India Pale Ale by Thom Thomlinson

Originally published in two parts (Part I-IPA and Empire, Part II-The Sun Never Sets)

(Reprinted with permission from Brewing Techniques issues 2.2 and 2.3)

Necessity and Enterprise Give Birth to a Style: Roots in Empire and Adventure

India Pale Ale - the name stirs up images of tall ships and faraway places. A beer with such a name should have a bold and stirring character, and India Pale Ales (IPAs) usually deliver. The bitterness, hop aroma, fruitiness, and high mineral content characteristic of this style offer adventure in every pint. The adventure of IPA has proven irresistible to me. Over the past several years I have sampled a wide range of IPAs brewed in Britain and the United States, and these beers have rarely disappointed. This installment of "Brewing in Styles" reviews the events surrounding the creation of the original India Pale Ale recipe and considers the characteristics of 19th century examples of this style. The next issue's installment will look at current interpretations of the style and consider various practical aspects of brewing beers within this theme.

For beer lovers, the history of a style proves interesting and enlightening. This is particularly true for IPA lovers. More than having a place in the history of beer styles, IPA shaped the course of British brewing history. No other style can claim such an influential role, and no other style possesses characteristics more determined by function. IPA was a solution to a problem. For these reasons and more, India Pale Ale deserves special consideration rather than relegation as a simple subheading under pale ale.

The Great Beer Problem

The defining character of IPA is the result of many people's efforts to solve a vexing problem. Imagine, if you will, a country filled with people who love to drink fine ale. That country establishes one of the great naval forces of all time, and in so doing its leaders encounter many challenges. Not the least of those challenges was the one concerning the important beer drinking needs of the navy's sailors and the soldiers and colonists in settlements around the world. The problem facing the British during the 18th and 19th centuries was that beer did not keep well on long ocean voyages, especially voyages into hot climates. These hot environments often resulted in flat, sour beer. Voyages often lasted months, a long time for British sailors to go without a pint of beer. If such a situation were allowed, sailors would miss not only the cultural aspects of ale, but also the ready source of B vitamins that beer provided. The importance of beer was not lost on the British Admiralty: ships on station in the English Channel issued a ration of 1 gal of beer per man per day. Those serving in the cool Baltic waters also had access to beer. It was on long voyages into the tropics that the men suffered the most from lack of beer.

So how would the enterprising British solve the great beer problem? The Admiralty was desperate for a way to transport beer to the far corners of the globe. Mathias reports that the Royal Society got involved as early as the mid-18th century (1). Several ideas were considered, including freezing out water to concentrate the beer. Finally, in 1772 Henry Pelham, Secretary to the Commissioner of Victualling, suggested that brewers simmer away most of the water from their wort. Once at sea the sailors could add water and let the beer "stand to acquire a proper spirit and briskness." Later that year, and early in 1773, Captain Cook and the officers of the Endeavour reported that the concentrate, combined with yeast and spruce, did quite well in cooler waters. The Admiralty was cautiously pleased with the results. However, reports about the concentrate's bad performance in warmer climates and inconsistent performance in cooler climates led to the demise of on-board brewing from concentrate in the Royal Navy (1). Nevertheless, on-board brewing with concentrates won some favor in other quarters, and some examples survived to modern times, such as sweet nonalcoholic malt beverages (Mather's Black beer of Yorkshire, for example). On the continent, Braunschweiger Mumme, a German wort concentrate, achieved a certain degree of commercial success.

Had the concentrate scheme been successful for on-board brewing, the Royal Admiralty's alliance with rum, which began in 1740, would probably have been less strong. Rum's high alcohol content conserved space, and it could be easily cut into grog with water, citrus juice, and sugar. Beer was regarded as more temperate and healthful than hard liquor. Despite the Admiralty's preference for beer, however, the failure of the concentrate scheme forced them to settle for rum. In the end, the Admiralty failed to solve the great beer problem, and British troops and colonists continued to need ales. For other than cultural reasons, colonists often preferred imported ales to local water supply, but in tropical places like India, local temperatures prevented successful brewing. The Indian market, although a difficult one, remained open.

