Are IPAs an Acquired Taste? Exploring the Palate Preference for Hoppy Beers

drinking IPA beer

IPAs (India Pale Ales) have become one of the most popular beer styles in recent years. However, not everyone is a fan of these hoppy, bitter beers. Some people love IPAs from the first sip, while others find them to be an acquired taste. But what does it mean for a beer to be an acquired taste?

For those who are unfamiliar with the term, an acquired taste is something that someone may not enjoy at first, but over time, they learn to appreciate and even enjoy it. This can apply to many things, including food, drinks, and even music. Some people argue that IPAs fall into the acquired taste category, as the bitterness and hoppy flavors can be overwhelming for those who are not used to them.

Acquired Tastes

Some foods and drinks are an acquired taste. This means that they may not be immediately enjoyable to everyone, and it may take some time and repeated exposure to develop a liking for them.

What Are Acquired Tastes?

Acquired tastes are tastes that are not innate, but rather are learned over time. They are often associated with strong or unusual flavors, such as bitter, sour, or spicy. Some people may enjoy these flavors from the first time they taste them, while others may need to try them several times before they appreciate them.

Acquired tastes can be influenced by a number of factors, including cultural background, personal experiences, and exposure to different foods and drinks. For example, a person who grows up in a culture where spicy food is common may develop a taste for it at a young age, while someone who has never been exposed to spicy food may find it unpleasant at first.

Why IPAs May Be an Acquired Taste

IPAs (India Pale Ales) are a type of beer that is known for its bitter taste and strong hop flavors. Some people love IPAs from the first sip, while others find them too bitter or overwhelming.

One reason why IPAs may be an acquired taste is that they are a relatively new style of beer. They were first brewed in the 18th century, but did not become popular until the craft beer movement of the 1980s and 1990s. As a result, many people did not grow up drinking IPAs, and may need to try them several times before developing a taste for them.

Another reason why IPAs may be an acquired taste is that they are often much more bitter than other types of beer. Bitterness is a taste that some people enjoy, while others find it unpleasant. Additionally, the high hop content in IPAs can make them taste very strong and overpowering, which can be overwhelming for some people.

The Bitterness of IPAs

Why IPAs Are Bitter

IPAs are known for their bitter taste, which can be attributed to the hops used in the brewing process. Hops are a type of flower that adds bitterness, flavor, and aroma to beer. Specifically, the alpha acids found in hops are responsible for the bitterness in beer, and IPAs tend to have a higher concentration of alpha acids than other beer styles.

The bitterness of IPAs can also be influenced by the type of hops used, as well as the brewing process. For example, dry-hopping, which involves adding hops to the beer after the boiling process, can increase the hop aroma and bitterness in the final product.

How Bitterness Is Measured

Bitterness in beer is measured using the International Bitterness Units (IBU) scale. This scale ranges from 0 to 100, with 0 being no bitterness and 100 being extremely bitter. IPAs typically have an IBU of 40-60, which is considered a high level of bitterness.

However, it’s important to note that IBUs are not the only factor that determines the perceived bitterness of a beer. The malt sweetness, carbonation, and alcohol content can all impact how bitter a beer tastes to an individual.

Overall, the bitterness of IPAs can be an acquired taste for some individuals, while others may enjoy it from the first sip. Understanding the factors that contribute to the bitterness of IPAs can help individuals determine if this beer style is right for them.

Factors That Affect Tastes

Many factors can influence a person’s taste preferences. These factors can range from genetics to environmental factors and past experiences. Understanding these factors can help explain why some people love IPAs while others find them unpalatable.


Genetics play a significant role in determining a person’s taste preferences. Research has shown that genetics can influence how people perceive different tastes, including bitterness. Some people are genetically predisposed to be more sensitive to bitter tastes, which can make IPAs less appealing to them.

However, genetics is not the only factor that determines a person’s taste preferences. Environmental factors and past experiences can also play a role.


The environment in which a person grows up can also influence their taste preferences. For example, people who grow up in cultures where spicy foods are common may develop a higher tolerance for spicy foods. Similarly, people who grow up in cultures where beer is a common beverage may be more likely to enjoy the taste of IPAs.

Environmental factors can also include things like the availability of certain foods and beverages. If a person is exposed to a wide variety of foods and drinks from a young age, they may be more likely to develop a diverse palate and be open to trying new things.


Finally, past experiences can also influence a person’s taste preferences. For example, if a person had a bad experience with a particular food or drink, they may be less likely to try it again in the future. On the other hand, if a person has positive experiences with a particular food or drink, they may be more likely to seek it out in the future.

Experience can also play a role in how a person perceives different tastes. For example, people who are used to drinking sweet beverages may find bitter tastes more unpalatable than those who are used to drinking bitter beverages.


Based on the research and information presented, it can be concluded that IPAs are indeed an acquired taste. While some individuals may enjoy the bitterness and complex flavors from the first sip, others may need to try it multiple times before developing a liking for it.

The bitterness in IPAs comes from the hops, which can take some time to get used to. However, once an individual develops a taste for IPAs, they may find themselves enjoying the unique flavors and aromas that come with each different type of IPA.

It is important to note that taste preferences are subjective and can vary greatly from person to person. Some individuals may never acquire a taste for IPAs, while others may be lifelong fans. Ultimately, it is up to the individual to determine whether or not they enjoy the taste of IPAs.

Dan Specht

Dan has been homebrewing beer for 8 years and holds a level 2 certifiication as a Cicerone.

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