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  • Writer's pictureCalgary Brewery Tour Guy

How to Beer Judge Tutorial - American IPA by YYCTOURS / Calgary Brewery Tour

Updated: Nov 16, 2023

2023 Canadian Brewery Awards

21A. American Style IPA

Silver - Cabin Brewing Co. Calgary, Alberta.

Sunshine Rain




Cans of Sunshine Rain form Cabin Brewing Company in Calgary which won Silver medal at the 2023 Canadian Brewery Awards by YYCTOURS


In this How To Beer Judge series, YYCTOURS will be breaking down the judging categories from all the Calgary and Alberta brewery winners at the 2023 Canadian Brewery Awards and Conference and letting you know what the judges are looking for when they pick a winner.


To learn more about the BJCP’s role in judging, please visit our community education page.


BJCP Guidelines 21A - American Style IPA


The American Style IPA subcategory in the 2021 BJCP guidelines falls under section 21 ‘IPA’ which also includes Hazy IPA (21C) and Specialty IPA (21B) such as Rye, Brown, Black, Red, Wheat, Belgian and Brut IPA’s. The American IPA (21A) category is one that focuses on American versions of the beer and not English IPA’s which have their own definition under 12C Pale Commonwealth Beer. Also, with American IPA, it is not spelled out as India Pale Ale as historically, these beers were not shipped to India. The American IPA was created in 1975 by Anchor Brewing although that beer which only contained one type of hop (Cascade) was far more tame in the hops department than today’s versions.


When judging any beer, judges are looking for: Overall Impressions (10pts), Aroma (12pts), Appearance (3pts), Flavour (20pts) and Mouthfeel (5pts).


For an overall impression of an American IPA, they will be looking for a hoppy, bitter and moderately strong ale. The balance should be very hop-forward, with a clean fermentation profile, somewhat dry finish and supporting malt that allows the hop character to be the center of attention.


The aroma should feature a prominent hop characteristic, such as citrus, floral, pine, resin, spice, tropical fruit, stone fruit, berry, or melon and a low-medium grainy maltiness should support the hop presentation.


The appearance of an American IPA is allowed to range from medium gold to reddish amber and should be clear, with a medium white/off-white persistent head.


Flavour, which provides the most points when judging, should offer anywhere from medium to very high hop flavor, light to medium-light grainy malt, medium-high to very high bitterness and a finish that is dry to medium-dry. The bitter aftertaste should be supported by malt.


The mouthfeel should be medium-light to medium in body, with a smooth texture and should have a medium to medium-high carbonation.


Optional in this beer style are; restrained alcohol, light fruitiness, light haziness, light caramel, toast flavors and low esters.


Faults in this style would include any oak.


Judges can expect this beer to be stronger and more hopped than an American Pale Ale. When compared to an English IPA, it should have less caramel, bread, and toast flavour, should include American or New World hops with fewer yeast-derived esters, less body, a more hoppy balance and it should be slightly stronger. American IPA’s also have less alcohol than a Double IPA, but a similar balance.


This year’s American IPA Silver Medal winner Cabin Brewing Company, has been brewing since late 2018 and is one of the most awarded Calgary breweries with several accolades on the National and Provincial level.


Please be sure to follow us on social media for more How To Beer Judge in our community education series.



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