The East Indies Market

The East Indies market proved intractable for two reasons. First, after Britain had established itself in India (ca. 1772), it had a large number of troops and an increasing number of European civilians to supply with beer. Second, the arduous, three- to five-month journey proved a difficult passage for the sweet dark ales of England. Ships left London, and sometimes Liverpool, between late November and early February, arriving in India between March and May. The winter departures ensured that the ships reached the Indian Ocean before the monsoon season. Heading south from London, the ships crossed the equator, cruised south along the coast of Africa, rounded the Cape of Good Hope, and then crossed the Indian Ocean to reach Bombay, Calcutta, and other ports of call.

Even though the hogsheads* of ale were stored in the lowest level of the ship's hull - the coolest place in the ship - the temperature fluctuations were tremendous. Figure 1 (shown in color on the front cover of this issue) shows average sea surface temperatures for 1855-1884 (2). These data indicate that for the first few weeks of the voyage, water temperatures were roughly 52 xF. As the ships entered equatorial regions, temperatures climbed to 81 xF. Slightly past the midpoint of the journey, the ships passed around the Cape of Good Hope where temperatures dropped to between 65 and 69 xF. Once in the southern parts of the Indian Ocean, water temperatures climbed to 73 xF for several weeks of the voyage. Finally, as the vessel headed north toward India, surface temperatures would reach 83-86 xF. Combine the temperature fluctuations with the normal rocking motion of such a journey and the rough waters off of southern Africa, and you have one hellish trip for an ale. Despite these obstacles, however, brewers did try to establish exports to India. Early shipments to India contained bottled porters, the favorite beer in London, which typically arrived flat, musty, and sour. Some improvement came when Benjamin Wilson and Samuel Allsopp tried a new packaging technique designed to take advantage of the very shipping problems that were causing so many difficulties. They advised brewers to uncork freshly conditioned porters, allowing the beer to go flat, then recork the bottles and load them aboard departing ships. These were the procedures adopted by the London wine merchant Kenton, who was the first person to ship porter to India. In theory, the natural rocking motion of the ship helped the beers achieve a second carbonation and "briskness" by the time they reached India (1). Two problems remained: The beers lacked shelf life, and beer drinking preferences tended to change in the tropics; the dark ales of London were possibly less satisfying to Britons in the heat of India. Why would brewers continue their persistent efforts to attack the East Indies market? In addition to the problems created by the journey, the staggering delay between accepting orders and delivering the beer meant that a specific market could change dramatically before the beer arrived. Once the beer did reach India, it had to pass the inspection of official tasters whose evaluations could deny the beer entry into India or hurt the beer's auctioning price (3).

Apparently, however, high demand and low shipping rates could result in huge profit margins. The low outward rates for shipping beer to India (rates from London to Bombay equaled those from London to Edinburgh) are attributable to at least two factors. First, India was self-sufficient in most things, and beer was one of the few British commodities needed. Second, the valuable shipments of silks and spices returning from India more than covered the expenses of travel. The low shipping rates encouraged brewers to accept the risky gamble. Nevertheless, shipping costs still exceeded 20% of the beer cost; 120 hogsheads of ale bound for the major East Indian markets of Madras, Bombay, and Calcutta, for example, would cost L753. This price included L540 for the ale, L118 for freight and primage, and L95 for bottles and corks (1); insurance costs were extra.

Hodgson's Solution

The answer to the great beer problem finally came from a recipe and not an innovation in brewing technology. George Hodgson, brewer at the Bow Brewery in East London, began shipping Hodgson's India Ale during the 1790s. The ale was a version of his pale ale, which Londoners had been drinking since the mid-1750s. These copper-colored or reddish-bronze beers were called pale ales because they were lighter in color than the popular brown ales, porters and stouts (4). Hodgson's pale ales were some of the first beers in the world that were paler than black or brown.

