When it comes to beer choices, India Pale Ale (IPA) is one of the most popular styles of craft beer that can be found in many places around the world. Famously known for its bitter hop character, IPA is widely available in possibly every brewery or bar you visit. IPA is also rich with history, dating back as far as the 1700s.
Early Origins of IPA
At the peak of its reign, Britain had sailors, troops, and emigrants from all over the world, and India was one of its most valuable outposts. Everyone wanted and demanded beer, however, India’s warm temperature made it impossible for brewing.
London brewers gave in to the growing needs, and they eventually learned that the long, hot journey to India could be difficult for perishable beers. To safeguard their beers during this gruelling six-month journey, they were brewed at higher alcohol levels and with elephantine amounts of hops, both acting as preservatives, which ultimately transformed the bitter beer into a wonderful beverage. In the late 1700s, a London brewer named George Hodgson used his contacts to East India Co. to have control over the colony’s export market.
Hodgson, however, overreached opening the doors to Burton-on-Trent brewers located in the English Midlands. Compared to London brews, the pale ale coming from Trent Valley tasted much better, one with a refreshing and more pleasant hop character.
Eventually, Burton brewmaster Samuel Allsop had remarkable success in brewing a pale ale of excellent quality, which is known as the famous IPA that people enjoy. Over the years, it became the preferred choice of exports to the English colonies, displacing London brews.
Crossing over to the Atlantic
With the popularity of IPA grew, many large breweries started imitating the pale ale. It eventually evolved into a brew that is weaker, plain old pale. During the latter part of the 19th century, however, proper and authentic IPA eventually died down because of the lagers that took over the market.
Until around 1976, when the Americans rediscovered their love for brewing, long-forgotten ale styles reappeared as microbreweries started to rise during this period. They recreated the British styles, including IPA, adding a few American ingredients and packed it with hops and alcohol.
It was the New Albion Brewing in Sonoma, CA, which first ventured into this new frontier. Despite only lasting for a few years, this paved the way for the American craft brewing revolution. From the American soil, IPA returned to its home across the Atlantic. Many believed IPA’s journey has been an ironic story: a beer invented for the Indian market in Britain, revived by Americans, and then copied by British brewers.
Recently, a new style of IPA, which symbolizes the independent, rambunctious of American microbreweries was born. What makes IPA so popular is the flavour it offers. Nowadays, IPA is much stronger and hoppy than ever before. Because IPA is ever-changing and adaptable, it is a beer style that can be created and re-created over time and anywhere in the world.
If you want to learn more about IPA, book a Geelong Beer Tour today! You’ll be able to discover your passion and learn interesting facts about this wonderful craft beer style.