Many legends surround the IPA name and origin. And, most of them are highly entertaining, but completely false. In honor of National IPA Day, we fact checked five of the most common myths about the fabled India Pale Ale.
IPA’s are so hoppy to help the beer survive long journeys across the oceans.
Contrary to legend, the hoppy nature of the beer had nothing to do with shipping. Rather, the formula was originally developed as an English October Beer. As you might guess, October beers were originally brewed in October and tapped the following fall making for a nice ABV. Brewers took advantage of the harvest season which meant lots of malt from fresh barley—and hops.
IPA’s have a high ABV to help the beer survive long journeys across the oceans.
Also false! While the IPA is high in alcohol by contemporary standards, these levels were normal for the era. Despite the myth, shipping was not a factor. In fact, the popularity of IPA’s for shipping abroad is purely coincidental to the beer’s composition.
The IPA was somehow designed for export to India?
Not really, but Indian export did inspire the name—retroactively. In the 18th century, the October Beer from George Hodgson’s Bow Brewery was frequently exported to India. Hodgson’s beer enjoyed this popularity largely because his brewery was the closest to the East India Company’s dock. A renowned 18 month credit line didn’t hurt either.
The exported ale quickly gained popularity with the shipping company. Soon, a host of breweries (most in Burton-on-Trent) were marketing their own October Beers as IPA’s. In time, the beers were shipped to other English colonies. Ultimately, a taste for the hoppy suds developed domestically, and the English even began drinking IPA’s at home.
America’s Craft Beer Boom resurrected the IPA from the dead. God bless ‘Merica!
Meh. First of all, contemporary American IPA’s bare little resemblance to their forebearers across the pond. The new version is actually far more alcoholic and hoppy! Secondly, IPA’s have enjoyed success in the States long before the current craft craze. For example, Ballantine beer out of scenic Newark, NJ enjoyed a run national success spanning from 1878 to the mid-50’s when Ballantine ranked as the third largest brewer in America.
However, the craft movement certainly helped. After a century of trending down, IPA’s are the most widely brewed variety of small batch beers.