Before the advent of refrigeration and pasteurization, the brewer's only weapons against spoilage were alcohol and hops. Alcohol provided an unfriendly environment for microbial action, and the isohumulone content of the hops inhibited the growth of Lactobacillus. Thus, high alcohol content and high hopping rates could protect beer from the souring associated with long storage times. Hodgson took his pale ale recipe, increased the hop content considerably, and raised the starting gravity by the addition of extra grain and sugar. Extremely high attenuation resulted in strong ales with high alcohol content.

Hodgson also added dry hops, probably an early version of Kent Goldings, to the casks at the time of priming, which provided a further measure against infection. During priming he conditioned the beer with more sugar than was typical for pale ales. The high priming rate probably helped keep the yeast alive during the long voyage. Although high priming rates might suggest excessive carbonation, leakage from the wooden casks may have offset this effect. In any case a "high state of condition" would have been important to offset large amount of carbon dioxide lost during the primitive bottling process used when the beer arrived in India (India was too warm for bottle conditioning). The result was a very bitter, alcoholic, and sparkling pale ale that could withstand the rigors of travel and shelf life in India. Hodgson's success became legendary.

Thanks in part to Hodgson's recipe, the Indian market expanded rapidly. A review of the export numbers emphasizes the recipe's impact. In 1750, about 1480 barrels* left England for India; in 1775, 1680 barrels were exported. This minor increase of 200 barrels in annual shipments after 25 years was eclipsed by the huge increase in exports over the next 25 years - in 1800, 9000 barrels were exported, an increase of about 7300 barrels in annual shipments (1). That increase surpasses the entire amount of beer exported to India in the previous 100 years. The success generated by Hodgson's recipe encouraged other brewers to try to enter the potentially lucrative market. Hodgson's success in India, however, added one more obstacle for other brewers' enterprises. The Circular on Beer Trade to India reported in 1829 that Hodgson controlled the market to India by a number of methods, some of them considered unethical.

The troops on Bengal loved pale ales, and local businesses could have sold more of it except for periodic and huge increases in the price of the imports. The market relied so heavily on Hodgson's deliveries that he could engage in a certain amount of price fixing. According to the circular, when Hodgson got word that another brewer was shipping ale to India he would flood the market with large quantities of his ale, effectively driving down the selling price. Most brewers attempting to establish a trade lost considerable sums of money. After frightening off a rival in such a fashion, Hodgson would limit the next year's exports, sending the price skyrocketing and recovering lost profits from the previous year. The rates could swing from 20 rupees per hogshead when Hodgson flooded the market to 200 rupees per hogshead when beer was in short supply (5).

In the 1820s, Hodgson's bold efforts to completely dominate the Indian market backfired. First, he began denying importers credit for their purchases, forcing many of the cash-poor suppliers to seek help from other breweries. In addition, Hodgson set up his own import business in India. The Hodgson family had a strong determination to hold on to the market; not only had founder George Hodgson designed the first India Pale Ale, but his son Mark Hodgson played a critical role in establishing the family's import business on the subcontinent. This import business squeezed out the middle men in India, resulting in more profits - and fewer friends - for Hodgson.

Burton Makes History

A commercial success of this sort was bound to be copied. The Salt, Allsopp, and Bass breweries all claim to have been the first to copy Hodgson's style. Regardless of who was first, the successful recreation of Hodgson's recipe led to the ascendency of Burton-on-Trent as the brewing capital of England. The success of the Burton ales provide an important brewing lesson in water quality and characteristics.

