The story of the IPA

The story of the IPA

John ShearlockAug 25, '23
If there is one beer that has been the driving force of modern brewing it’s the IPA. Our thirst for the stuff seems insatiable, and although it has morphed and evolved and branched out in many weird and wonderful directions - it is still the traditional, no thrills, hop forward, common or garden version that garners most respect.

Its roots lie in England in the early 1700s with the invention of indirectly heated kilns for malting which took beer out of the dark ages and into a more enlightened pale phase (or at least made pale malts more accessible and easier to acquire). As the humble pale ale surged in popularity, here and there, the odd more heavily hopped version began to appear.

One such beer was called October and was apparently popular amongst the English gentry who, by all accounts, even brewed it at home (or rather got someone down in the servants quarters to do it for them)

Of course, October was being made commercially too, and one brewery with a penchant for this hoppy goodness was George Hodgson's Bow Brewery. Fortuitously, it was based not far from the East India trading Company, and had become a well respected supplier to the traders who shipped to India. It’s a long way to India from Bow, and passing through the equator, temperatures get rather high, but it was discovered that of all the voyaging beers - October, with it fortifying preservative hops fared the best.

Not one to miss a financial trick, the East India Company cottoned on to the power of this mighty brew, and began to commission additional breweries to create the stuff. Brewers all over England caught wind of the trend, and soon, the India Ale was an established style.

The modern genesis of the style is an interesting one. If you look at the BJCP style guidelines, the English IPA is found in the Pale Commonwealth Beer category, whilst the IPA category is centred on modern American versions. The acronym IPA has, to a certain extent, lost its original meaning - American IPAs were never shipped to India and so “IPA” has become a different proposition to the original Indian Pale Ale.

I guess that’s a semantic issue in many ways, but the evolution of the style can be seen more obviously with the sheer quantity of spin-offs - rye IPA, white IPA, black IPA, hazy IPA, West Coast IPA, milkshake IPA, brut IPA and cold IPA to name but a few.

I’m certainly into a few of these styles, but as I mentioned at the start - it's a good old fashioned, highly attenuated, moderately hopped English IPA style that still floats my boat.

Visit our IPA selection here. Grab a few and see what voyage this beer can take you on. Enjoy!