The True/er/est/ish History of the Indian PAle Ale

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SeeFar

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So in another thread about something totally unrelated the discussion arose about the history/myth that the IPA was developed in London as a beer to last the long voyage by sea supported against infection by high alcohol and hop content.

This seems to be the orthodox understanding of the origins of the IPA but I always get concerned when I hear people discuss something as if it's fact but nobody can ever tell me how they know it's true..., it just is.

So looking about it has become apparent that it's not a given that the IPA was developed for that reason and that history is a lot murkier than many wish to believe. Me, I tend to err on the side of the folk that can cite some form of evidence. I'm seeing a lot of evidence to suggest that the origins of the IPA may not be as legend would have it but very little-to-nothing to suggest the common opinion be true.

So this page is for us folk with nothing better to do, or without the discipline to do better things, to discuss that history, take a position and argue for it without regard for anything anyone else suggests (as is the style these days...).

I'll kick off with something here with more to follow:

https://beerconnoisseur.com/articles/truth-about-origins-ipa

The Truth About the Origins of IPA
I could probably find statistics, but I'm guessing that the most popular style among craft beer drinkers in the United States is IPA: India Pale Ale, the super-hoppy brew that some have cranked up to double or even triple IPA.
05/17/2010
By: Martyn Cornell

Because of its popularity, most craft drinkers know – or think they know – how IPA began. To quote one version of the popular history of the style: "Back in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s, England held a large colonial presence in India. The soldiers, sailors and civilians had a huge appetite for beer. Trouble was, the voyage to India was long, and by the time the ship made it there the traditional beers had spoiled. Even when they didn't, the dark porters that were popular at the time weren't quite the ticket in the hot climate of India. George Hodgson of the Bow Brewery in London was the first person to come up with an answer to this problem. He began brewing a lighter style of beer, known as pale ale. Hodgson realized that high alcohol and hop levels would retard spoilage. His process succeeded, and for about 50 years he held a virtual monopoly on the market."

Trouble is, almost none of the above is true. Ale and beer were being successfully exported to India – and farther – from at least the beginning of the 18th century, and while there was some spoilage, the beers that were being sent out could easily last a year or more in cask. So nobody needed to invent a new style of beer to survive the journey better. Porter continued to be popular in India through the 19th century, and strong dark beers are still drunk in hot climates, from Sri Lanka to the West Indies. Pale ales were around for at least a century before George Hodgson began brewing.

By the 1760’s brewers were being advised that it was “absolutely necessary” to add extra hops to beer if it was being sent to warmer climes, but there is no evidence linking this advice to any specific brewer and certainly no evidence that Hodgson was the person who thought this plan up. Nor was the beer that became IPA particularly strong in alcohol: At around 6.5 percent alcohol by volume, it was, if anything, slightly weaker than average for the time.

Certainly Hodgson's Bow brewery, on the eastern edge of London, became the best-known and most popular brewer of pale ales for export to India, though he never had a "virtual monopoly." Other brewers were also shipping beer out east, from London, from Liverpool, from Edinburgh and elsewhere. His advantage had less to do with the excellence of his product and owed more the fact that his brewery was only a short distance from where the East Indiamen, the ships that did the trading with India for the East India Company (the people whose tea led to a well-known riot in Boston), tied up in the Thames.

The commanders of the East Indiamen traded on their own behalves, taking out goods from England to sell to the East India Company's "civil" and "military" servants in Bombay, Madras and Calcutta, and among the items they took out was beer. Hodgson, although a comparatively small brewer, was handily placed to supply that beer, and also granted the ships' commanders extended credit, and that's why they traded with him rather than any of the bigger London brewers.

Pale ale, along with porter from England, made by unnamed brewers, was being advertised for sale in India by 1784. Nine years later, Hodgson's pale ale and porter were being advertised in India by name (note, incidentally, that despite what many modern writers will try to tell you, there were no apparent problems about exporting porter to the East). But we don't know whether the Hodgsons were putting extra hops into their pale ale sent to India in the 1790’s, as brewers were being advised to do in the 1760’s – we have no evidence for Hodgson's pale ale recipe at this time at all.

