IPA's flavorful history


What does IPA stand for... what's this beer all about?

Last weekend I was sharing a few Mother Earth beers with a friend who has been turned on strong to Mother Earth Sisters of the Moon IPA. He asked a question I hear often, so I thought I'd let you all know about it. For those of you well schooled in beer knowledge, this is probably old news. For many of us though, it's a good bit 'o trivia to impress our friends!

IPA stands for India Pale Ale. It differs from Pale Ale because it is hoppier, more bitter, and has a higher abv (alcohol by volume) Think of IPA as pale ale's Big Bro.
Here's some info on how it became famous...

IPA (India Pale Ale) has an interesting history. Like many great achievements, IPA developed as a result of necessity. During the 1700s, the British Empire established itself in India, and the British East India Company began heavy trading. It wasn’t long before there was a great demand for beer. Typical beers of the day, such as porters, were bottled in England for the approximate six-month journey to India. Needless to say, the extensive voyage (which included rounding the Cape of Good Hope) proved unkind; beer arrived flat, and all around disagreeable.

After a bit of manipulation, a man named George Hodgson made famous a solution to spoilage problem: an increased amount of hops which acted as a preservative of sorts- warding off bacteria and other undesirables. Also, reducing the amount of soluble sugar helped lessen the spoilage that would occur during the long journey. The result? A bitter beer with a higher abv than those of the day- and one that appeared generally light in color.

Bitterness remains one of the strongest qualities of IPA today. The hops used to make IPA typically have a citric character. Our Sisters of the Moon IPA is made using a hopback, and this gives our IPA a huge, juicy hop taste while remaining balanced. Mild malt flavor is detected in the background.  Due to IPA’s strong hoppy flavor, it works best when served with a food of equal strength, and is often paired with spicy foods. Mexican enchiladas, pizza, and Buffalo wings make serious contenders for the perfect IPA counterpart.

You may have heard of this trend; Imperial India Pale Ale or American Double India Pale Ale. Following typical American rationale: if a little is good, a lot must be great, many brewers pride themselves on concocting these ultra-brawny IPAs, which are characterized by exceptionally strong bitterness, and incredibly high alcohol levels. You’ll have to be a massive enthusiast to raise more than a pint or two- but they certainly have a place in my beer collection.

I have to add that this blog is NOT meant to serve as a down and dirty on IPA- its just a brief overview. -And you should know that the "history" of IPA is debated among the elite beer professionals; what role did Hodgson really play? Were other beers really arriving in poor condition? Was a beer similar to IPA being brewed long before Hodgson? Was Hodgson just "in the right place at the right time?" Well, the debate is far beyond our scope here... we just want to give you the basics. You can research and debate the role Hodgson played over your next pint of Sisters of the Moon IPA.

Peace, Love and Beer..........................................TM