How to classify India Pale Lagers?

Discussion in 'BeerAdvocate Talk' started by stevepat, Jul 7, 2019.

  1. augiecarton

    augiecarton Initiate (183) Oct 22, 2010 New Jersey

    means its an imperial version of a pale ale, so for like the hook at 5.5% the turnt hook is 8.5. turnt is the 8.5, imperial version of a pale ale we make at 5.5 called the hook. just trying to use the words for what they mean rather than what marketing has confused them into.
    like when we called Sit Down Son a dry hopped lager rather than an IPL. it could have gone either way we landed on the side of calling it what it is rather than what people are paying for
  2. officerbill

    officerbill Aspirant (268) Feb 9, 2019 New York
    Society Trader

    Looking through the BA list of Imperial Pilsners I realized that I've had 4 or 5 of them, but the brewery labeled them as an IPL, not AIP, and none of them had much of a malt presence.

    I think the AIP description is just a broad catch-all for American style pilsners and the category could easily expand to cover IPL's. Look at the description of Belgian Dark Ale
  3. Bitterbill

    Bitterbill Poo-Bah (6,628) Sep 14, 2002 Wyoming
    Society Trader

    IPLs>Session IPAs, for the most part.
  4. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Meyvn (1,003) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    What @officerbill said is what I was going to suggest.

    With one addition.

    I would just make an American Pale Lager and American India Pale Lager category.
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  5. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (2,214) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    And what about the Imperial Pilsner? No Imperial Pilsner I've ever tasted has been similar to an IPL -- the IPLs just aren't malty enough. Sure, I haven't tried them all, but those I've gambled on weren't the same.
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  6. stevepat

    stevepat Defender (662) Mar 12, 2013 California

    Ya I also don't agree with the ipl as Imperial pilsner. To me an ipl doesn't have to be imperial strength and they often have a flavor that only loosely focused on malt as opposed to the fundamental role of pilsner malt
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  7. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (1,785) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    That's a weird "catch-all" category with many beers listed that have long been considered standard "American Adjunct Lagers" - the most glaring examples being pre-craft era beers Yuengling Premium, Shiner Premium (13 IBU's according to the brewery), Hudy 14K, Minhas' Huber, Gibbons and Stegmaier (The Lion) Olde Frothingslosh from Pittsburgh, etc.

    I guess being declared a "Craft Brewer" somehow elevates these sorts of beers? :rolling_eyes:
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  8. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Meyvn (1,003) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    Well, I didn't want to have to add yet ANOTHER category of "American Imperial/Double India Pale Lager". There simply aren't enough examples out there of IPLs to warrant THREE separate categories.

    Regarding Imperial Pilsners specifically, I feel like there's even less of these. In fact, I don't even know if I could find one on my local shelves.

    As @steveh said, calling them a Maibock might be fine (although I'm not sure that's what you were suggesting). So either place them in the Maibock category, or the IPL category.

    Each style is on a spectrum. So it's ok for one to be more hop forward, and another more malt forward.

    That being said, I do agree with @jesskidden. Putting something like Yuengling Premium in the same category as Hoponius Union (or even more extreme, Mass Rising from Jack's Abby) is insane.
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  9. honkey

    honkey Zealot (555) Aug 28, 2010 Arizona
    Society Industry

    One of my favorite beers from when I studied at Doemens was Augustiner Pils. I didn’t see it often, but one pub always had fresh bottles of it. It was incredibly hoppy. One of my professors told me that it was hopbursted entirely with Mittelfreuh at a rate between 2-3 lbs per bbl with a target IBU of 33. So while it was at a pretty standard bitterness level, the hop aroma was through the roof. I used that as a guideline for my Pils, but I dry Hop with Perle instead of Mittelfreuh and the result is similar to what I recall drinking there. All
  10. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Meyvn (1,003) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    I was in Darmstadt last year and the fresh Bitburger Pils I had on tap was one of the hoppiest Pilsners I've ever had. I drank a lot of it at the hotel bar.

    Despite that, it still didn't detract from the Pils malt. It still held onto that excellent sweet bready flavor.
  11. officerbill

    officerbill Aspirant (268) Feb 9, 2019 New York
    Society Trader

    Out of the 100 most rated American Imperial Pilsners only 26 (mostly in the 50-100 group) are called an Imperial Pilsner by the brewery (I think DFH was the only one to call theirs American).
    Most are sold as IPL, followed by APL, and a mix of things like über or double pils (Southern Tier calls Krampus an "Imperial Helles").

