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Small Batch Brewing: A Look At India Pale Ale

Small Batch Brewing is Inexorably Linked to India Pale Ale


If you have been paying even the slightest bent of attention to small batch brewing in the last decade, you have probably noticed the meteoric rise of the India Pale Ale. From Dogfish Head’s world famous 60 Minute IPA to the juicy offerings of Creature Comforts Tropicalia, India Pale Ales have become a staple among nearly every small batch and craft beer enthusiast. The bitter, hoppy flavors, not to mention the noticeably higher alcohol content, have caused India Pale Ales to become one of the most popular craft beer categories currently available and, if consumer demand is any indication, this trend is only set to continue. Here at Brau Supply, while we also make exceptional all-in-one small batch brewery systems, we are, at our core, beer enthusiasts. For this reason, we have chosen to use today’s blog post to highlight the India Pale Ale and to give our readers a little more information on this popular brew.


India Pale Ale is from India, Sort of


One of the most common questions we here in regard to India Pale Ales, is how exactly did they get that name. To answer this question, we will have to take a journey back in time, to the days when the sun never set on the British Empire. Pale ales had been popular in Britain since the early 18th century. The term pale ale was originally used to describe an ale that had been brewed from pale malt. These early pale ales had only a slightly hoppy flavor and were much different from the pale ales that most people encounter today. Nevertheless, without these early pale ales, the IPA category as we know it today would not exist. However, as much as we have pale ales to thank for the delicious IPAs we now enjoy, we must also pay service to the British East India Company.


Thank the British for Discovering India Pale Ale


As anyone relatively acquainted with history knows, the British East India Company, originally set up to import spices from India (which at this point in history was ruled over by Britain), quickly turned into a way for the British to easily import cotton and silk from India to feed the growing demands of the British elite back home. While the holds of the cargo ships were largely full for return journeys home, as they were sailing to Indian ports, they were almost completely empty. As a perk to the officers and the crew for their service, they were allowed a generous allowance of cargo on the outbound journey. Due to the long waits between shipments, many company men left behind in India took to fine dining and drinking to pass the time. To capitalize on this, seamen with an entrepreneurial streak would haul as much cargo on the outbound journey as they could and sell it to the men stationed in India. One of the most common requests from the men stationed overseas was beer due to the fact that the climate in India at that time was unsuitable for properly brewing beer.  


India Pale Ale was the First Small Batch Beer Born of Necessity


While the demand for beer was high in India, sailors quickly ran into an issue. The more traditionally, maltier beers such as stouts, porters, and brown ales were unable to survive the long (up to 6 months) trip to India without spoiling. To combat this issue, George Hodgson owner of Bow Brewery developed a Pale Ale with a generous addition of hops. Because hops have a natural preservative quality they allowed the beer to survive the grueling journey to India without becoming spoiled. Also, in an unexpected yet fortuitous development, consumers of the Hodgson’s beer found that rather than becoming worse over time, the beer actually seemed to age like wine when left in the barrels used to transport it. Thus, the India Pale Ale was born.


We hope that this post has helped you learn a little more about the history of the India Pale Ale. If you would like to try your hand at brewing your own small batch supply of IPA in the comfort of your home, visit our website today to browse our selection of small batch brewing systems. At Brau Supply we strive to provide the best small batch brewing equipment on the market so that everyone can experience the joys of home brewed beer.

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