The first guide to a recipe for pale ale shipped to the East does not appear to have been printed until 1821, when the first American edition of Andrew Ure’s Dictionary of Chemistry said: "It is well known that other things being equal, the liquor keeps in proportion to the quantity of hops. Fresh beer may have from a pound to a pound and a half to a barrel of 32 gallons, June beer two pounds and a half, beer for the month of August three pounds and for a second summer three and an half. For India voyages, four pounds."

Whatever Hodgson's recipe was, the Bow brewery's pale ale was certainly the top seller in the East, even after the brewers of Burton upon Trent began exporting to India as well from 1822. In 1829 it was said that “Mr Hodgson’s beer … is by far the best and most sought after in India … In Calcutta Hodgson sold for 50 percent more than Meux, Whitbread, Barclay (three big London porter brewers), or any other brewer.” Ten years later, in 1839, it was described as “Hodgson’s ale, the universal and favourite beverage of our vast Indian territories.”

However, this beer was called "pale ale for India," "Pale Ale prepared for the East and West India Climate" and similar circumlocutions, not the familiar name we know today. The first use of the phrase that eventually became shortened to IPA does not seem to occur until an advertisement in The Liverpool Mercury newspaper on January 30, 1835, for Hodgson's "East India Pale Ale." Even after this, many newspaper advertisements continued to talk about "Pale Ale as prepared for India" rather than "India Pale Ale" for another decade or so.

Meanwhile, Hodgson's brewery was coming under increasing competition from India Pale Ales brewed in Burton upon Trent, competition that grew dramatically when the railway line between London and Burton opened in 1839, allowing the Staffordshire brewers, such as Bass and Allsopp, to reach the growing London market speedily and easily. The Hodgsons seem to have left the Bow brewery some time between 1845 and 1848, and it went through several changes of ownership until it finally closed in 1927.

At no time, however, did the Hodgsons, or any subsequent owners of the Bow Brewery, ever claim that India Pale Ale was invented in Bow. It was not until 1869, more than 20 years after the Hodgsons had departed, that a writer named William Molyneaux declared that "the origin of India ale is by common consent accredited to a London brewer named Hodgson … The brewery where pale ale was first brewed, according to popular opinion, was the Old Bow Brewery." But as we have seen, popular opinion was wrong. Instead, India Pale Ale seems to have developed out of the idea current at least as far back as the 1760s that it was “absolutely necessary” to add extra hops to beer intended to be drunk in hot climates, with no evidence at all that George Hodgson was the first person to discover this.



*The writer of that article is not a trained historian but he does have honours in BA politics. If that degree is the same as what Australia has been teaching for decades it will have a methodology of research component to it. I'd still prefer to hear from a trained historian myself.

** And yes, I know that IPA stands for India Pale Ale. I just threw the 'n' in the title to smoke out the pedants among you!!
 
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mtb

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I will take the high road on this one and not challenge you on the merits of the above in efforts to prevent oxidisation
 

Feldon

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The acronym IPA could have derived from either of the phrases 'India Pale Ale' or 'Indian Pale Ale'.

This from the Norfolk Chronicle of Saturday 11 Aug 1838 p2:

Indian Pale Ale - Norfolk Chronicle, Sat 11 Aug 1838 p2.jpg
 

Feldon

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Another one from a few years later in the Sheffield Independent (Saturday, 30 May 1840 p1).

Interesting description of Indian Pale Ale and suggested food matching with oysters.

IPA - Sheffield Independent (Saturday, 30 May 1840 p1.jpg
 

good4whatAlesU

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My 4th Great grandad was a soldier (Captain) with HEIC (hon. East India Company) 1799-1811 served in Bengal and Java - kicked the Dutch out.

He was also a brewer (his dad was a hopfactor/ victualler in Cardiff 1780's)....