    An Imperial Pale Lager style could easily cover AIP & IPL, especially since most of the beers listed as an AIP are sold as an IPL.
    #51 officerbill, Jul 10, 2019
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2019
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  12. Crusader

    Crusader Aspirant (275) Feb 4, 2011 Sweden

    Wow, 2-3 pounds per barrel? That would certainly be a generous hopping rate.
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  13. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (2,214) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    Okay, to be clear: my bottom line (also referred to as my opinion -- albeit an opinion from years of beer advocacy -- even prior to the web site) is that IPL and Imperial Pilsner are not the same style of beer (debate on either of them being legitimate styles is another thread). Look up any history of the two "styles" and you'll find articles about one or the other, but never anything equating the two as the same beer. They were developed as separate ideas.

    No matter what even BA lists as a style -- remember, they're most often input by members and often into catch-all pigeon holes -- that doesn't legitimize anything (at least until executive order overrides us all).

    All that aside, I don't really recognize either as true styles. Imperial Pilsner (or any of those brewery labeled gimmicks like Imperial Helles) is nothing but a Heller Bock recipe with more hops added -- if it's American Hops added, it's nothing but a mess.

    IPL is really just another way to sell IPA -- it really is a gimmick, it's not really all that different from the onslaught of so many different IPAs you can find on shelves -- it's not some new innovation, it's a variation on a theme.

    Okay, I'm off the soap box -- said enough on the subject, back to my Helles, Pilsner, and Heller Bock... in traditional forms.
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  14. officerbill

    officerbill Aspirant (268) Feb 9, 2019 New York
    Society Trader

    I fully agree with each point you make. With the exception of stout, adding Imperial to anything is a marketing gimmick, IPL's are intended to convince IPA drinkers that ales can be "cool" (and over hopped) too, and that neither AIP nor IPL really deserve their own categories.

    The problem is that many breweries make up or appropriate styles for marketing purposes while BA relies on consistent style definitions for ratings & reviews.

    Currently BA lists 99 separate styles in 13 different categories (excepting Specialty Beers). As more beers called IPL enter the market and more lager brewers chase IPA drinkers the reviews are going to have to go somewhere.

    Take Von Trapp & Jack's Abbey (both lager brewers) as examples.
    Von Trapp has their Double IPL ( at 8%/55 IBU. The closest to this is Bohemian Pilsner at 5.4%/42 IBU.
    Jack's has Kiwi Rising Double IPL ( at 8.5%/105 IBU followed by Hoponius Union IPL (6.5%/65 IBU), then Post Shift pilsner at 4.7%/30 IBU.
    Von Trapp & Kiwi are both listed under the AIP style while Hoponius is filed under American Lager; along with Michelob, Molson Golden, PC Pils, and SA Double IPA.

    IPL, DIPL, and AIP don't merit individual styles, but there is enough of a difference that these beers no longer comfortably fit an existing label. How about a catch-all HHL (High Hopped Lager) for any lager with over 50?
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  15. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Meyvn (1,003) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    How many more beers called "IPL" are really entering the market these days though?
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  16. Roguer

    Roguer Poo-Bah (4,187) Mar 25, 2013 Georgia
    Moderator Society Trader

    There have been some great points made in only two pages of this thread, far too many to quote, so I'll summarize my points as briefly as I can.

    -Yes, IPL needs to be considered as distinct from IPA. The most fundamental differences between beer styles come down to how they are brewed - not how many hops you're adding, nor the method of hopping. A lager is fundamentally different from an ale, just as a Baltic porter is fundamentally different from a stout porter, even if specific examples from each style can be brewed to taste remarkably similar.

    -No, American Lager doesn't quite capture the essence of an IPL. I agree with @jesskidden that too many "craft" lagers make this category instead of AAL simply due to the stigma associated with the later (or perhaps the prestige afforded to the former). The sub-style has become far too large and bloated to be representative at this point. When you drink a Maibock, Helles, Czech Pilsner, Russian Imperial Stout, etc., you should have a pretty good idea of what to expect, individual differences aside. When you drink an "American Lager," you have no idea what to expect, beyond perhaps color - if that.

    -Do we need imperial anything? Does it really mean anything? Why do we stop at IIPA, when we have IPAs clocking in anywhere from 10-18% (not counting one-offs and complete gimmicks)? Are we really saying that 120 Minute is closer to PtE than PtE is to Lunch? The very concept is ludicrous and the line is arbitrary at best. When the term itself is somewhat arbitrary, arguing that it does or does not belong to IIPL, Imperial Helles, Imperial Pilsner, etc. is unnecessary as well. I have no problem with a brewer using the term if they want, but that doesn't mean we need a separate style. (And I agree that a highly hopped APA should probably just be labeled as an IPA, but drawing the line can be difficult.)

    -Until we have more examples of IPLs, we probably don't need a specific category (although Brut IPA exists, so.....) ... but I think it would be beneficial. Without a separate style category, IPLs do most appropriately fall under American Lager, and that doesn't quite fit (unless you re-categorize more traditional, less hoppy American Lagers into more traditional European styles, under the assumption that "American" implies hoppy).

