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Not From India: 5 Facts About the India Pale Ale

Any brewer or craft beer enthusiast knows, the India Pale Ale, or IPA, is a people pleaser. Consistently delicious and constantly re-imagined, the IPA remains the sweetheart of beer lovers everywhere. Let’s get to know the IPA a little better with a few interesting facts:  

India Pale Ale was not invented in India

There is a common misconception about the IPA, perhaps because “India” is in the name. But the IPA was not invented in India, but rather, England. While there were some earlier IPA iterations, credit for the first official IPA typically goes to George Hodgson of London’s Bow Brewery.

During the British colonial efforts, porters were sent to India for the British Indian army and the British citizens living in India. Unfortunately, the beer spoiled during its long, 6-month voyage to India. The addition of extra hops helped it survive the trip. 

They were originally called “October Ales”

The strong, heavily hopped beer that George Hodgson brewed and sent to India is widely considered to be the first IPA and served as a prototype for modern iterations of the style. The IPA however, did not get deemed the “India Pale Ale” until 1829.

The “October Ale” was the original name of Hodgson’s creation. These beers were typically generously hopped and aged, aiding their preservative quality. This is the beer that Hodgson sent to British citizens abroad, which famously and joyously made the trip to India unspoiled.

a newspaper ad for ipa and other wares from 1829
Advertisement for East India Pale Ale, Sydney Gazette Saturday August 29 1829

Aussies coined the term “IPA”

The name “IPA” was not coined in England nor India. The first record of the name actually comes to us from a 1829 newspaper ad in Australia hawking the wares of merchant A.B. Stark. Included on offer among the various liquors and textiles are “Taylor’s and East India pale ale.” The ad was printed in Australia’s first newspaper, the Sydney Gazette and the New South Wales Advertiser. 

They are the most common flagship beer for craft breweries in the US

Ask any given craft brewery for their flagship, and the majority of the time, the answer will be some sort of IPA. This style of beer is astonishingly popular, especially in the United States.

We can guess that the popularity has to do with many factors. They are interesting, hugely flavorful, and their tendency toward higher ABVs may also be part of the draw. With a vast range of sub styles—from juicy New England IPAs to comparably stoic and bitter English IPAs—we can’t blame anyone who is swept up in the IPA’s whirlwind of aromas and flavor.

They are endlessly versatile 

No doubt one of the characteristics that catapults these bubbly beauties into popularity is their protean nature. From the earthy traditional IPA, to daring Double IPAs, all the way down to the double-take inducing Black IPA, the variations keep going and going. With new creations being born every day, the IPA is a brewer’s playground.

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