Anyway, when we came out to the colonies in the 1840's we brewed Stout. Pale Ale was for the Clerks, the real soldiers drank Stout (or stronger).
 
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MHB

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The author presents no evidence, his argument appears to be "every thing you think you know is wrong - believe what I tell you" he is going to do a bit better than that.
Doubtless there is going to be a great deal of contradictory evidence out there, I doubt anyone could be said to have invented IPA, it was probably part of a continuum of beers ranging from quite small and lightly hopped to very strong highly hopped.
Remember that at this time, malt making was moving from traditional wood kilned brown malt, to paler malts dried over coal fires - this required indirect heating as the smoke from coal just doesn't work in beer.
Sparging was replacing Parti Gyle brewing as a standard method, new industrial processes were making more evenly modified and kilned malt, grain sifting for size, development of better brewing varieties, new hop breeds, mechanised agriculture and bunch of other factors were all coming together and affecting every facet of life.

I think the name of the beer (IPA) served to distinguish it from other beers that were superficially very similar (think Bitter, Best Bitter, Extra Special Bitter, India Pale Ale) and that the name was coined and popularised because IPA was made for export, even if not exclusively.
Mark
 

Feldon

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In the quoted article Martyn Cornell wrote:

It was not until 1869, more than 20 years after the Hodgsons had departed, that a writer named William Molyneaux declared that "the origin of India ale is by common consent accredited to a London brewer named Hodgson … The brewery where pale ale was first brewed, according to popular opinion, was the Old Bow Brewery."

Yet contemporary with Hodgson’s active involvement in the Old Bow Brewery was the publication of this item in the London Morning Post of Thursday, 14 July 1842 (p6) which credits IPA to the Bass brewery at Burton-on-Trent in Staffordshire. Also interesting to note that IPA was not as "intoxicating" as other beers of the time.

IPA - Morning Post (London) Thursday 14 July 1842 p6.png
 

good4whatAlesU

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With quarter million or more serving and /or retiring company men in the mid 1800s it was essentially a marketing ploy. Many of those guys with a taste for freedom headed out to the colonies.
 

SeeFar

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The author presents no evidence, his argument appears to be "every thing you think you know is wrong - believe what I tell you" he is going to do a bit better than that.
Doubtless there is going to be a great deal of contradictory evidence out there, I doubt anyone could be said to have invented IPA, it was probably part of a continuum of beers ranging from quite small and lightly hopped to very strong highly hopped.
Remember that at this time, malt making was moving from traditional wood kilned brown malt, to paler malts dried over coal fires - this required indirect heating as the smoke from coal just doesn't work in beer.
Sparging was replacing Parti Gyle brewing as a standard method, new industrial processes were making more evenly modified and kilned malt, grain sifting for size, development of better brewing verities, new hop breeds, mechanised agriculture and bunch of other factors were all coming together and affecting every facet of life.

I think the name of the beer (IPA) served to distinguish it from other beers that were superficially very similar (think Bitter, Best Bitter, Extra Special Bitter, India Pale Ale) and that the name was coined and popularised because IPA was made for export, even if not exclusively.
Mark

Agreed, evidence is king.

The legend that I'm questioning is the one that I've heard ad nauseam that this beer was brewed specifically to last the voyage to India by way of heavy alco and heavy hop. From what I've been reading that is not the case. Yes it was popular in India but that is all. It might be that this kind of beer had been brewed for years before it was ever exported to India and the only connection this beer actually has to India is it's ability to last the voyage and enjoyed by the EIC troops - not that it was specifically created to do so (I've highlighted the relevant section below that argues the IPA style beer was being produced in England well before it was tried as an export to India, suggesting it was not created specifically to survive the voyage).


Whilst this post below again offers no evidence (by way of citing historical documents and research that can be replicated), it is still a somewhat authoritative source. But again, this author is not a trained historian and above all, evidence is king.

