The history of IPA part 2: From India, to England, the US, and the world.
So yesterday we discussed the origins of India Pale Ale and where it got its name. As part of our continuing IPA weekend, today we shift to IPAs rise to popularity. We left off with English Breweries sailing high-alcohol and highly hopped beers to India to prevent bacteria from developing over the long voyage. Now how exactly the English decided to hold onto some of the batch is controversial. Some say that one cargo ship wrecked just off shore from London, and the barrels were brought back and sold in the city, quickly becoming a huge hit. However, according to beer historian and fellow beer blogger Martyn Cornell, this ranks more on the myth spectrum, as no record of such a shipwreck exists. Another possibility is that the English brewers simply realized how damn good the beer was, and by the time the train system developed enough for land shipments, they just decided to start holding onto the stuff.
Regardless of how it happened, the IPA style took off by the mid 1800’s in England, and though it took quite a while a healthy American IPA market emerged from the already highly hopped American Pale Ales. Sierra Nevada started the American Ale revolution in 1980, and soon after the craft brew scene broadened their realms to bolder beers like the IPA. Building off of the hoppy style of the pale ale, and given it a giant dose of steroids, many American IPAs are super-hopped and over 8-10% alcohol. Such ales are commonly known as imperial or double IPAs. Inspired by the innovative American take on a classic English oldie, a third variety, the Belgian IPA has also been adopted recently in Europe’s brewing scene. The majority of these brews maintain the triple belgian brewing style for full, strong flavor, giving the IPA more of that light, golden belgian color. Note that Belgian IPAs are also gloriously hopped and high in alcohol.
Well, a sick 7-month-old might have put the kibosh on any notion of going out in celebration of that hoppiest of holidays; but that didn’t stop me from making the most of IPA Day on the good ol’ TOGB homefront.
Started the evening off with Pretty Things “Meadowlark IPA”, Dann and Martha’s take on an American IPA. I’ve loved every PT beer I’ve ever tried, and that still holds true after yesterday. Meadowlark is fantastic; grassy and floral, not overpoweringly bitter - hands down just a great IPA.
Followed that up with Cottonwood Endo, my second offering (and first IPA) from Foothills Brewing (Winston-Salem, NC), courtesy of Hopcast’s Craft Beer of the Month Club. I knew right away that I should have reversed my drinking line-up. Where Meadowlark was bursting with ample, frothy head and a wonderful hop bouquet right from the initial pour, Cottonwood was much more subdued, pouring a slightly deeper golden hue with a very thin head and next to no discernible aroma. Mild, slightly metallic bitterness in the taste; not a standout by any means, but a decent session IPA I suppose. Definitely wouldn’t go out of my way to buy it again.
Didn’t get the chance to break the 2011 Dogfish Head 120 Min out of the stair-cellar, but my guess is it’ll be even better by next IPA Day… if it lasts it that long.