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I understand IPAs are less amenable to aging than, say, a barely wine. But how long, specifically, can you age an IPA - days, months, a year or two?

  • 2
    I tend to think of IPAs less along the lines of "how long can I age", but rather, "how soon should I drink". :) – object88 Jan 30 '14 at 18:25
  • The thing to remember with IPA's is that the whole reason they're interesting - Hops - are highly volatile and perishable. Once you've 'aged' an IPA, it's defining characteristic is no longer prominent, and you're often left with a fairly boring beer as a result. – LessPop_MoreFizz Jan 31 '14 at 1:00
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DIPAs generally have a high enough ABV (7%+) to age for a few months...but you probably don't want to.

Most contemporary IPAs and DIPAs are best drank within 3 weeks from the date of bottling. Stone's "Enjoy By" Series gives you 5 weeks to drink the IPA if properly refrigerated. Super hop-bursted IPAs with a ton of aroma like Heady Topper recommend to drink them within 2 days, claiming the flavor and aroma begins to degrade after only a few hours if unrefrigerated.

One notable exception is Dogfish Head's 120 Minute IPA which is super high ABV and can probably be considered a barleywine for the purpose of aging.

Less intense IPAs like Long Trail's Vermont IPA could probably keep up to 2 months, maybe 3 with really good refrigeration but not much beyond that without starting to taste real strange and losing a lot of their floral and herbal notes.

  • DH 120 Minute IPA is a barleywine. The IPA name is marketing to complete the 60 and 90 minute IPA series. – jalynn2 Feb 4 '14 at 20:10
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Sorry for the late response, but as I look on the internet for discussions concerning this topic I ran across this question.

In the mid 1800's in England, IPA's were created and produced for multiple reasons. Long story short, as Europe was going through a technology renaissance period, ingredients used for brewing changed and grains that were converted into malt became lighter. Therefore, dramatically changing the "beer", that was much darker at that time, now into and ale. As this changed the palettes of many at that time they also introduced a great amount of fresh hops to these new ales to make a strongly hopped ale. The term IPA was introduced as a well known brewer(s) started shipping this new type of beer to India, giving it the distinct name IPA-India Pale Ale.

I am providing this back ground to make a point. As this product was fermented, it was very typical to age and IPA Beer for a minimum of 1 year. This was done to assure that the beer was completely fermented and safe to transport on ships to India. This trip would take even more time and put the produced under various environmental stresses. This beer or "ale", was hopped very strongly and even topping the very hoppiest beer on the market in the U.S. today. Using the freshest malt as well as the freshest hops.

My final point or argument is, that as I recreate the IPA and use fresh ingredients typical to a real IPA, I find that my IPA's last over a year in the bottle. As I drink them 3 to 6 and even 9 and 12 months the hoppy flavors still remain and even develop.

There are many variables that allow me to get to this end result. This including yeast and malt selection, and also multiple methods that help produce beneficial fermentation, allowing the taste of the final product to be clear of flaws that would be created by the yeast during primary as well as the bottling (carbonation) period.

After 30 years of beer making many of these truths become evident as I continually taste the final product, take very good notes and adjust my recipe.

Finally, I can say that with the correct procedure of beer making, an IPA can be enjoyed at various stages from 1 week and even up to one year and can still be enjoyed for its distinct hop flavor and aroma.

  • Have you checked out any of the research by Martyn Cornell and Ron Pattinson? Latest word from them, and Mitch Steele who collaborated with Ron when he wrote his IPA book a few years back, seems to cast some doubt on the idea that IPA was named specifically for India. Extra hopping was mandated for all beer shipped to warm climates and the first recorded use of "East India Pale Ale" was from an Australian newspaper in 1829 advertising beer for sale. They've got a lot of very interesting research on beer history. Just curious if you checked them out or had thoughts on them? – Sloloem Mar 26 '15 at 13:08
  • addt'l: Same guys, same historical research suggests the year of aging prior to shipping was to allow a Brettanomyces character to develop in the beer, which probably helped add to its dryness. Many historic English beers at the time were aged or mixed, probably because this flavor was desired. – Sloloem Mar 26 '15 at 13:13
  • Last note, I promise: Bottling was pretty rare until very late 1800s because of sanitation difficulties. Pasteurization wasn't invented until 1876. Beer would've been shipped in wood casks and likely tapped and served from them. It's still very common practice to dry hop cask ales, and beer would've been hopped before shipping. Hop aroma WILL fade over time, these are methods of getting it back which are not available with aged bottled beer. Modern IPA and historic IPA are two very different beasts, and are intended to be treated differently. – Sloloem Mar 26 '15 at 13:21
  • I have not read the research by Martyn Cornell and Ron Pattinson, but I did listen to a podcast the other day with Mitch Steel about his book. Also read a few blogs about the progression of IPA. Of course, the comment on my post here was very broad to just make a point. To go into detail about my experiences about the use of beer ingredients would take hours to explain. – smashy Mar 26 '15 at 17:06
  • I am not a beer historian or know in detail about historical facts about IPA. But my own experiences have been very revealing as I use various ingredients and techniques in controlled settings. For instance, I was a fan of many or all U.S. craft IPA's in the past, but five years ago as I made over 30 test batches of single malt single hop IPA's, I become accustom to an ale that was dryer and lighter in body as I was using pale malt only and one hop type per batch. As I drank the commercial craft IPA's again, I then understood, simple was better for many reasons as both a brewer/drinker. – smashy Mar 26 '15 at 17:59
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I agree with the other answers: IPA's are not really intended to be aged like a barleywine. However, the style was historically brewed to survive the long journey by ship from England to India. So while they might lose some the freshness and hop volatiles over time, you can certainly keep them for many months and they will still be very drinkable. (Assuming, of course, that the brewery handled the beer properly prior to bottling).

So, don't be in a rush to finish them. And never, ever throw beer out that you think may be too old without tasting it first. Beer does not spoil in the sense that it becomes harmful or dangerous.

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