Burton's brewing history extended back to the brewing monasteries of the 1200s. Its reputation for darker styles was later eclipsed by the recognition gained by its pale ales. The popular nut brown ale of the Trent valley began losing local popularity after Allsopp successfully produced its first pale ale in 1822 (4). Why were Salt, Allsopp, and Bass interested in the Indian market? As a result of the Napoleonic wars, the Burton breweries lost the important and successful Baltic trade in 1807. In 1821, a dinner meeting between the director of the East India Company, Mr. Marjoribanks, and Samuel Allsopp set up events that changed the course of brewing history. At dinner that fateful night, Samuel Allsopp expressed concern over the state of his business, given the loss of the lucrative Baltic markets. Mr. Marjoribanks alerted Allsopp to the Indian market, of which Allsopp was unaware. Marjoribanks pointed out that India offered "...a trade that can never be lost:[sic] for the climate is too hot for brewing. ...We are now dependent upon Hodgson who has given offense to most of the merchants of India. But your Burton ale, so strong and sweet, will not suit our market." Marjoribanks' butler provided the men with a bottle of Hodgson's ale, and Marjoribanks described a market that preferred pale, sparkling ales (3). Later, Allsopp presented head brewer and maltster Job Goodhead with a glass of Hodgson's India Ale. After looking at the beer, Goodhead told Allsopp that he could dry his malt to that color. After tasting the ale Goodhead spat it out; the bitterness probably overwhelmed this man raised on the traditionally sweet beers of the Burton region. Goodhead replicated Hodgson's India Ale using a teapot as a pilot mash system, and within one year Allsopp and Bass were challenging Hodgson's market (6).

When establishing his place in the Indian market, Allsopp faced many more problems than just matching color, quality, and flavor with Hodgson's India Ale. Burton brewers had to get their beers to London, the point of departure for most shipments to India. Freight costs for passage on the canals, the major source of transportation, were 60 shilling (L3) per ton. In addition, thieves along the canal often stole spirits, wine, and beer, replacing the stolen beverage with water. If they were to reach London in good condition, shipments needed protection, further adding to the cost. Another cost involved the purchase of the special hogshead casks and butts* needed for the enterprise. In order to facilitate business transactions and handling and stowage, the casks needed to be uniform in size and shape. Furthermore, these casks had to be built to withstand the rigors of shipping. The new casks required Allsopp to lay out considerable sums of money before the real venture even began. After reaching London the ale had to get by the English excise officers, and once they arrived in India they had to be approved by tasters who could accept or reject any shipment. In Allsopp's case, the first news from India was not good. The first consignment ran into trouble with the tasters, and the beer earned only 20 rupees per hogshead while Hodgson received 25 rupees. The second and third consignments reaching India, however, brought 40 rupees per hogshead each. From there, the news got even better. One letter from a Mr. J.C. Bailton stated the following:

With reference to the loss you have sustained in your first shipments, you must have been prepared for that, had you known that market as well as I do: Here almost everything is name, and Hodgson's has so long stood without a rival that it was a matter of astonishment how your ale could have stood the competition; but that it did is a fact, and I myself was present when a butt of yours fetched 136 rupees, and a butt of Hodgson's only 80 rupees at a public sale.

Other letters arriving from merchants in India testified that Allsopp's Ale was the unanimous favorite of the customers. These optimistic reports encouraged Allsopp to increase his efforts in the next shipping season. In that first year he shipped only 34 hogsheads to India, but in his second year he shipped over 300 hogsheads (3).

The Burton Secret

Like Hodgson's India Ale, the Burton export ales were sparkling and strong. The Burton beers were very pale for that time, more so than any previous effort, and the Burton export ales also exceeded all previous efforts in bitterness. The secret to the Burton brewers' success came from the water, an ingredient often downplayed in beer recipe formulation. The sulfates of the Trent basin helped the Burton beers achieve their clarity and bitterness and allowed the Burton brewers to far exceed Hodgson's India Ale in clarity, hopping rate, and marketability. The high sulfate content allowed brewers to use hopping rates well beyond that compatible with the carbonate water of London. Sulfates actually change the mouthfeel and perception of bitterness. High sulfate content results in a sharp, clean bitterness, unlike the harsh clinging bitterness of highly hopped beers brewed with water high in carbonates.

Bass's 19th century export ales were brewed to an original gravity of not less than 1.060 (15 xP). Bass achieved its hop bitterness by using large quantities of Fuggle, Kent Golding, and imported hops. Several breweries reported using Californian and German hops for up to 50% of the bittering additions. Kettle hopping rates could exceed 3 lb/U.S. bbl, with one-quarter to one-third of this total reserved as finishing hops. Long boiling times, usually >2 h, helped maximize hop utilization and contributed to the physical (protein) stability of the beer (7). At racking, Kent Goldings were added as dry hops at rates anywhere from 6 oz to 1 lb/UK bbl (1 UK bbl = 36 Imperial gal, or ~43 U.S. gal), adding their special aromatic quality to this highly conditioned ale.

