAs can have a lot of variety other than the original English IPA.

– IPA Types

Here are some of the most common IPA types:

  • American IPA – They are primarily fruity, sour, and piney in taste and are high on the hop game like the original English IPA.
  • English IPA – This is the classic and original version of IPA that was first produced by the East India Company.
  • Black IPA – They use roasted malts and have a very roasty-toasty essence. They are not pale in color and are mostly dark brown or nearly black.
  • Double IPA – They are much stronger and hoppier versions of the regular IPA beer. They are mostly above 7.5 percent of alcohol.
  • Triple IPA – Triple IPA, as the name suggests, is an even stronger version of the double IPA. Their ABV level is generally over 10 percent.
  • West Coast IPA – They are low on malt content and focus more on the hops used.
  • New England IPA – They are hazy in texture, mostly fruity, floral or citrusy in taste.
  • White IPA – They are a perfect blend of American IPA and Belgian-style wheat beer.

– Food Pairings

Here are a few food pairings for IPAs to make your beer-drinking experience more enjoyable.

  • Oily fish and other meat based-food work well with IPAs. The strong taste and bitterness of an IPA can be balanced with the heavy meat taste of fish, pork, or beef.
  • You can also pair it with roasted, grilled, and spicy food. The heat and smokiness of the food go well with the strong flavor profile of the IPA.

– History

Pale ales, in their original form, have been in the beer market for centuries, but the 18th Century IPA that we drink today came into being due to a major experiment by British colonizers. When the East India Company soldiers and traders set out on the sea to reach India, they wanted to carry their own beer from England.

This was hard because it took months to reach by sea, and the beers turned stale during the journey due to the weather change. So, as an experiment to make the pale ales last longer during this voyage, brewers started adding extra amounts of hops.

This made the beer more resistant to weather changes, and the hops acted as a natural preservative. The taste became bitter, but the beer reached the Indian shores without turning rotten. This resulted to the name India Pale Ale and a new version of pale ales.

What Is Beer Best For?

Beer is best for those who are looking for a refreshing alcoholic drink that has a lot of varieties available. From salty, sweet, nutty, sour, roasted, caramel-like, and bread-like, beer can have a wide variety of various flavors depending on the brewer and ingredients used.

– Taste

Beers mostly have a taste balance between the malts or grains, the hop used, and the other flavoring agent the brewers choose. Beers are of many different kinds, making a major difference in their flavor profiles. From salty, sweet, nutty, sour, roasted, caramel-like, and bread-like, beer can have various flavors.

– Characteristics

Beer is a carbonated and fermented drink made with grains of various kinds like barley or wheat. It also uses hops and typically uses yeast for the fermentation process. It is one of the oldest forms of alcoholic beverages in the world, making it quite popular all across the globe.

– Nutrition Facts

Long-term consumption of beer can make you gain weight. This is mostly because beer contains a lot of calories, fat, and carbs. But these days, due to the advent of the craft beer industry, there are many low-fat beer options. If you are a health-conscious beer lover, they are a must-try for you.

– Beer Types

Beers mostly have two broad categories of divisions, lagers, and ales, which have their own subcategories. Here is a quick glance at them.


Here are the types of lagers available:

  • American lager – Typical American lagers are very light in taste and have lots of carbonation. The hops and alcohol content are always on the lower side.
  • Pilsner – They have a bitter but crisp flavor profile, golden color, and sweet and floral taste and smell.
  • Vienna style lager – Vienna style lager is mostly dark in color, which is quite different from other popular lager beers. They are very malty, mostly on the sweeter side, with a lingering roasted flavor.


Here are the different types of ales:

  • India Pale Ale – Invented by the East India Company. Mostly hoppy bitterness and strong alcohol flavors.
  • Brown ale – They are very lightly hopped, and the alcohol content is also on the lower side, which is rare for ales.
  • Barley wine – Barley wines are unique ales beers that age well with time. They are mostly sweet and are very high in alcohol levels.
  • Pale ale – They have a roasted malty smell and taste. They are bitter but not as much as an IPA.
  • Belgian ale – Light bodied but high in alcohol content. The bitterness is low but is quite distinct in most Belgian ales.

– Food Pairings

Since beer has a lot of varieties, it can very well be paired with an endless number of foods. Here are a few quick suggestions.

  • Beer can be paired with sushi.
  • Beer pairs well with all kinds of sea and beach-like food, including crabs, fish, lobsters, etc.
  • Beer can also go well with spicy party food like Asian or Mexican dishes.

– History

Beer is one of the oldest alcoholic drinks humans have ever made. Fermentation and brewing have been going on for quite some time now, but the first evidence of beer brewing can be traced back to 3500 – 3100 BC at Godin Tepe in the Zagros Mountains of western Iran. In the early years of beer invention, it was only domestically brewed and only used for personal consumption.

They could not be preserved because they lacked any kind of hop usage. Hops were first used in beer brewing during the 822 in Europe. During the 1500s, many more regulations to the beer brewing process came. In the later half of the 19th century, brewers even started using glass bottles to store beer and sell it locally.

Final Thoughts

Ipa vs beer what to choose

As we found out in this IPA vs. beer review guide, if you want to know all about the taste and characteristics of beer, you must taste IPAs too.  As we learned, all IPAs come under the broader category of beer. Like lagers, ales, stouts, and other beers, IPA is just one subcategory.

If you are a strong bitter beer lover, tasting a range of IPAs is a must. IPAs in any form are always high on hop usage, hence the extreme bitter taste. But if you want milder tastes and more varieties, then beer has various choices to offer. It is better you try all varieties before you form your opinion on whether beer or IPAs are the best fit for your taste buds.

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