(links and images still need to prettify’d, but the text is set)
. (|ARCHIVE|) The first installment in a series of six readings and interpretations from The Geography of Beer (https://www.amazon.com/Geography-Beer-Regions-Environment-Societies/dp/9400777868) , Part III - Societies. The abstract of the current paper, ‘The Origins and Diaspora of the India Pale Ale’ by Jake E. Haugland (mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org) , may be read on Springer (https://rd.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F978-94-007-7787-3_12) .
Existence precedes essence - The forebears of what we consider India Pale Ale (IPA) came into being before the style was ever defined and/or branded as such.
The IPA is an artifact of cultural, economic, and technological influences. A closer look at the constituent parts of the name and how they came about will help illustrate this. Taken in reverse order we may build it up chronologically. ‘Ale’ is the Anglo-Saxon term for what we refer to as beer; ‘pale’ has to do with the light color of the beer; and ‘India’, the most recent addition, is a nod to the market and marketing that made it famous.
The Facticity of A.P.I. - The origins of the IPA start with the introduction of hops into England by Flemish beers and immigrants in the 1300’s and 1500’s, respectively, opening up the British palate to a less sweet brew and one that would prove more thirst quenching, especially in hotter climates. The arrival of Flemish immigrants helped spread the hops that were to become a staple in British beers. This influence grew steadily over time, with the amount of land dedicated to hop growing exceeding 35,000 acres by the 1600’s. Hops were deemed important enough by this time to protect against continental imports through tariffs.
The pale designation is linked to the malted barley which had two technological influences and one social/economic aspect. By creating coke from coal maltsters were able to roast grains over lower and more consistent heat for longer and more predictable durations. Whereas before all sorts of materials were used for the process, resulting in inconsistent, dark and astringent flavors based on the source (wood, peat and straw), this new control over heat and its variability allowed for the creation of lighter and less astringent malted barley, colors and flavors passed on to the beers.
The second technological stimulus was the cheaper production of glass, in combination with favorable taxes over time, which made the material more ubiquitous and allowed drinkers to better visually admire their beers. This combination of color, flavors, and clarity in the beer made pale ales a favorite amongst the gentry who could more readily afford the initially more expensive pre-industrial brewing of these sorts of beers. Pre-industrial brewing was done naturally on a smaller scale and usually on farms, estates, and abbeys, both in England and on the continent.
Developments in mechanical technology allowed for what more closely resembled mass production as we know it. Where limitations of transportation previously restricted breweries to areas where their beers were consumed the Industrial Revolution brought about changes in when, where, and how much could be produced.
With industrial manufacturing came the ability to brew more beer than could be consumed by the local town and surrounding villages that breweries traditionally served and relied on. The introduction of engine-powered transport allowed breweries to ship more beer over longer distances, at a faster/cheaper rate than ever before. Breweries were able to place themselves away from the center of their traditional customer base while also serving previously inaccessible regions.
Export - Empire was the final step in stamping the name that has come down to us today.
The increase in production capacity meant that it was not long before some breweries exceeded what the local population could consume. This excess production was accommodated by the growing British Empire, as well as trade with the continent, including the Baltics and Russia for the traditionally dark and strong beers. India makes its appearance on the stage at this time to provide the final letter to the style. With new markets open abroad and a taste for home being chief among the demands of colonists, beer was not far from the lips of these far-flung Brits.
Exaptation - The common (apocryphal) tale states that IPA was designed as a beer to weather the journey to the subcontinent. This explanation is an oversimplification and overlays an order to the story after-the-fact, positing intent and design where there was more arbitrariness and chance involved.
The beer style that is the forebear of what we consider IPA was being brewed in England under an assortment of different names, most commonly as an ‘October beer’ in reference to pre-industrial brewing practices where summer heat would halt brewing for several months, long before the India market came along. British expansion opened up new posts with a desire for familiar goods and flavors, beer being one of these. The trip to India took six months by boat, around the southern tip of Africa, crossing extreme water temperature differences and dealing with constant rocking and swaying. Many beers were made worse for the wear, if they made it at all, some barrels bursting in transit.
