Saturday, November 21, 2015

Britians boldy brew beer bound for abroad: the India Pale Ale (IPA)

The development of Pale Ale proved very, very popular in England, and as the British Empire expanded, expatriates wanted a taste of home. 

British brewers were more than happy to ship barrels of beer to India, but because they were doing this before the invention of refrigeration, the beer would often spoil before it got there.

Brewers found that a slightly higher alcohol beer with an extra dose of hops that would survive the long trip. This beer, intended for export, was called the India Pale Ale.

George Hodgson of the Bow Brewery became a well known exporter of IPA, at one time owning 50% of the market.

While Hodgson is often cited as the originator of the India Pale Ale beer style, it seems that the brewery's proximity to the merchant ship docks was the key factor in Hodgson's success. Hodgson didn't originally create a special recipe for the IPA, he merely rebranded a high strength beer he already had in his warehouse.

English IPAs eventually lost popularity and the style fell into obscurity in the mid 20th century until American brewers revived the IPA in the 1980s. 

Although the IPA was invented in England, American brewers have owned the style since then. The term IPA sometimes doesn't fit the beer at all, since the beer isn't going to Inda, and sometimes it isn't very pale at all. Nowadays, IPA merely refers to a beer that celebrates hop bitterness.

Several styles of India Pale Ale

Not surprisingly, English IPAs feature English hop varieties. In the 1800s, East Kent was the major hop growing region, and Golding hops were preferred for the strong ales that would get shipped overseas. 

English IPAs feature the grassy, spicy aroma of East Kent Golding hops, and tend to have more reserved aroma and less bitterness than their American IPA counterparts.

Here are some English IPAs to try:

American IPAs have several distinct styles

Some American breweries make a wonderful English-style IPA

West Coast IPAs should more properly be termed San Diego style since that is where the revival of the style began. Lagunitas Brewing Company was the first commercial brewer to bottle an IPA, and the San Diego style of IPA is a full frontal assault of bitterness. One of my favorite beers of this style is called Palate Wrecker. Here are a couple more San Diego style IPAs to try:

malty, full body
lighter body
San Diego style from Sonoma county
Pacific Northwest IPAs dial back the bitterness, but amp up the hop aroma, featuring the citrus and pine scents of American hop varieties. Many of these hop varieties are grown in Washington State's Yakima Valley and have Pacific Northwest names like Cascade and Chinook.

No success like excess

In 1994, the Russian River Brewing Company "pushed the envelope" and came up with a stronger, more intensely bitter version of the IPA which, as you remember, was already pretty strong and bitter. This Double IPA, sometimes called an Imperial IPA, caters to hop affionados who clammer for increasingly intensely flavored beer.

These beers are not for the squeamish:


What kind of food pairs with a bitter, hoppy IPA?

Remember that the IPA was originally shipped to India, so try an IPA with Indian food. The woodsy, herbal bitterness is a nice complement to earthy dahl and pakora. 
The bitterness of an IPA cuts through a creamy saag paneer or a curry, and the beer's carbonation will also calm down the curry's heat. IPAs also go well with deep fried foods like samosas, but then, I think that beer goes well with any deep fried food.

IPAs can also cut through a tomato based barbecue sauce, providing a contrast to the sauce's sweetness and smokiness, or the bitterness could mirror the spicy char of carne asada.
Try an IPA with a cured ham - the bitterness of the beer will bring out the saltiness of the meat.

Cheese: the final frontier

I like IPAs with Cheddar. The IPA's bitterness can stand up to the lingering tang of sharp Cheddars better than any other beer style. 

Aged, cloth-bound cheddars get a subtle nutty flavor that will be overpowered by the more assertive IPAs, so pair older cheddars with an English-style IPA.

I live in Seattle, and I'm a fan of the Pacific Northwest IPA, so to accompany my favorite IPA (Right now, that's Schooner Exact's Evergreen IPA), I always get a big ol' brick of Tillamook Cheddar. No, it's not fancy, and I don't care.

Goat cheeses also pair well with IPA by being tangy enough to play off the beer's bitterness. Humbolt Fog makes a good match for an IPA, as does Garrotxa (Ga-ROCH-ah), a semi firm Spanish goat cheese.


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