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/how-india-pale-ale-got-its-name-180954891/

How the India Pale Ale Got Its Name
A look to the hoppy brew’s past brings us to the revolution in craft beer today
image: https://thumbs-prod.si-cdn.com/bwYF...c-3c9b-4c22-a2f5-98015a9d1615/42-69504059.jpg

42-69504059.jpg

(© Michael Tercha/ZUMA Press/Corbis)
By William Bostwick
smithsonian.com
April 7, 2015

The British Indian army was parched. Soaking through their khakis in the equatorial heat, they pined for real refreshment. These weren’t the jolly days of ice-filled gin-and-tonics, lawn chairs and cricket. The first Brits to come south were stuck with lukewarm beer—specifically dark, heavy, porter, the most popular brew of the day in chilly Londontown, but unfit for the tropics. One Bombay-bound supply ship was saved from wrecking in the shallows when its crew lightened it by dumping some of its cargo — no great loss, a newspaper reported, “as the goods consisted principally of some heavy lumbersome casks of Government porter.”

Most of that porter came from George Hodgson’s Bow brewery, just a few miles up the river Lea from the East India Company’s headquarters in east London. Outward bound, ships carried supplies for the army, who paid well enough for a taste of home, and particularly for beer, but the East India Company (EIC) made all its profit on the return trip, when its clippers rode low in the water, holds weighed with skeins of Chinese silk and sacks of cloves.

The trip to India took at least six months, crossing the equator twice. In these thousand-ton ships, called East Indiaman, the hold was a hellish cave, hazy with heat and packed gunwale to gunwale with crates and barrels that pitched and rolled and strained their ropes with every wave. While sailors sick from scurvy groaned above, the beer below fared just as poorly. It often arrived stale, infected, or worse, not at all, the barrels having leaked or broken — or been drunk — en route.

Hodgson sold his beer on 18-month credit, which meant the EIC could wait to pay for it until their ships returned from India, emptied their holds, and refilled the company’s purses. Still, the army, and thus the EIC, was frustrated with the quality Hodgson was providing. Hodgson tried unfermented beer, adding yeast once it arrived safely in port. They tried beer concentrate, diluting it on shore. Nothing worked. Nothing, that is, until Hodgson offered, instead of porter, a few casks of a strong, pale beer called barleywine or “October beer.” It got its name from its harvest-time brewing, made for wealthy country estates “to answer the like purpose of wine” — an unreliable luxury during years spent bickering with France. “Of a Vinous Nature” — that is, syrupy strong as good Sherry — these beers were brewed especially rich and aged for years to mellow out. Some lords brewed a batch to honor a first son’s birth, and tapped it when the child turned eighteen. To keep them tasting fresh, they were loaded with just-picked hops. Barclay Perkins’s KKKK ale used up to 10 pounds per barrel. Hodgson figured a beer that sturdy could withstand the passage to India.

He was right. His shipment arrived to fanfare. On a balmy January day in 1822, the Calcutta Gazette announced the unloading of “Hodgson’s warranted prime picked ale of the genuine October brewing. Fully equal, if not superior, to any ever before received in the settlement.” The army had been waiting for this — pale and bright and strong, those Kentish hops a taste of home (not to mention a scurvy-busting boost of antibiotics).

The praise turned Hodgson’s sons Mark and Frederick, who took over the brewery from their father soon after, ruthless. In the years to come, if they heard that another brewer was preparing a shipment, they’d flood the market to drive down prices and scare off the competition. They tightened their credit limits and hiked up their prices, eventually dumping the EIC altogether and shipping beer to India themselves. The suits downriver were not amused. By the late 1820s, EIC director Campbell Marjoribanks, in particular, had had enough. He stormed into Bow’s rival Allsopp with a bottle of Hodgson’s October beer and asked for a replica.