By their nature higher alcohol, more hopped (hop resin contains antibacterial properties) beers had a likelier shot of remaining palatable. Enter opportunity into the story. The East India Company was situated two miles downstream of the Bow Brewery, which among its assortment of beers, primarily porter, also brewed an October beer. Sea captains took this beer along as they bettered their chances of having something worth selling at the end of the trip. The granddaddy of IPA’s “was not originally engineered specifically for the voyage,” but rather came to be by a fortuitous match of hops and chance.
Expropriation - The Bow Brewery made a fortune on their East India trade. However, the business practices of the founder’s grandson plus the need for new markets by other breweries resulted in competition for the trade and by extension the style. The epicenter of IPA would soon move from London to Burton-Upon-Trent. This was no arbitrary choice but rather had to do with the concentration of breweries in an area renowned for making good beer that traveled well. The cause for this travel-ability had to do with the hard ground water, which differs from soft water, the water present in London, in a number of ways chemically, properties that help to turn out and highlight different flavors and hop profiles. In time this difference would come to be preferred both at home and abroad. Only after this move away from London and continued success would the beer be marketed as “India Pale Ale”.
Experimentation & Explosion - Advances in science and technology helped identify the chemical properties of water and provided methods and instruments for better controlling the brewing process. In time other regions, including many outside of England, were able to reproduce the Burton water properties, a technique still known today as Burtonization.
Technical trends and know-how allowed for the brewing of IPA to be done globally. The natural accidents that brought about the style could now be replicated intentionally by chemistry and technical prowess, concentrating the evolution that saw hops added to ale, pale malts used, and the introduction of hard water.
Extinction (Nearly) - The rise of IPA soon came to a halt and was effectively flattened by temperance movements, rationing during the world wars, and the proliferation of Central European lagers and pilsners due to the influences of immigration and the ability to brew these beers year round with the same technological advances that IPA and ale brewers benefited from earlier. Three driving forces that had previously proved beneficial now undercut the style: technology, immigration, and the preference of drinkers in hotter climates.
Expropriation II & Authenticity - With the beer style in retreat, the existence of the American style IPA of today was no foregone conclusion. Under similar circumstances it is easy to imagine a different version of the beer or, however unlikely seeming after-the-fact, no recognizable beer to speak of. The all but forgotten IPA style gave off what could have been its American death rattle in 1971 when Ballantine, founded by a Scot immigrant in 1840 and brewing IPA’s among its styles, shuttered its production. Fortunately this brewery lasted long enough to inspire a new group of brewers, primarily/initially along the West Coast and in Colorado.
The American brewers of the late 70’s/early 80’s took a style they found attractive and went about making their own with the materials at hand. They did not allow themselves to be boxed in by rules, guidelines or categorizations as to what up until then was considered a legitimate IPA. For what exactly is/was a legitimate IPA? The style had been appropriated for overseas markets, changed in character with the introduction of Burton hard water, and replicated for a time worldwide. No one person or brewery invented the style, instead the beer came to be in the world where its character was tested, changed, and refined.
Inspired to make their own IPA’s American craft breweries began brewing hop forward ales with the twist of using the local citrus-like Cascade hops. This revision came to distinguish the American IPA from its British inspiration, lead to an explosion in hop varieties, acceptance of the style nationally and worldwide, and the launching pad for a variety of beer style spin offs, some of which could be pointed to as not literally qualifying to be called IPA’s, e.g., black ale and lager varieties.
Whatever the distinguishing characteristics were, regardless of how difficult it had and would increasingly become to pin down, it never stopped brewers from chasing an idea and creating, along the way, new interpretations.
Expropriation III - The Holy Roman Empire was neither “Holy” nor “Roman (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coffee_Talk#Discussion_topics) “. That people can mention Black IPA’s and Lager variety IPA’s, each an oxymoron, with a straight face should make it clear that it is not the rules of a book that determine its being, that would be absurd, but rather that the beer is defined by the actions of brewers and drinkers together. Insofar that consumption/production behaviors reflect the accumulation of freely participating actors one can rest assured that the various interpretations and spin offs of the IPA, however bizarre and textbook contradictory, are in fact authentic. Today’s IPA’s need not be true ales, nor be pale, and no longer have anything to do with India. We may not be able to define it perfectly but we know if when we taste it (http://endlesspint.com/2016-08-01-six-pack-project-netherlands/#loc–de-3-hornes-naughty-boy) . https://youtu.be/YaDvRdLMkHs CrashCourse