Before the craft beer boom of the early 2000’s, you were considered a beer geek because you knew that IPA stood for India Pale Ale.
Nowadays, every beer drinker knows at least that much. In fact, most know that, despite it’s name, this hoppy ale is really of British in Origin.
The extreme hop content and higher alcohol by volume assisted in preserving the beer for the long voyage to the British colonialists. But beyond that, this style’s history gets a little hazy.
Many believe that IPA was invented specifically for travel to India, historically this wasn’t the case. In fact, previous to IPA’s invention, plenty of beer was making the voyage to India in the 1700s. There is even evidence that porter reached India prior to the introduction of IPA.
Many versions of this style’s true origin exists. But we’ve been able to find one rooted in at least some truth. In the early 19th century a British man by the name of George Hodgson crafted beer near London. One fateful day, he created an October style ale – a recipe with extra alcohol and extra hops – it was a fairly common style for the time.
The London beer-maker got lucky for two reasons:
First, the brewery that he worked for was situated on a river; it was also the closest brewery in London to the merchant ships that traveled between England and India. When the ships’ captains went searching for beer to export, they didn’t have to look far to find George Hodgson.
Second, the voyage had a unique and fortunate affect on a particular batch of George’s October ale. The voyage’s rough waters caused the ale to mature quickly.
Because of the conditions encountered during the voyage, Hodgson’s beer arrived in India in peak condition.
George quickly branded the beer as, “Hodgson’s India Ale.”
At one point, he controlled up to 50% of the market in India. This is largely because of his proximity to Indian trading company headquarters and his willingness to negotiate with ships’ captains. Eventually, other brewer’s followed suit, cementing this style in the beer history books.