After completing the long voyage, the wooden casks filled with ale would be stillaged and their contents bottled, after which the strong ales could last three months or more (6). The hardy yeasts produced in the Burton Union fermentation system combined with high rates of priming sugar protected the beer on its stormy voyages and helped give it a long shelf life. An important issue raised in the history of ale involves the degree to which beer flavor profiles were influenced by the presence of Brettanomyces yeast strains. Stouts, porters, and stock ales were brewed using a secondary fermentation with Brettanomyces. The process of vatting (8) was used successfully to get the appropriate flavor profile from the Brettanomyces. However, Wahl and Henius maintained that vatting for pale ales went out of vogue with the success of the Burton brewers, suggesting that IPAs did not use this process (7). Chances of sourness from Lactobacillus would have been further reduced by the low final gravities: well-attenuated ales contain insufficient fermentables for the bacteria, or for that matter the finicky Brettanomyces.

IPA in the Home Market

The export ales of Hodgson and the Burton brewers were truly export-only products until 1827, when a ship carrying cargo to India was wrecked in the Irish Sea. The cargo was auctioned, alerting locals to the existence of India Pale Ale. The pale ales became a success in Liverpool, and shortly afterward Londoners were clamoring for these export ales. Although other factors such as changing public tastes probably played a role (9), the importance of this serendipitous event should not be downplayed. At any rate, the public liked the effervescent pale ales whose clarity, bitterness, and refreshing character set them apart from the sweet, strong, nut brown ales of Burton and the mild ales, porters, and stouts of London and Dublin. IPA became a success in the European market, too, and local imitations were brewed in Norway and even Germany (7).

The Past 100 Years

A record of the original gravities of beers brewed in the Burton area suggests that by 1880-1900 most exports were of the India Pale Ale variety (Table I). A record of Bass products shows gravities between 1.060 and 1.070 for both cask and bottled pale ales released between 1887 and 1901. Bass's bottled export of 1901 had an original gravity of 1.064, and its bottled White Label had an original gravity of 1.062. In addition, these beers finished at remarkably low terminal gravities; for example, Dog's Head finished at 1.003 and White Label at 1.007. When reviewing records of British beers for this period, remember that independent contractors bottled the beers, and a product brewed by Bass might turn up on the market under several different labels, though all bearing the Bass triangle. IPA's success was not lost on American brewers. Brewers in the northeastern United States brewed pale ales with original gravities between 1.060 and 1.076 during this period and labeled them as India Pale Ale, enabling them to cash in on the lucrative export trade at a time when ale consumption in the United States was declining because of the lager revolution. Ballantine's IPA can be traced back to the early part of the 20th century when IPAs were still strong in both popularity and alcohol content; it has been preserved through an owner's idiosyncracies (Ballantine also once brewed an extremely strong "Burton Ale").

In some ways, ale brewing in the United States remained rather conservative because it was subject to different changes in market tastes and different regulatory pressure from that in Britain. Ales were in decline well before Prohibition; cream ale was invented as a counter to pale lagers. Other ale styles, such as porter, remained truer to their 19th century antecedents. A different picture emerges when we look at British brewing practices. Recall that 19th century starting gravities were in the 1.060-1.070 range. Today IPA gravities in Britain start as low as 1.040 and seldom run as high as 1.060. The great gravity drop that we see in British ales since the late 19th century are the result of changes in the British taxation system, which effectively penalized high-gravity beers, and a parallel (or ensuing) shift in consumer preference. These changes eventually resulted in so-called "India Pale Ales" that were indistinguishable from ordinary pale ales. In Britain today, IPA is often merely a synonym for best or special bitter.

