In the past decade, India Pale Ales, or IPAs, have become one of the most popular beers. How did this extra-hoppy beer become the trendiest option at craft breweries all over the world? Its fascinating history started centuries ago.
The Beginnings of IPAs
The first recorded instance of the phrase “India Pale Ale” first occurred in 1835, when Hodgson’s Bow Brewery advertised their East India Pale Ale. This has led many people to credit Hodgson’s with the discovery of IPAs. However, the first recipes for IPAs actually date back to the 1760s. As Britain started colonizing India and other tropical areas, there was a massive demand for English beer in these regions. Brewers feared that the hotter climate and long shipping times could spoil their beer, so they started adding higher levels of hops. No specific brewer is credited with this invention, but many of the companies that specialized in beer for India started increasing their hop levels.
IPAs Rise in Popularity
Many soldiers came back from their travels with a taste for IPAs, and more and more breweries started producing the beers. By the 1840s, IPAs were one of the best selling types of beers in England, even outcompeting the nation’s traditional porters and lagers sometimes. The lighter beer was particularly popular in the summer, and many customers loved that the beers tended to have a higher alcohol content as well. London, Burton, and Staffordshire became centers of IPA brewing that shipped beers globally.
New Regulations Reduce IPA Production
As temperance movements became popular in Victorian times, the high alcohol content of IPAs began to hurt their popularity instead of helping it. Increased taxation on high gravity beers meant that it was no longer economically sound for breweries to focus on IPAs. Around the turn of the 20th century, IPAs almost entirely went out of production.
The Renewed Interest in IPAs
IPAs got their second wind in America in the 1970s. Changes to government regulations allowed more craft breweries to open, and these independent businesses started looking into old English recipes. The versatility and flexibility of IPAs gave many breweries room to experiment, and the modern IPA craze was born.