21B. Specialty IPA

Specialty IPA is a competition entry category, not a distinct style. Beers entered here are not experimental beers; they are a collection of currently-produced types of beer that may or may not have any market longevity. This category also allows for expansion, so potential future IPA variants (St. Patrick’s Day Green IPA, Romulan Blue IPA, Zima Clear IPA, etc.) have a place to be entered without rewriting the style guidelines. The only common element is that they have the balance and overall impression of an IPA (typically, an American IPA) but with some minor tweak.

The term ‘IPA’ is used as a singular descriptor of a type of hoppy, bitter beer. It is not meant to be spelled out as ‘India Pale Ale’ when used in the context of a Specialty IPA. None of these beers ever historically went to India, and many aren’t pale. But the craft beer market knows what to expect in balance when a beer is described as an ‘IPA’ – so the modifiers used to differentiate them are based on that concept alone.

The Specialty IPA category is not intended for Classic-style IPAs with added ingredients (such as fruit, spice, wood, smoke, grains, or sugars) – these should be entered in the appropriate Specialty-Type beer category (Fruit Beer, SHV Beer, etc.). The Specialty IPA styles are considered Classic Styles for entering in Specialty-Type category purposes. Classic-style IPAs with unique or special hops should still be entered in the appropriate Classic-style IPA style.

Overall Impression

Recognizable as an IPA by balance – a hop-forward, bitter, dryish beer – with something else present to distinguish it from the standard categories. Should have good drinkability, regardless of the form. Excessive harshness and heaviness are typically faults, as are strong flavor clashes between the hops and the other specialty ingredients.


Color depends on specific type of Specialty IPA. Most should be clear, but a slight haze is acceptable in most styles. Darker types can be opaque, making clarity irrelevant. Good, persistent head stand with color dependent on the specific type of Specialty IPA.


Detectable hop aroma is required; characterization of hops is dependent on the specific type of Specialty IPA. Other aromatics may be present; hop aroma is typically the strongest element.


Variable by type, with the quality of each component dependent on the specific Specialty IPA. Hop flavor typically medium-low to high. Hop bitterness typically medium-high to very high. Malt flavor generally low to medium. Commonly has a medium-dry to dry finish. Some clean alcohol flavor can be noted in stronger versions. Various types of Specialty IPAs can show additional malt and yeast characteristics, depending on the type.


Smooth. Medium-light to medium body. Medium carbonation, generally. A background alcohol warmth can be perceived in stronger versions.


Entrants may use this category for a different strength version of an IPA defined by its own BJCP subcategory (e.g., session-strength American or English IPA) – except where an existing BJCP subcategory already exists for that style (e.g., double [American] IPA). A Session IPA is a 21B Specialty IPA with a base style of 21A American IPA with Session strength. A Double IPA is Category 22A not 21B.

Style Comparison

Currently Defined Types: Belgian IPA, Black IPA, Brown IPA, Red IPA, Rye IPA, White IPA, Brut IPA

Entry Instructions

Entrant must specify a strength (session, standard, double); if no strength is specified, standard will be assumed. Entrant must specify specific type of Specialty IPA from the list of Currently Defined Types identified in the Style Guidelines, or as amended by Provisional Styles on the BJCP website; OR the entrant must describe the type of Specialty IPA and its key characteristics in comment form so judges will know what to expect.
Entrants may specify specific hop varieties used, if entrants feel that judges may not recognize the varietal characteristics of newer hops. Entrants may specify a combination of defined IPA types (e.g., Black Rye IPA) without providing additional descriptions.

Strength classifications:
Session – ABV: 3.0 – 5.0%
Standard – ABV: 5.0 – 7.5%
Double – ABV: 7.5 – 10.0%

Vital Statistics

Variable by type, see individual styles