India Pale Ale (IPA) is now one of the most popular styles of beer out there. It comes in a variety of flavours and styles ranging from the hoppy, floral rich to the strong, bitter and mildly malty. Due to the increasing variety of hops out there there are an increasing amount of different IPAs now available on the market, but what is it?
There seems to be a lot of folklore surrounding this style of beer, but what is the real history behind IPA? The creation of the IPA has been largely attributed to a brewer called George Hodgson from Bow in East London. The story goes that as he was located near the East India Company and was exporting beer to the British in the sub continent. However Pale Ales were around in the UK for a while before then and were primarily drunk by the middle and upper classes, the style more than likely evolved from exporting the pale ale to British territories through the East India Company.
The distinctive style of slightly higher alcohol and lots of hops is thought to have been to enable the beer to continue ageing on its long sea journey and therefore increase the alcohol content to prevent the beer going off, and the addition of lots of hops to add bitterness was to make use of the hops anti-bacterial properties to help it make the journey and arrive in its best condition. However, there is no evidence that exported beers were more heavily hopped than any others and actually there is evidence of lower alcohol beers being exported to India and other destinations.
Modern popularity of the IPA really started over in America with the rise of the craft beer revolution, where American brewers wanted a change from the bland mainstream and saw the potential of the use of hops to add a variety of different characteristics to the beer. As time went on and as the style developed brewers starting experimenting with more hop varieties to create a style which is now exceedingly diverse but of distinctive style.
The rise of this beer style seems to be unrelenting as pubs will now have at least one tap which is dedicated to an IPA, where as 10-20 years ago this would not have been the case.
Here are some of my favourite IPAs which display the diversity that is available for this style
Dippy and the Equinox - Siren Craft Brew - Imperial / Double IPA
India Pale Ale Citra Chinook - The Kernel Brewery - IPA - American
Hopportunity Knocks - Caldera Brewing Co - IPA - American
Jaipur - Thornbridge - IPA - English
Imperial Black - Buxton - Imperial / Double Black
Black Betty - Beavertown - IPA - Black
Gamma Ray - Beavertown - Pale Ale - American
Why kick a moo cow - Arbor Ales - Pale Ale - New Zealand
Pale Ale - Sierra Nevada Brewing Co - Pale Ale - American