IPA or India Pale Ale is a type of beer from the ale family, that is a beer made with top fermenting yeast. It is a paler beer and has a strong hoppy taste. It is traditionally a higher percentage alcohol by volume, although this is not always the case nowadays. It is in appearance and taste, closer to lager than any other type of ale. IPA are best brewed where the water is hard so look for beers from areas of hard water.
India pale ales were invented due to the problems encountered when brewers tried to send bitters or porters to India (or any other far off and hot climate, India was simply where demand was greatest due to the personnel deployed in the empire at that time.) Traditional beers do not like being transported and did not survive the journey. As both alcohol and hops are preservatives, the solution was to increase the proportions of both in order to increase the life of the beer. The first successful IPA’s were brewed by George Hodgson in London. He dominated the Indian market until the Burton based brewers turned their attentions to it following the trade wars with Russia which closed their largest market in the early 19th Century. By virtue of the hard water found in Burton on Trent the best India Pale Ale’s have ultimately come from there.