IPA History
BE Britsh Forces in India

The average craft beer drinker these days loves all kinds of Ales.

One of the most famous types, especially in the Americas is the India Pale Ale - IPA. Therefore, the new drinker gets excited to learn more about this style and its story. Most of the times they turn to their friends for help. And that is exactly how myths are created and passed on!

Most of the craft beer drinkers has heard or even read on a brewpub placemat the IPA history, right?

But, according to beer historian Martyn Cornell, who has done the full research on such chapter of the craft beer history (check here the full history), most of the times the IPA stories are not the correct ones!

Probably you’ve heard that India Pale Ale is so called because it was brewed for British troops in India, and highly hopped to survive the journey by sea from Britain to India.

Well… that is not quite the true…

Pale ale was around from at least the 17th century and pale ales were being exported to India from at least the 1780s, if not before.

And the most interesting point, according to Cornell, is that they weren’t drunk by the troops, either those of the East India Company’s forces or the later British Army forces in India, who much preferred porter, and continued drinking porter in India right through to the end of the 19th century. The pale ales exported were drunk by the middle and upper classes among the Europeans in India, the military officers and the “civil servants”, the civilians who worked for the East India Company, trading, administrating and collecting taxes.

Beer did not need to be strong to survive the journey to India, and IPAs were not particularly strong for the time: they were only about 6,5%. Certainly by the 1760s brewers were being told that it was “absolutely necessary” to add extra hops to beer if it was being sent to somewhere warm. But this was not limited to India. And there is absolutely no evidence that George Hodgson of Bow introduced the idea of hopping export beers more strongly than beers for home consumption.

So there you have it!

The next time you hear the myth, you have the facts to let them know that you are an IPA expert!

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