Beer 101: Pale Ale, IPA, Double IPA - what's that all about?
Pale Ale - To understand Pale Ale, you first need to understand what malt is. Malt is a germinated & dried cereal grain, and typically in beer it's barley. Dried barley does not ferment well, but malted barley does. So the barley goes through the malting process: it's first soaked so it sprouts, then further germination is halted by heating/drying it with hot air.
Because the heating and drying process was hard to control before the 1700's, ales, such as porters and stouts were usually dark because the malt was 'dark roasted' . Then as more controllable fuel sources emerged, the malt could be dried yet kept lighter. Beers made this way became known as Pale Ales, and were originally more expensive.
IPA - India Pale Ale. The distinction for an IPA is that it is made with more hops. The type and amounts of hops & malt, as well as alcohol content can vary, hence there is wide diversity within this style — as we are learning is true with every style of beer. IPA’s can also be classified into English & American. English IPA’s are made with English hops and tend to be earthy & woody. American IPA’s are often more hoppy, with pine and bitter grapefruit flavors.
Double IPA - Also called Imperial IPA, is what the name suggests; double the hops or even triple, though the amount of malts is often increased to balance the bitterness. This is a uniquely American style, meaning Americans always have to take things to the extreme.