    -The "India" in the name doesn't matter at all. "India Pale" in the brewing world means "hopped up," and everyone knows it. Anyone who even thinks of suggesting otherwise, but also believes we shouldn't use the term "adjunct" with flavored stouts because there isn't any freaking rice or corn syrup, needs to never ever again pretend to speak intelligently about beer or language. (No, I will never let this one go. :stuck_out_tongue:)

    At some point, I think it would be appropriate for the beer world to recognize IPL as a style. Do we have enough examples of IPLs already? Probably! But that's above my pay grade. :wink:
  17. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Meyvn (1,003) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    Without a rating system, no, you don't need "imperial".

    But because we have a rating system, I think you do need to draw the line somewhere, and have separate styles.

    Otherwise it makes the rating system useless, because you'd have to sift through 200 double IPAs before you found out what the highest rated "regular" IPA was.

    There's Beglian Dubbels and Belgian Quads.

    We have German Helles and "Festbier" (I call it a pale Oktoberfest, but I feel like the word "Festbier" would resonate with more people here).

    Heck, the Czech's call their different pale lagers by different names if one has a starting gravity of 10P, 12P...etc. and those aren't even huge differences in ABV.
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  18. officerbill

    officerbill Aspirant (268) Feb 9, 2019 New York
    Society Trader

    Maybe I'm just noticing them more :slight_smile:
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  19. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Meyvn (1,003) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    Ha, well can you name three on your shelves right now that aren’t from Jacks Abby?
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  20. Roguer

    Roguer Poo-Bah (4,187) Mar 25, 2013 Georgia
    Moderator Society Trader

    I don't fundamentally disagree; I just believe "Imperial" is insufficient by itself. I again proffer my Imperial IPA example of DFH 120 Minute :: Pliny the Elder :: Lunch. The latter two are often compared to each other in terms of profile, and are 1% apart in ABV, yet one is rated as an IPA, the other an IIPA. 120 Minute is also rated as an IIPA, is 10% different, and with a profile no one would compare to PtE.

    Extreme example? Of course ... but any of the so-called "Triple" IPAs have the same problem. Almost every IIPA >10% ABV has less in common with an 8% IIPA than a 7% IPA has in common with that same 8% IIPA, yet the more divergent beers are rated within the same style, and the more similar beers are rated as separate styles. This does not help the rating system; it works against it.

    I'm not one personally opposed to the "Triple IPA" style becoming official. Perhaps where we've set the bar for IIPAs is just outdated, as well, and it should be moved up to the 9.5%/10% range. I don't know the solution, but as you pointed out, we have Belgian Dubbels, Tripels, and Quads - and as I pointed out, "Imperial" is not a term that serves its purpose of distinguishing between two types of IPAs.

    (This doesn't even begin to address where you file an Imperial New England Pale Ale - currently under the NE IPA category. Different thread, perhaps. :grinning: )
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  21. officerbill

    officerbill Aspirant (268) Feb 9, 2019 New York
    Society Trader

    TBH no, I can't give you more than a couple of names. It just seems that I'm seeing more beers calling themselves IPL as I walk through the aisles.
    I'll be restocking Saturday and pay attention to how many there really are.
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  22. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Meyvn (1,003) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    All great points, and I completely agree.

    I think we both agree that the style nomenclature will continue to need updating, and should evolve as the styles evolve.
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  23. JayORear

    JayORear Meyvn (1,084) Feb 22, 2012 New York
    Society Trader

    Anyone who can get a hold of Russian River's Apical Dominance should . . . it's an IPL that's unlike anything I've ever tasted, a truly unique brew.
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  24. Roguer

    Roguer Poo-Bah (4,187) Mar 25, 2013 Georgia
    Moderator Society Trader

    Absolutely! Style nomenclature is an odd mixture of tradition and innovation, and it's ever evolving. There aren't often "right or wrong" answers, but perhaps there are sometimes "better" answers.

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  25. GuyFawkes

    GuyFawkes Poo-Bah (3,392) Apr 7, 2011 Illinois
    Society Trader

    To your point...I don't believe there can be an Imperial Porter. That's a stout, my dude.
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  26. stevepat

    stevepat Defender (662) Mar 12, 2013 California

    The beer that brought this up for me was one of a long series now going on at least two years and probably several dozen iterations from Sudwerk. They have had a whole bunch featuring different hop combos that hit around 6% as well as some 'doubles' and even a triple ipl that rang in around 10% I believe.
    They are poised to make IPL much more of a thing I think because they hit many of the notes people seek from 'hazy' or 'new england' IPAs but are still crisp and light enough to put down more than a few on a hot day.
    Any who, I also think that American lager is the best category for them, with the growing understanding that 'american' these days means a more aggresively hopped version of a beer style.
    I also don't think imperial should exist outside of russian imperial stout, but agree with @AlcahueteJ that we need some system to distinguish tiers of ABV within a style ( I would personally go with a single, double, triple, system. Good enough for the belgians and all that). But imperial pilsner seems like a useless category
  27. BruChef

