Better Know Your Beer Style: Category 14- India Pale Ales

4 05 2010

As we mentioned a few weeks ago, technology of the 17th century allowed for cleaner roasting processes and lighter colored malts. The pale ales, known as “bitters,” became all the rage. By the 18th century, it was considered a symbol of status to be drinking the more expensive and cleaner tasting bitters. It was also around this time that “The Sun Never Set on the British Empire.” Soldiers around the world required beer to consume as much of the water and sanitary conditions were below the standards of English gentlemen soldiers. Quickly, the British military learned that beer had a difficult time traveling the many months to the far flung colonies of England. For much of the time, the beer was in casks, on boats, in tropical regions. They attempted to make breweries in the colonies. But the tropical temperatures in India, Africa and the Caribbean were too hot to make beer in a time before refrigeration.

If a brewer could figure out how to solve this problem, he would be rich. From the time of Hildegaard of Bingen, brewers knew that hops had a preservative effect and helped beer from spoiling. George Hodgen had a beer called “October Beer” that often was aged for two years. He hypothesized that if he gave an extra dosing of hops to his October Beer, the increased alcohol and hops would help the beer survive the trip. He was correct and was soon sending casks of this October beer to thirsty soldiers in India.

Other breweries followed suit. Samuel Smith’s Brewery also began brewing exportable Pale Ales. The water source actually turned out to be perfect for the style. The hard water they received from their well and the river Burton-Upon-Trent helped accentuate the sharpness of the hops. Many breweries attempted to capitalize on the phenomenon by adding mineral salts in order to “burtonize” their water. Burtonizing is still a practice used today by brewers.

After the soldiers came home from the colonies, the clamored for the hoppy, sweet beers they were accustomed to. Hodgen and Smith both decided to brew a domestic version and began advertising them as India Pale Ales. Samuel Smith’s still refers to theirs as the original name they used, the “India Ale.” For a while, India Pale Ales )or IPAs) were all the rage in England. But by the early twentieth century, the fad had all but died out. After the fall of the British Empire and two very difficult wars that had taken their toll on England and its brewers, no one had a taste for the hoppy ales.

In the 1970’s the Campaign for Real Ales (CAMRA) helped resurrect many old, endangered styles. Porters, Cask Conditioned Ales and IPAs all received a big boost by this movement. As England brought back these old styles, Americans were just starting to gain a taste for things a bit more “unusual.” American brewers began bringing IPAs over to this side of the Pond. As is the case with most every beer the American’s get their hands on, they put the style on steroids and saw just how big they could go. Whereas the English had lightly increased their hopping schedule to create a sharper and stronger beer, the Americans pushed the limit by throwing as much hops into the kettle as possible.

American IPAs were bigger, stronger, and bolder. Americans began to come to like the taste of hops. By the late 1990’s to today, we saw the growth of the “hop head” those legions of beer drinkers who crave the hop. They judge the beer by the amount of IBUs and look for interesting new varieties of hops. We see the growth of double IPAs, Imperial IPAs, Double Imperial IPAs. Brewers have begun experimenting with “Dry hopping” where they put dried hops into the fermenter in order to add more hop flavor and aroma. And recently, wet hopping, where the brewers add fresh hops to the fermenter. They just keep getting bigger and bigger. And there is no sign of when or where it is going to stop.

Better Know Your Beer Style: Category 14- IPAs

Subcategories: English IPA, American IPA, Imperial IPA

Aroma: IPAs tend to be hop forward with a floral, spicey or citrusy note. English IPAs, due to their smaller hopping schedule and use of English hops, tend to be more floral and spicey. American and Imperial IPAs, due to their increased hopping schedule and use of American hops, tend to be more citrusy. A light biscuit or toasty maltiness is common. No yeast or diacytl should be present.

Appearance: Dark pale to copper is most common. Occasionally, an IPA may even verge on the red end. A lovely, firm white to tan head should be persistent, often with excellent lacing. Carbonation should be medium to high. Very clean and clear. Although some brewers who dry or wet hop may not filter their beers, thus leaving a slight haze to it.

Flavor: Hop forward with a pronounced bitterness and sharpness. English IPAs will have a spicy, grassy, rosy quality to them. American IPAs will have a citrusy character with hints of lemon, orange, grapefruit, and/or pineapple. They may also have a spicy character of rose, spruce, pine, or sassafras. A good, strong malt back bone should help balance the hops with toasted bread, biscuit, or sweet malt. The use of hard water helps keep the beer crisp and light without letting it fall flat. And the yeast should be very clean. A slight booziness can help clean the palate. Oak can be present in an English IPA.

Mouthfeel: Very clean, crisp and sharp. There should be a drying or astringent quality to the end. And the large carbonation should help clean the palate and leave a prickle to the tongue.

Ingredients: Pale ales with some lighter specialty malts. English hops for English IPAs and American hops for American IPAs. Burton salts to harden the water are appropriate. A clean ale yeast.

Technical Notes:
Original Gravity:
1.050-1.090
Final Gravity: 1.010-1.012
SRM (Malt Color): 6-15
IBUs: 40-120

Commercial Examples:
English IPA:
Meantime India Pale Ale, Freeminer Trafalgar IPA, Fuller’s IPA, Ridgeway Bad Elf, Summit India Pale Ale, Samuel Smith’s India Ale, Hampshire Pride of Romsey IPA, Burton Bridge Empire IPA,Middle Ages ImPailed Ale, Goose Island IPA, Brooklyn East India Pale Ale
American IPA: Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale, AleSmith IPA, Russian River Blind Pig IPA, Stone IPA, Three Floyds Alpha King, Great Divide Titan IPA, Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA, Victory Hop Devil, Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale, Anderson Valley Hop Ottin’, Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, Founder’s Centennial IPA, Anchor Liberty Ale, Harpoon IPA, Avery IPA
Imperial IPA: Russian River Pliny the Elder, Three Floyd’s Dreadnaught, Avery Majaraja, Bell’s Hop Slam, Stone Ruination IPA, Great Divide Hercules Double IPA, Surly Furious, Rogue I2PA, Moylan’s Hopsickle Imperial India Pale Ale, Stoudt’s Double IPA, Dogfish Head 90-minute IPA, Victory Hop Wallop

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