(IPA) India Pale Ale and Pale Ale
Pale Ale and its popular relative, India Pale Ale (IPA), originated in Burton-on-Trent (Burton) in Staffordshire, England, in the 1800s. Essentially during the same period that Pale Lagers (Pilsners and variants) were gaining acclaim and popularity over dark beers in continental Europe, Pale Ales became all the rage in England, where English brewers held steadfast to warm fermentation techniques over the newer, cooler lagering techniques used in Germany and elsewhere.
Industrial Revolution technology made pale malt production possible, giving England’s Porters and Stouts—both very dark ales—a new competitor. (Prior to this, all malts were dark, and so were all beers.) “Pale” is a relative term, however, as the golden to often amber or copper hue of Pale Ales is indeed paler than Porters and Stouts, but not as pale as Pilsners.
The widely accepted historical account of IPA tells of this style being borne out of the necessity to produce a beer that could withstand long sea voyages to reach British troops colonizing India, as dark Porter was prone to spoiling en route. As a result, a paler beer for India’s climate and a more heavily hopped brew to utilize the hops’ natural preservative qualities during the 90-plus day voyage was appropriate.
With roughly twice the hops as other beers, a spicy, refreshing bitterness characterized IPAs. Burton’s natural water supply played an important role in this new beer, as its high sulfates accentuated the bitter compounds in the hops, while high calcium levels helped keep the yeast active in the casks. Prior to shipment, the casks also were primed with brewing sugar, which, along with the active yeast, likely initiated a second fermentation in the cask, thus bumping up the alcohol level and providing additional preservative qualities.
While the IPA had about a 50-year period of initial popularity—from the 1830s to 1880s— it ultimately fell out of favor amid the growing shipment of thirst-quenching Pale Lagers to shores beyond central Europe, and it was scarcely seen even in England. Resurrected by American craft brewers and introduced to the American beer market in the 1990s, the IPA style—in multiple variations—is now one of the most popular beer styles in the United States among craft beer drinkers.
The pint glass, nonic, tumbler and beer mug function nicely for essentially all Pale Ales and IPAs. The stemmed tulip glass is terrific for releasing the hop aromas of American-style IPAs. A stemmed tulip or other stemmed glass, such as a beer snifter or large wine glass, is very good for Double/Imperial IPAs, due to the strength of the style and the general sipping and savoring approach taken when drinking this beer. Double/Imperial IPA aroma and flavor tends to evolve as it warms in the glass, but the stem keeps the warmth of the hand off the bowl to prevent premature warming.
Pale Ales and IPAs should form a head of about one finger in thickness or more. A bold pour will bring the beer to life from the bottle and help release the malt and hop aromas. Bottle conditioned versions may contain sediment. Either leave it in the bottle or pour it into your glass based on your preference.
Shop IPA Beer