So I recently brewed up this recipe. When I went to the LHBS to get the grain, the guy there somehow knew, just from the grain bill, that I was making an IPA. Since finding and loving IPAs, I had always liked them for the hops, and I had thought this was what classed them as IPA.

So what is it about the grain bill that makes this an IPA? Or more generally, what makes an IPA? Is it the grains? The hops? Both?

Here is the recipe copied and pasted from: http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f70/rye-pale-ale-86481/:

All-Grain - Rye Pale Ale

Recipe Type: All Grain

Yeast: US-05

Yeast Starter: No

Batch Size (Gallons): 5.00

Original Gravity: 1.052

Final Gravity: 1.004

IBU: 32.8

Boiling Time (Minutes): 60

Color: 10.2 Primary Fermentation

(# of Days & Temp): 14 Days at 65F

Tasting Notes: Balance of spice from the Rye and Malt sweetness.

This beer is the only beer i have consistently on tap. I have brewed it about 10 times now and think i have perfected it, although i still tweak it to experiment.

Grains 5lbs Marris Otter (3.0 SRM)

1.5lb Munich Malt (20.0 SRM)

1.5lb Flaked Rye (2.0 SRM) 1lb Honey Malt (25.0 SRM)

0.5lb Cara-pils (2.0 SRM)


0.50oz Summit (16.50%) - 60min

0.50oz Centennial (8.60%) - 15min

0.50oz Centennial (8.60%) - 5min

Mash at 154 F for 60min

I ferment for 2 weeks in the Primary then keg. Keg is usually tapped about one month from the time brewed.

FG listed is my measured FG, but anticipated FG from Beersmith is 1.012.

Hops can be substituted freely. I'v done Summit only, Cascade only, Centennial and Cascades, etc. Any hop with a citrus flavor will mesh perfectly.

  • 1
    A pound of Honey malt does not scream IPA to me. Another LHBS dude contributing more BS, IMO.
    – brewchez
    Apr 4, 2014 at 11:37
  • That recipe has 1lb of honey malt and .5lb of CaraPils.... with a stated FG of 1.004???
    – GHP
    Apr 4, 2014 at 17:52

4 Answers 4


It was a lucky guess. There is nothing in that grist bill specific to an IPA. AAMOF, it's NOT an IPA! The OG is too low, for one thing. The recipe even calls itself a pale ale, not an IPA.

As to what makes an IPA an IPA, the best ROT is the BU:GU ratio. An IPA will usually be in the 1.060-1.075 OG range and have at least a 1:1 BU:GU ratio.

  • 1
    Just to clarify for those not up on the acronyms, ROT? BU? GU? AAMOF?
    – Scott
    Apr 4, 2014 at 4:43
  • 1
    Rule of Thumb, Bitterness Units, Gravity Units, As A Matter Of Fact.
    – brewchez
    Apr 4, 2014 at 11:34
  • 3
    Exactly my thoughts. Lucky guess. These day's you could probably just guess once someone walks through the door and have a 50/50 shot they're brewing IPA
    – brewchez
    Apr 4, 2014 at 11:35
  • 1:1 BU:GU? BJCP's "American IPA" min OG is 1.056 and min IBU is 40, so that suggests a min BU:GU of around .71.
    – Jeff Roe
    Apr 22, 2014 at 21:56

The Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) makes an attempt to describe styles such as this. One such style is IPA (grouped into 3 subcategories: English IPA, American IPA, and Imperial IPA). Have a look: http://www.bjcp.org/2008styles/style14.php

You're right that the hop character defines the IPA style. However, a traditional IPA has some restrictions on the malt and yeast character: you'll generally have a pale beer with low levels of malty sweetness (with occasional hints of caramel, toast, etc.) You'll generally see neutral fermentation character, though English IPA's will have some fruity esters.

There are specialty categories that have emerged which deviate from this kind of malt bill. "Cascadian Dark Ale" or "Black IPA" add some roasted notes to the malt. There are some wheat-based IPA's on the market. Some IPA's are brewed with lager yeast. From a competition standpoint, these are generally recognized as specialty beers, though there is a push for some styles, such as Black IPA, to be officially distinguished.


You may also find this informative:


It seems IPAs are currently fashionable—these things go in cycles, don't they?—and almost any copper-coloured ale is likely to have an IPA label slapped on it. I was amused and mildly disgusted to see that Baron's, a maker of kits, has something they call East India Pale Ale. As if IPA was ever anything but...

  • I believe that name is used for a beer from Brooklyn Brewing.
    – Denny Conn
    Apr 16, 2014 at 20:16
  • Then we can expect a rash of similar excesses. Soon an IPA won't be IPA without the superfluous 'E.' :-)
    – Glasseyed
    Apr 16, 2014 at 21:01
  • Well, there's already Black IPA, White IPA, "Session" IPA...
    – Denny Conn
    Apr 17, 2014 at 14:22

Pale Ale - mostly lighter grains and less darker, maltier grains. Then a certain amount of hops throughout boil for flavorful bitter IBUs to off-balance some of the malty sugars. You then ferment with specific American, English, or Irish yeast. That's a Pale.

Now, an IPA comes from the hoppy mouth feel and that comes from beautiful noted hop oils swirling around during the fermentation process and secondary. These oils were needed to "preserve" English Ales in the crazy heat of India during English colonization, hence India Pale Ale. The nice Ale one would enjoy in an English pub became an India Pale Ale via the method used to preserve and maintain some freshness by using hop oils that had a side-effect...hoppiness.

God Save the Queen!

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