This is the first in a series of posts about the history of beer. If you’ve gotten to this site, you most likely know at least the basic styles of beer, like Ales, Lagers, Stouts, Porters, and some not-so-styles, like strong and light beers. In this series, we will explore where specific styles came from, what makes them up, and where they stand today.
The first beer we will explore the history of is the IPA, or India Pale Ale.
The History of the India Pale Ale
The IPA was created originally in the 1700’s in England. The British, being very fond of their beer, would send it wherever their troops were stationed, including India. During this time period, there were two things that made this difficult. First is the complete lack of refrigeration, and the second is the way everything was shipped, and that was, of course, by ship. This took a very long time to get the beer from England to India, close to five months! So, the beer was left in the hot boats for many months in wooden casks, which as you can imagine, left the beer in a pretty sad state when it got to India.
To solve this issue, the British brewers used two tricks they knew worked for preserving, the first being alcohol, and the second being hops, which we learned about earlier. So, to help make the beer survive it’s long trip, it was given substantially more hops and was fairly higher in alcohol than common pale ales of the day. This combination of higher alcohol and hops is where the India Pale Ale, or IPA, that we know today came from.
Check out this list of Ten of the biggest myths about the IPA by Pete Brown, who wrote the beer/travel book Three Sheets to the Wind: One Man’s Quest for the Meaning of Beer. There is way more information there than you could ever hope to know about the IPA.
The IPA today has been adapted by American Craft Breweries and turned into unique styles, like the Black IPA and Imperial IPA. American IPAs generally have a higher ABV than their British counterparts, which often have an ABV of around 4%.
A few notable American IPAs would be: Ballast Point’s Sculpin, Russian River’s Pliny The Elder, Dogfish Head’s 120 Minute IPA, and Stone’s Ruination IPA. There are many, many more, but those are some of the best.
There you have it. A quick history on one of the most favorite styles of beer in the Craft Beer world, the IPA. Now you can impress your friends next time they order one, just try to not sound like too big of a beer geek!