Beer does not like heat. This simple fact presented the British government with a formidable problem in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Sailors on British ships were issued one gallon of beer per man, per day. This ration served several purposes; beer was a cultural staple, men would miss the important social and cultural aspect associated with beer and thus lose moral, beer is also an important and ready source of B vitamins necessary to maintain healthy immune system functions, metabolic rate, and healthy skin and muscle tone. But, as the British Empire expanded into the tropical climates of India, beer began to go sour and flat more rapidly. The sweet dark ales of England were no match for the heat and rolling motion of the ocean, which proved an extremely harsh environment for the delicate brew. A solution had to be found in order to provide the increasing population of the Indian sub-continent with the beer they desired and needed and fast.
The problem was complex for many reasons; first the journey from Britain to India itself was a three to four month proposition; second the issue of keeping the beer from spoiling before the age of refrigeration was a real and nearly insurmountable obstacle; and finally it just was not financially viable due to the large amount of spoilage. But, even with these problems, beer was shipped to India because the brew that did survive the trip was often sold at extremely high prices making the proposition of shipping beer to India attractive.
In the 1790’s, after much trial and error and many hogsheads (barrels of beer approximately 63 gallons each) of spoiled beer, a brewer named George Hodgson brewed a version of his pale ale with higher alcohol content and high hops content. The combination of these two changes to traditional pale ale allowed the beer to fight off the microbial and bacterial growth that caused earlier beer shipments to turn sour. What resulted was very strong ale with very bitter hoppiness, in other words the IPA was born.
At first, IPA’s were strictly export products. Indeed, many Brits did not even know of their existence. That changed in 1827 when a ship bound for India wrecked in the Irish Sea and its cargo was auctioned. Among the surviving cargo were many hogsheads of IPA. When tapped, the locals learned that they loved the strong, clear, and bitter brew. News of the ales spread through Britain and Europe rapidly and demand made it clear that domestic production of IPA’s would be a winning proposition as well. The success of the ales was so great that imitations began surfacing in Germany and Norway as well.
True IPA’s did not turn up in the United States until much later, though. Americans just did not have the taste for the intense hops profile of the style. That is until the renaissance of the craft brewing era which began in the late 1970’s with companies like Sierra Nevada and earlier by Anchor Steam, and is booming today. Notable names that brew high-quality IPA’s include Dogfish Head with its 60-, 90-, and 120-minute IPA’s, Stone, Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale, and Bell’s Two Hearted Ale.
In Jacksonville you can find a number of quality IPA’s on tap in our local breweries. With today, August 4th being National IPA Day, it is highly recommended that you head out to your local tap room and down a couple of these tasty brews.
Intuition Ale Works
I-10 IPA – This fine example of an American IPA pours a deep amber color and smells of pine, grapefruit, and other citrus fruits with a hint of sweet malts. On first sip you will experience hops-forward bitterness with the promised grapefruit and citrus flavors giving way to sweet maltiness.
Centennial IPA – This brew is a slightly less hoppy, more approachable cousin to the I-10 IPA that still present strongly of hops and malt.
Bold City Brewery
Mad Manatee IPA – Pouring a bright orange-yellow, this brew smells of bready malts, orange peel, and cedar. The taste is at first citrus and pine giving way to malts.
Chinook IPA – Dark copper in your glass with an agreeable nose of caramel malts, pine, and citrus. Sweet malts dominate the flavor with grass and citrus notes as well.
Green Room Brewing
Head High IPA – According to their website, Green Room’s IPA is, “an aggressive American style India pale ale brewed with copious amounts of Amarillo and cascade hops for massive citrus aroma. 7.0% ABV 70 IBU.”
Other local brewers have IPA, but they may not be on tap right now. Check before heading over there so you will not be disappointed.
IPA’s began out of necessity to provide beer to British military and expatriates in the hot, humid lands of far east India. Today, though, it is a much sought-after and highly-prized brew enjoyed by millions of beer fans. On National IPA day, run on out and quaff a few at your local tap room or pub. Tell them I sent you.
Until next time,
Long Live the Brewers!