The Personality of India Pale Ale

Most beer writers treat India Pale Ale (IPA) as a subgroup of beers within the pale ale category. Michael Jackson, for example, refers to IPA as a "super-premium pale ale" (10). He also writes that, in England, ". . . the designation is used carelessly." Christopher Finch's wonderful book does not even mention India Pale Ale, but includes examples of the style that fall within the scope of what he considers to be pale ales (11). I argue, however, that a clear-cut distinction between pale ale and India Pale Ale is important. (For details of IPA's historical development, see the previous issue of BrewingTechniques [12].)

Given the historical context in which IPA originated, few would argue the fact that high hop bitterness, high hop aroma, and high alcohol content characterize the style. Recommended original gravities include 1.050-1.060 (13), 1.050-1.055 (14), and 1.048-1.062 (15). All sources call for high attenuation, with finishing gravities between 1.004 and 1.016. Although this broad range suggests that the term "high alcohol content" seems to be a relative one, historical considerations warrant higher gravities. As far as bitterness goes, everyone recommends IBUs in the 40-60 range. In addition, almost every source recommends medium to high hop aroma. Although most sources agree on high alcohol content, bitterness, and aroma, some disagree about color and hop flavor profile. Some interpretations call for a very pale, almost golden, ale (14,15), while others call for more color - as dark as deep amber or copper (13). If one considers only the recipes used for traditional IPAs without considering the brewing process of that time, a pale color would seem to be indicated. The recipes called for two-row malted barley and various amounts of sugar. If brewed in stainless steel, these recipes would yield very pale beers. The brewers of the 19th century, however, used copper kettles that catalyzed browning reactions. Therefore we can safely conclude that IPAs were amber- to copper-colored ales, not pale or golden ales.

In terms of hop flavor profile, some sources call for boiling and aroma hops, others call for boiling, flavor, and aroma hops. The former represent the traditional hopping schedules that call for boiling two-thirds of the hops for 90-120 min and using the rest for aroma. The sources calling for a more rounded hop profile describe the more contemporary interpretations (see below). In addition to high alcohol content, high hop bitterness, and aroma, the historical context of the style's invention calls for several other characteristics. IPAs were brewed with hard water, so the flavor profile should reflect high mineral content, which may be accomplished with hard water and a crisp hop bitterness. The three to four months' travel time from brewery to India also suggests a mature profile. In addition, recipes indicate fairly low mashing temperatures, suggesting lower bodied beers. The singular use of two-row and sugar probably yielded an ale with a thin head.

The India Pale Ale Revival

How do contemporary examples compare with the style descriptions? Unfortunately, quite a few breweries serve low-gravity beers under the name India Pale Ale. Other IPAs on the market lack the crisp bitterness characteristic of the style. I have heard brewers rationalize these variations by saying that hops of the last century had lower alpha values than today's varieties and therefore the beer could not have been that bitter. With hopping rates of 5-6 lb/bbl boiled for 90-120 min, however, the beer will be bitter even if the hops were low in alpha acids. In the United States, IPA turns up at most brewpubs and at quite a few microbreweries. One of the best beers in the United States is Anchor Liberty Ale. It won a silver medal in the India Pale Ale category at the 1993 Great American Beer Festival. No stranger to medals, this IPA from San Francisco consistently delivers an excellent example of the style. Another popular IPA, Grant's IPA (Yakima, Washington) represents a slightly different interpretation. Whereas Liberty Ale offers a broad hop profile (high hop bitterness, flavor, and aroma) and rich malt flavor, Grant's IPA is characterized by intense hop bitterness and hop aroma. Fortunately for IPA lovers in the United States, small States-side breweries produce IPAs more true to style than do their English counterparts. In part this occurs because brewers in the United States became reacquainted with the style before the English renewed their interest in IPAs. The 20-year-old microbrewery and pub brewery revolution in this country has rapidly increased the number of excellent IPAs available to the consumer.