    BruChef Initiate (198) Nov 8, 2009 New York

    In some ways, that’s kind of like saying that a Baltic Porter is just a gimmick. It’s kind of just a porter/imperial porter fermented with lager yeast, so same difference when compared to IPA/IPL, no?
  28. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (1,837) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina

    If NEIPA is a style, so should an IPL. The major components are different as is the technique, an Ale is different process than a Lager obviously. If anything a NEIPA is distinctly blurry as hell I don’t see it needs a separate category at all.
  29. TheIPAHunter

    TheIPAHunter Poo-Bah (1,944) Aug 12, 2007 Pennsylvania
    Society Trader

    Tombstone? Cheers!!!
  30. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (2,214) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    In many ways the Baltic Porter was a gimmick -- brewed to be an answer to Imperial Stout. But it was brewed in areas that didn't get Imperial Stout to satisfy those who wanted it. How many IPAs are available to you right now? Do you really need an IPL to satisfy your hop craving?
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  31. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (1,837) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina

    Only a SA offering.

    I haven’t had a lot of either style because they’re just not here for the most part, but I find IPLs and Brut IPAs to effectively be twins.
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  32. officerbill

    officerbill Aspirant (268) Feb 9, 2019 New York
    Society Trader

    Most of the "Imperial Porters" are just barrel aged or flavored porters, not even mis-named stouts.
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  33. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (1,785) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    Someone should have told London brewer, Reid & Co.!

    ( FYI - "Do." is an abbreviation of "ditto". Who knew?)
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  34. GuyFawkes

    GuyFawkes Poo-Bah (3,392) Apr 7, 2011 Illinois
    Society Trader

    I'm also flummoxed by "brown stout", while we're at it...
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  35. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (1,785) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    Pretty common terminology in the US, pre-Pro right up through the 1950s (the Ballantine label's from the post-Repeal period).
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  36. GuyFawkes

    GuyFawkes Poo-Bah (3,392) Apr 7, 2011 Illinois
    Society Trader

    Could you explain the difference between a brown stout and, say a brown ale, or a "regular" stout?

    Genuinely curious!
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  37. officerbill

    officerbill Aspirant (268) Feb 9, 2019 New York
    Society Trader

    As an aside, who actually wrote the descriptions?
    This thread led me to read each style description and some of them (looking at you American Stout & American IPA) read like they ought to be on :grin:

    BTW I love that BA has an American Malt Liquor style and that Mickey's, Steel Reserve, Olde English, and Colt 45 combine for more 4,000 reviews, while the top 75 Brut IPA's barely crack 2,000. :beers:
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  38. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (1,785) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    Don't forget "Brown Stout Porter" :grin: ! (Below in a 1934 mention in an ad from what was originally called the Anthracite Brewing Co.).
    US brewers in that era did not feel it necessary to follow the sort of strict "style" guidelines that the modern geekery has created. (They even fermented some ales and porters with their house lager yeast and some sold "Beer" fermented with top fermenting ale yeast :astonished:. Still drives some folks crazy.) Legally, in the US, the recognized style categories of the Feds are pretty damn broad. (More info on my page Top and bottom fermenting yeast.)

    From what I can tell, the "brown" in US Brown Stouts was more or less just a helpful descriptor (say, similar to a beer labeled "Light Lager" vs one with essentially the same recipe that was just called "Lager"). There were a few examples of light-colored, high ABV beers being called simply "Stout" (rather "Stout Beer" or "Stout Malt Liquor") but eventually the Feds made them change it (based on the legal definition in the link above) - thus Gluek's Stout, the best-known example, became Gluek Stite.

    If a brewery offered a Brown Ale/Nut Brown Ale as well as a Stout and or Porter, I'd imagine the difference would be ABV and IBUs, as well as the use of, or a higher percentage of, medium or dark caramel malt and/or dark-roasted malts.
  39. cavedave

    cavedave Poo-Bah (2,578) Mar 12, 2009 New York

    No parameters. No parameters necessary. It's advertising that hopefully helps brewers stay in business. **holds breath waiting for the advertising is bad crowd to roast me**
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  40. emannths

    emannths Aspirant (228) Sep 21, 2007 Massachusetts

    Technique/yeast species is a convenient bright-line for categorization, but it's also useless to consumers/reviewers if the taste in the glass is indistinguishable. It's usually a useful shorthand for classic styles, but as IPLs demonstrate it's not very helpful when it comes to some hybrid styles. Maybe the thing to do is just to recognize when there are similar beers made using other techniques and call the category "IPAs and IPLs."
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