Where Do IPA's Come From?

In the craft beer world, it feels like every time you turn around there’s a new spin on the IPA style. From West Coast style to New England style to Brut style, it seems to be the style that people gravitate toward most commonly. But what is an IPA really and how did it come to be in the first place? 

Starting with the part that most of you might know, IPA stands for India Pale Ale. The quick version is that IPA’s were invented to get beer to the Eastern British Empire without spoilage. Well why didn’t they just brew it in India, you might wonder. The reason is that it was far too hot to brew beer there. Fermentation needs to happen at a cooler temperature or the yeast will die before it creates any alcohol.

Now getting beer to India was no easy task in that time. We’re talking 1780’s. One of the more famous early IPA makers, George Hodgeson, started working on an answer to that problem. It’s important to note that it’s unlikely that George Hodgeson invented IPA’s. The first beers he produced were heavily hopped October ales and were designed to be cellar aged. This obviously boded well for transport. Over time and listening to customer feedback, Hodgeson gradually changed his beer to be paler and more refreshing to suit the Indian climate better.

This is where the bigger breweries come in. With the development of refrigeration, the hops were commonly dialed back to being an inoffensive pale ale. Soon after, hoppy IPA’s became all but non-existent. It wasn’t until the mid 1970’s that North American breweries started to recreate old and forgotten Old World beer styles including the IPA. Since then, the brewing world has created many variations on the IPA and it continues to be a staple style for many breweries with no indication that it’s on it’s way out any time soon. 

If there’s any beer history you’re dying to know, you can write me at norm@manantler.com or send us a message on our social media accounts @manantler. Catch you next time!