Initially, IPAs allowed brewers to satisfy the needs of a particular niche: Consumers wanted robust, hoppy ales, and brewers responded with beers like Anchor Liberty Ale (originally released as Our Special Ale in 1975) and Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale (released 1983). Grant's IPA (first brewed in 1981) also addressed this need in the market. With the growth of micros and pubs, more and more of these hoppy beers appeared on the market. Today, dozens of breweries offer India Pale Ales. In addition to satisfying the palate of the consumer, the style may also satisfy a marketing need - the very name lends an air of tradition to any pub menu.

A very special India Pale Ale

Over the past several decades, the English market has favored lower alcohol beers. The resulting low-gravity English IPAs tend to lack the strong bitterness and hop nose characteristic of the original IPAs and many of the IPAs brewed in the United States. The difference between American and British efforts will diminish, however, as interest in the style continues to increase in the UK. Thanks to the efforts of the Campaign for Real Ale (St. Albans, Hertfordshire, UK) and people like Mark Dorber, cellarman for the White Horse on Parsons Green (London), England is in the midst an India Pale Ale revival. In 1990, Dorber organized a seminar on Burton Pale Ales, and from this seminar grew a plan to brew a traditional IPA like those of the mid-l9th century. The project proceeded with encouragement and support from Bass. David Moore served as the coordinator for Bass, and Tom Dawson, a retired Bass brewer, consulted.

After reviewing the record books and the historical context, Dawson reformulated a recipe dating back to the 1850s. The brew was to be a piece of living history, "...brewed as an essay - an attempt to recreate the colour, flavour, and high condition of the 19th century Pale Ales that made Burton the preeminent brewing town in Britain and, for a time, the world" (16). The resulting brew, The White Horse India Pale Ale, is pale, sparkling, and intensely bitter. Its original gravity is 1.063 (7% alcohol [v/v]). Roger Protz, noted beer writer and authority on classic English styles, described the beer as having a massive and pungent hop bitterness with a nose like a Kent hop field (17). The beer has a rich and fruity mouthfeel, with a finish dominated by Kent Goldings. Dorber reported that the ale is holding up well after five months in the cask. The ale has maintained strong bitterness, and the rich, fruity aromas have enhanced with age (18). Let us hope that the success of the White Horse IPA will encourage and further nourish the return of India Pale Ale.

To the brewery!

Traditional or contemporary: A close look at the history of this style and the available beers representing its various interpretations reveals two trends in brewing: traditional and contemporary. Traditional interpretations tend to be rather pale, with high hop bitterness dominating the flavor profile. Traditional IPAs also have high hop aroma. Flavor hops are low to medium in strength, and the bittering hops completely dominate the flavor profile. The beers also have low to medium body, which accentuates the beer's crisp bitterness. Grant's IPA represents this trend; the original Ballantine's IPA might also fit in here. The bronze medal India Pale Ale at the 1993 Great American Beer Festival, Punjabi Pale Ale (CooperSmith's Pub & Brewery), also represents this interpretation. Contemporary versions also have high bitterness and high hop aroma but include a strong hop flavor component and a rich maltiness as well. These beers tend to be medium bodied and as dark as deep amber or copper. Furthermore, a robust and clinging head tends to characterize these beers. Anchor's Liberty Ale represents this interpretation, as does Renegade Red, the gold medal IPA at the 1993 Great American Beer Festival. The following discussion attempts to refine these trends and clarify the possible distinctions between these interpretations. Common themes. When brewing any IPA, historical considerations call for a bitter ale with a strong hop aroma. High mineral content should also be evident in the crispness of the bitterness and in the mouthfeel provided by the bitterness. Long ocean voyages suggest that we can add a mature profile to the list of characteristics defining the style. If space limitations make aging impractical, try reducing the hopping rate, which should provide a desirable balance between the malt and the bitterness without aging. Even in these cases, however, IBUs should never dip below 40. Finally, a full copper color will probably be closer to the 19th century versions of this style than the pale color called for by some writers. Brewers boiled these high-gravity worts for 90-120 min in copper kettles. Because copper catalyzes browning reactions, it is unlikely that these beers were very pale, even though they were brewed exclusively with two-row malt. Remember that the designation "pale" meant that the beers were not brown ales, porters or stouts. Traditional themes. For traditional IPAs, starting gravities should never drop below 1.060. Furthermore, these beers should be well attenuated, finishing between 1.004 and 1.012. High bitterness is achieved by boiling two-thirds of the hops for 90-120 min. The final third should be entered in the last 10 min of the boil. Dry hopping further enhances the hop aroma of the beer.

