Happy #IPADay! (what do you mean you didn’t know?). Yes, today is the day where we celebrate the India Pale Ale, a beer that has become craft beer’s flagship brew with many breweries having one of these hoppy monsters in their core range. To wildly misquote Churchill however, the history of the IPA is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. There’s a lot of debate and conjecture surrounding its history (some no doubt to surface here). So here’s our brief, and mostly accurate, history of the IPA.
1600 – British East India Company formed to capitalise on the spice trade and the English presence in India began to explode.
mid to late-1600s – A pale ale was being made in England and sold as a premium product.
1711-16 – Evidence that beer (porters, pale ales, cider and small beer) were being exported in India – a crossing that could take six months.
1760s – Brewers knew that adding more hops to beer meant it would make beers last longer, including in warmer climates. No evidence of an export strength beer being made specifically for the long crossing to India.
1790s – Hodgson of Bow, who didn’t ‘invent’ the IPA, exports his beer – porter and pale ale – to India and wins most of the market. It probably had more hops in it and was fairly strong (6-6.5%), as that was the general advice but it’s not certain. It was drunk ‘ice cold’.
Early 1800s – ‘Pale Ale brewed for the India market’ is sold in London and probably had more hops in it.
1835 – The term ‘East India Pale Ale’ is used for the first time.
1840s – East India Pale Ales become start to become very popular in Britain.
Late 1800s – Lager starts to become increasingly popular as refrigeration improves, knocking IPA for six. Changes to beer duty for strong beers and a general fashion for lower alcohol beers further precipitates the decline if IPAs in the UK.
1900s – A limited number of IPAs continue to be produced. They’re generally rubbish.
1970 – Changes in alcohol laws in the US allow homebrewing and small scale breweries to expand.
1982 – A retired hop consultant called Bert Grant brewing in Yakima, Washington, opens a brewpub and uses US hops such as Cascade were perfect in stronger IPAs.
1994 – Vinnie Cilurzo, now of Russian River Brewing Company, brews a stronger ‘Double IPA’.
2000s – As brewers continue to experiment, we see the emergence of the Black IPA, the White IPA, Double IPAs, Imperial IPAs, East Coast IPAs, West Coast IPAs.
2014 – Camden Town Brewery launch a game-changing 'India Hells Lager' – a heavily hopped lager.
2015 – Manchester’s Cloudwater release a Double IPA (DIPA v1) and becomes one of the country’s most sought after beers.
2016 - Beer Hawk writes the (not so) authoritative history of the IPA, ending all debate and bringing peace to IPA drinkers everywhere.
The Oxford Companion to Beer (written by Pete Brown)
Martyn Cornell’s Zythophile
Tasting Beer by Randy Mosher
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