I’m not sure that Craft Brew’s most popular style really needs a day of commemoration, but it has one anyway. And that’s today – IPA Day. Ashley Routson, also known as The Beer Wench (@TheBeerWench for you Twitterheads), explains that today is a day to share your stories, pictures and events related to IPA. And perhaps to drink one or two.
The commonly told story of IPA is that it was brewed extra strong and hoppy to survive the long journey from England to colonial troops and administrators in far off India; both alcohol and hops have antibiotic properties that help keep a beer from spoiling. The innovation is widely credited to brewer George Hodgson. A number of more throughly-researched sources have cast doubt on that story, pointing out that beer was being shipped to India and beyond long before Hodgson was brewing, and that there is little evidence that Hodgson actually added much of anything extra to the beer he did ship. But in any event, it’s clear his beers were a hit in India and the name “India Pale Ale” gradually stuck, with his name attached.
But what we call IPA today is different than those 19th century brews. Hodgson and his competitors would probably barely recognize the bright yellow, citrusy, hopped up monsters that mark IPA today. The traditional IPA, now normally called an English-style IPA, is maltier and more mellow than the dominant IPAs of today, usually known as American-style or West Coast-style. Although they remain in production on the East Coast and in the Midwest, English-style IPAs are almost unheard of locally. The few examples include the Alexander Cask India Pale Ale from Healdsburg Brewing Company and the IPA by Humboldt County’s Six Rivers Brewing, even though even they dress it up with West Coast hops.
Those English versions have given way to a riot of variations by American brewers, using every possible kind of hop and in every level of strength, from a mildly alcoholic brew all the way to knock-out punch versions known as double or even triple IPAs. Familiar versions of the IPA locally include Bear Republic’s Racer 5, Lagunitas IPA, and Russian River’s Blind Pig and Pliny the Elder.
– Sean Scully