Allsopp was good at making porter — dark, sweet, and strong, the way the Russians liked it. When Sam Allsopp tried the sample of Hodgson’s beer Marjoribanks had brought, he spit it out — too bitter for the old man’s palate. Still, India was an open market. Allsopp agreed to try a pale. He asked his maltster, Job Goodhead, to find the lightest, finest, freshest barley he could. Goodhead kilned it extra lightly, to preserve its subtle sweetness – he called it “white malt” – and steeped a test brew (legend has it) in a tea kettle. The beer that barley made was something special too: “a heavenly compound,” one satisfied drinker reported. “Bright amber, crystal clear,” he went on, with a “very peculiar fine flavor.”


Read more: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/hist...e-got-its-name-180954891/#EjfDK6sWiHqQEDM1.99
Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12! http://bit.ly/1cGUiGv
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter
 

good4whatAlesU

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A beer for the Clerks. The lads out chasing Holkar demanded something stronger I'll warrant.
 

MHB

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Stock and other strong ales predate IPA by hundreds of years, again a product of the old misnamed three mash system.
The dividing line was the Pale part, as above changes in the malting process made blond malt available rather than brown malt used previously. This lead to pale beer, no doubt it was made in a variety of strengths and hoppyness. Again I suspect it was a synergy of lots of disparate parts coming together.

Clearly the beer that came to be known as IPA was different enough from its contemporary competitor to require a new name.
It also became a stock in trade in the export market, in fact that became its most recognised place in the market. So much so that the name stuck.
 

Danscraftbeer

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I'll summarise its like a nickname that developed after the ages that it was mastered by the brewers.
IPA. It just rolls off the tongue so well with a broad acceptability of variations. The robust beer that can travel the best. So basic that it makes sense.
The basic outcome is for a robust malt forward hop forward beer.
 

TheSumOfAllBeers

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Check out Ron Pattinsons blog: there is a lot more evidence in terms of brewing logs.

For reference about twice as much Porter was shipped to India as pale ale. Brewers knew a thing or two about making beer keep on ships - there are references to a well kept cask of Porter in captain cooks logs
 

Mardoo

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Agreed, if you’re into this sort of stuff I highly recommend Ron Pattinson’s books as well as the Shut Up About Barclay Perkins blog. The books are long, rambling, data-filled explorations of the styles, such as they are. I haven’t started the Pale book yet, where I expect he’ll stick a fork in the IPA myth. but am well into the Porter book, which also covers the stout that came later. (Stout originally meant strong beer.) However, if you’re precious about the BJCP be warned. He most definitely is not.
 

manticle

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To be fair to the BJCP, they do use this kind of information to evolve - they are not stagnant or completely precious themselves. Their (now ex) education director* first became interested in Pattinson's blog and contentions some years ago and more recently worked with Ron to develop modern versions of old recipes for homebrewers.

Shut up about Barclay Perkins is one of the few online resources where the comments are as worth reading as the content.

*Now head brewer at Bent brewstillery
 

Bribie G

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Right up to the 1980s Boddingtons (before Whitbread then EvilMegaBrewMonsterCorp shut down the brewery and bastardised the product) called their best bitter "IP" - short for India Pale - in all their internal records and logs. It's my current house brew thanks to the UK's equivalent of Peter Symons who has the logs. It's about the strength of TT Landlord.

My recollection of other beers in the 20th century that were called India Pale Ale were that they were weak piss along the lines of our mid strengths.. Newcastle IPA and Greene King IPA spring to mind.
ipa-pumpclip.jpg
 

Edd

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I enjoy reading about the history and theories, who knows how right or wrong they may be. I am of the belief that an IPA wasn’t necessarily ‘invented’ as such, more an evolution of trial/error and innovations of the time. Britain was fast approaching an industrial revolution after all!
I do however, completely and utterly agree, without exception, that Greene King is a piss poor effort... [emoji16]
 

Matplat

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weak piss along the lines of our mid strengths.. Newcastle IPA and Greene King IPA

While it may only be a stonking 3.6% the Greene King IPA is still a bloody good beer... what's even funnier though is that they have released an 'East Coast IPA' complete with american artistry on the label yet it still only climbs to a whopping 4% ;)
 

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