The Brewers Association, IPA Day

Historically the IPA style can trace its roots back to the Far East India Company and their transportation of beer to India for their workers. By chance of proximity, Mr. George Hodgson’s brewery was near the East India Docks in London. This allowed him to secure contracts to provide beer to the company and later his son adapted his beer to be suitable for the region’s taste. The beer brewed was designed to survive the long difficult voyage. The alcohol content was higher than normal and additional hops (a natural antiseptic) were added to preserve the beer. Families returning from postings in India began to seek out the beer they enjoyed in India and in the 1830s, nearly 50 years after the style was first produced, the term “East India Pale Ale” was found in advertisements. Over time preferences changed and with the introduction of refrigeration and the increased popularity of lager the IPA style began to decline.

The style saw a resurgence as American home brewers were searching for new styles to challenge their brewing experience. Like most culinary dishes from around the globe, Americans have put their mark on the IPA style of beer. Specialty style IPAs have been introduced with color varieties such as Black, Brown, Red and White. Brewers such as Vinnie Cilurzo created styles such as Double IPA which sees a doubling of the hop usage it the malts are supported by adjuncts such as sugar to give a higher alcohol without more body. Others such as John Kimmich created styles such as the New England IPA. While this style still officially falls under a specialty IPA in the BJCP Style Guidelines, it has become more prevalent in brewery lineups. This style is commonly dry hopped, that is hops are added after the wort has been chilled either in the primary or secondary fermentation. This gives more hop aroma to the beer, but does no provide the bitterness normally found in high hop beers and they provide a significant haze to the final beer.

The growing popularity of these beers can be seen in the entires into the Great American Beer Festival (GABF). In 1990 the very first IPA was recognized with a gold medal. There were no medals for second or third place. In 2000 organizers split the category between English IPA and American IPA. 2002 saw IPAs overtake American Pale Ale with number of entires. From 2003 to 2018 American IPA was the largest style entry in the GABF.

There is some debate on if the current style is anything like the original India Pale Ale. I would argue that solely from a logistical standpoint the flavor of the two beers are nothing alike. The original was brewed in a cooler climate of England, Stored in oak barrels and placed aboard a sailing ship. This ship first traveled around the west coast of Africa, around the Cape of Good Hope up the Eastern side of Africa and onto be served in the humid climate of India. Also there is the case that even when India Pale Ale was being produced it went through a series of changes and adjustments to meet evolving demand and style preferences. While it remains a great origin story it is best to describe IPA as to what it is.

According to the Beer Judge Certification Program Style Guidelines. An American IPA has an assertive bitterness with a high hop aroma and flavor. Hops generally used are new world (American, New Zealand or Australia). This will give a citrus, resin, or pine flavor. Malt flavors such as cracker or biscuit are acceptable but any caramel flavoring would be consisdered off style.

  • Color: Gold to amber (6-14 SRM)
  • Alcohol: Normal to elevated (5.5-7.5% ABV)
  • Bitterness: (40-70 IBU)

So what ever your preferred type of IPA is take time today to enjoy the hoppy bitterness or citrusy aroma of this British born but distinctly American developed style of beer. Cheers.

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