In honor of IPA day, we want to talk about the most popular beer style’s history and flavor. India pale ales (IPAs) are often known as the beer that sparked the craft beer movement. Counterintuitively, the beer did not originate in India and there are many myths surrounding the IPAs origins. Two major myths revolve around when IPAs came to market, and who brought them there.
The most commonly heard story is that the “India” in IPA comes from British colonists in the hot Indian climate needing an ale that wouldn’t spoil on the six month journey overseas. In the 1760s, a brewer named George Hodgson decided to increase the amounts of alcohol and hops in a traditional British pale ale so it could survive the long six month journey overseas.
Thanks to the in-depth research of a beer educator and historian, who scoured many very old books, we know that the British had been exporting ales and beers to India in 1711, about 50 years before the IPA was allegedly created by Hodgson in the 1760s. This timeline inconsistency makes it unlikely for Hodgson to be the inventor of the IPA and there is no evidence of his pale ales exporting to India until 1793. There is also no reason for other dark beers, like porters, which are referenced as starting in 1722, to be able to survive the journey.
What we do know is that the beer style became popular in Britain and India, and over time the original IPA formula was tinkered with and slowly evolved into something lighter and more refreshing. As it evolved, the beer moved away from its original dark, hoppy flavor and started to resemble a typical pale ale. It wasn’t until the 1970s when President Jimmy Carter legalized homebrewing that the IPA was rediscovered for its easy DIY recipe and strong flavor. As homebrewers grew more experienced, they started becoming craft brewers and the popularity of craft brewing led the big beer companies to copy the little guys. IPAs soon became mainstream.
As the interest in IPAs grew, so did the strength and hoppiness of the brew. Craft brewers began experimenting with the varieties of hops, and the strength and hoppiness of a beer. This eventually resulted in a new beer style -- the double or imperial IPA. Now, the IPA is the most popular craft beer style. There are three main styles of IPAs: American, English, and Double or Imperial. The American style has a medium-high hoppiness, high ABV, coffee color, and high floral or citrusy/fruity flavors. English style IPAs also have a medium-high hoppiness, low ABV, with pale gold coloring, and a more herbal, earthy taste. Double or Imperial IPAS have high levels of hoppiness, very high alcohol levels, a deep gold coloration, and a fruity, alcohol taste.
Come into Towne Park and celebrate the history of the IPA with us by trying our very own hoppy, grassy, and earthy IPA crafted by our head brewer, Jeremy Mayo.