As you may already know the initials stand for “India Pale Ale” and as many beer styles, this one emerged from a specific need. The hoppy beer that you may enjoy today in a pub or with an original Mexican plate has a really interesting and long history starting back to the early eighteenth century. IPA is the beer shipped to the eastern countries of British Empire and mainly India. The British Indian Army was thirsty for English beer but due to the tropic and hot climate, the brewing process in India was not an option. So, the only way for the thirsty soldiers to drink beer was to get it from where it was originally produced. But many problems emerged during the six months trip from England to India concerning beer. Many times barrels arrived with infected beer or even leaked and broken. Other times, beer arrived staled or without enough carbonation.
So a new challenge emerged for the brewers of England and that was to develop a new style of beer that could survive the long voyage to India. And finally they did it! It was not before 1780s when a London brewer managed to brew a beer that survived the trip to India and arrived intact. It was “Hodogson’s brewery” that created a strong and pale beer that was called “October beer” and it was close to what we call today a “Barley wine”. These beers were originally aged for many years before getting consumed. The army was happy that finally high quality beer was able to reach intact. However, “October Beer” was mainly a beer for winter and cold climates. So, gradually the beer changed a bit in order to be more appropriate for the hot climate mainly by adding more hops. And that was the original IPA. In scientific terms, the extra hops and alcohol content in the new beer of Hodogson acted as natural preservatives enabling the beer to survive the long journey. East India Company, which was the main exporter of the beer of Hodogson to India, found other breweries that could brew the new style too in order to meet the high demand. Famous breweries like Allsopp, Bass and Salt made the original IPA recipe of Hodogson even better and exported to India as well. Other breweries tried to copy this kind of beer and some of them made a weaker version with less hops for the home market. By 1840, India Pale Ale was one of England’s best selling beers.
The new era of IPA
The original recipes of IPA were revived almost 150 years later in the other side of the Atlantic. the American brewers around 1970s tried to brew IPAs again and that time they added hop varieties cultivated in USA. As a result, American IPAs emerged and we could say that there are the modern IPAs that we can find in a bar today.