Love ’em or hate ’em, India pale ales are here to stay. But what’s the difference between, say, a New England and a West Coast? And what do “pale ales” have to do with anything? Brandon Capps, co-owner and head brewer at four-year-old IPA specialist New Image Brewing in Arvada, gave us the lowdown on how today’s most popular styles fit together, plus his picks for the best local IPAs.

English IPA

Beer drinkers have the United Kingdom to thank for the world’s first IPA. Born during the late 18th century, this brew is enhanced with English hops, yeast, and malt—and brewed for a high ABV so that, historically, the beer would stay fresh as it traveled to British colonies (including those in India).
Tasting Notes: Earthy, floral, caramel-like malt flavors
Average Hoppiness: XXX
Try: Hog Wild at Hogshead Brewery

New England IPA (aka Hazy or Juicy IPA)

Dry-hopping and/or the use of specific yeast strains give this unfiltered brew a smooth texture, cloudy appearance, and low bitterness profile.
Tasting Notes: Tropical, juicy, stone-fruit character
Average Hoppiness: XXX
Try: Coriolis Effect at New Image Brewing

New England Imperial IPA (aka Double or Triple IPA)

The West Coast Imperial IPA’s hazy cousin contains heavy quantities of hops, high ABVs (seven to 10.6 percent), and the softness and sweetness of New England styles.
Tasting Notes: Bright citrus and tropical fruit flavors
Average Hoppiness: XXX
Try: In the Deep Steep Double IPA at Outer Range Brewing Co.

New England Pale Ale

A modest ABV (typically six percent or less) makes this brew the New England IPA’s more sessionable offspring.
Tasting Notes: Bursts of tropical fruit flavors, a soft texture, and less bitterness than the New England IPA
Average Hoppiness: XX
Try: Muscle Memory at Cerebral Brewing

Milkshake IPA (aka Smoothie IPA)

Lactose, fruit purées, unfermentable sugars, and adjuncts like vanilla create this ultracreamy, opaque brew. (Imperial IPAs and pale ales can also come milkshake-style.)
Tasting Notes: Bold fruit flavors, rich texture
Average Hoppiness: XX
Try: Double Peach Milkshake at WeldWerks Brewing Co.

West Coast IPA (aka American IPA)

American hops give this crystal-clear, best-selling style intense flavor, aroma, and bitterness. The brew’s boom can be traced back to the 1970s, when breweries in California and Washington began using Oregon-grown Cascade hops.
Tasting Notes: Bold pine and citrus flavors
Average Hoppiness: XXXX
Try: Juicy Banger IPA at Station 26 Brewing Co.

West Coast Imperial IPA (aka Double or Triple American IPA)

Hearty quantities of hops and high ABVs (seven to 10.6 percent) make this a decidedly unchuggable yet delicious brew.
Tasting Notes: Intense pine and citrus character
Average Hoppiness: XXXXX
Try: Sketch Bet Imperial IPA at Comrade Brewing Co.

West Coast Pale Ale (aka American Pale Ale)

Inspired by English pale ale (a predecessor of English IPA), its hallmark is a balanced use of malt and hops.
Tasting Notes: Floral and citrus flavors; drier finish than a West Coast IPA
Average Hoppiness: XXX
Try: Featherweight Pale at Cannonball Creek Brewing Co.

Denise Mickelsen
Denise Mickelsen
Denise Mickelsen is 5280’s former food editor. She oversaw all of 5280’s food-related coverage from October 2016 to March 2021.
Patricia Kaowthumrong
Patricia Kaowthumrong
Patricia joined the 5280 staff in July 2019 and is thrilled to oversee all of the magazine’s dining coverage. Follow her food reporting adventures on Instagram @whatispattyeating.