Origin Of The IPA Style
16 May 2019
Origin Of The IPA Style

One of the great attractions of beer is its enormous diversity with a large number of different styles, each with its own characteristics of appearance, aroma and flavor. Among the classic styles of beer recovered during the last decades, one of the most reproduced in the sector at present, and which has had a better reception among the public is that of the India Pale Ale, or abbreviated IPA.

In the United States it is perhaps the place where this style has experienced a more successful renaissance, being generously manufactured and consumed, especially on the West Coast. For the British it is also one of the most popular styles, taking into account that it is a style of English origin, although the IPAs that are made in Great Britain are currently interpretations of the originals, resulting less explosive, with flavors and aromas more delicate than the North American ones. In the case of Spain, it is perhaps the most widespread style of those worked by artisan microbreweries, achieving an important acceptance by the publicBeers classified as India Pale Ale, are characterized by four basic aspects:

  • They are high fermentation beers.
  • They have a pale orange color similar to amber, of lower or higher intensity.
  • Its alcohol content ranges between 5,1º and 7,6º.
  • They have a greater contribution of hops, which provides a greater degree of bitterness, apart from a series of aromatic nuances and particular flavor.

There is an official version about the origin of the IPA style, which is the most widespread and commonly accepted. During the second half of the eighteenth century and much of the nineteenth century, the British Empire lived its greatest days of splendor managing to maintain colonies spread across all continents. India was in the group of the largest and most important colonies, resulting in an exotic place to live for many English. The soldiers, sailors and citizens who began living there maintained many of their customs such as playing cricket or drinking beer. However, in all cases it was not so easy to continue practicing these customs. In the case of beer consumption, it had to be imported from England, located thousands of kilometers away, since the infrastructures, the healthiness of the water, and the climatology of India were not the most suitable for brewing . The problem when importing beer, is that it used to arrive in the best conditions due to the long journey that the shipments of beer barrels had to endure from the port of London to the Indian coasts, bordering the African continent by the Cape of Good Hope, since the Suez Canal was not yet built. Even when the beer did not arrive in bad conditions, the porter, which was one of the styles most exported to the colonies and most popular at the time, was not the most appealing option for a climate as humid and hot as that of India. According to official history, at the end of the 18th century, an English brewer named George Hodgson, who worked for the Bow brewery in London, was the first person to find the solution to this problem, creating a new style of beer that would be attractive to the compatriots who lived in India. This beer should be able to overcome the long journey by sea to its destination and arrive in the best conditions for its consumption. For this, he modified the recipe of his light pale ale, on which he began to work years before, adding more hops and more alcohol, since both are magnificent preservatives, in the absence of refrigeration and pasteurization mechanisms that had not yet been developed. The result was a beer of greater body, and bitterness, which managed to be very popular among the English settled in India, so the style was dubbed the Pale Ale for India, or what is the same, India Pale Ale    

Thanks to the success of this new beer, George Hodgson managed to maintain the monopoly of exports to India for half a century.

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