Contemporary themes

For the contemporary profile, bulk up the malt and add more flavor hops than recommended for the traditional profile. Modern tastes prefer a maltier mouthfeel, so the contemporary interpretation requires a fuller bodied beer with higher terminal gravity to balance the bitterness. Expect finishing gravities in the 1.010-1.016 range. The modern trend toward lower alcohol beers means that starting gravities can be in the 1.050-1.060 range (although I strongly encourage historical integrity on this variable). Contemporary versions may also use hopping rates considerably different from those of the traditional versions to help achieve a broader hop flavor profile (see recommendations below). Water: As discussed in last issue (12), the calcium and sulfates in the Trent basin led to the Burton brewers' success with this style. The calcium and sulfates have two effects. First, calcium helps extract hop bitterness and reduce haze. Second, the sulfates give beer a dry, fuller flavor that enhances hop bitterness. I find that the addition of gypsum to the boil yields a crisper and cleaner bitterness. The water for brewing India Pale Ales should mimic the water of the Burton region - hard water full of mineral salts (Table I). As with any style, brewers should know the make-up of their water. If you have soft water, a number of sources provide information on how to adjust your water for this style (see, for example, reference 19).


Brewers of the last century produced India Pale Ales using malted barley and about 10% sugar. The sugars used included caramel, glucose, rice, and maize. The English brewers reported using a fair amount of foreign barley malt in their recipes. Apparently the American and German varieties provided better drainage and avoided the acidity that English malts tended to develop. When brewing a traditional IPA, grain selection is easy: choose the best-quality English two-row barley that you can afford. The resulting maltiness will please you, your friends, and your customers. The Pike Place Brewery produces one of the best IPAs anywhere in the world, and at least part of their success stems from their careful selection of malt (20). Of course, you can brew a traditional IPA with North American two-row malts when cost considerations come in to play.

For contemporary versions, crystal or Carastan will enhance malt flavors and increase color. I recommend additions in the 10-11% range. Remember that the darker copper color of India Pale Ales resulted in part from browning reactions occurring in the copper kettles. If you are not using copper kettles, then select a crystal or Carastan that will provide the appropriate color. Some reputable brewers even slip in small quantities of darker adjuncts for color complexity. The addition of small amounts (1-2%) of Carapils (Briess Malting Co., Chilton, Wisconsin) or dextrin malt (Briess) will result in a frothy head that lingers to the bottom of the glass. This addition complements the maltiness of the contemporary IPA and is probably unnecessary in the low-body traditional IPA. Mashing temperatures may vary depending on the type of IPA you want to brew. The traditional version works with lower body, while the contemporary interpretation needs more mouthfeel. I recommend mashing between 150-153 xF (65-67 xC) for the traditional and 154-156 xF (68-69 xC) for the contemporary.


If you are working with extracts, select the palest extract you can buy. For a traditional interpretation of the style, adjuncts for color enhancement are all that are needed. A more contemporary effort calls for the addition of adjuncts (crystal for color and flavor, Carapils or dextrin for head retention). Steep the grains at 155 xF (68 xC) for 30-45 min and add this tea to your boiling extract.


Choice of hops is primarily a matter of preference and accessibility. For traditional India Pale Ales, you will need to select a bittering and finishing hop. I prefer the high-alpha, citrus-like crispness of Chinook. Other breweries have success with Galena and Centennial.

Some brewers choose to follow traditional brewing practices and use low-alpha hops for all additions. The relatively high humulone/cohumulone ratio found in low-alpha hops such as Kent Goldings and Fuggles results in a smoother, more rounded flavor than that achieved by the use of high-alpha hops. Chinook and Nugget have more favorable humulone/cohumulone ratios than other high-alpha hops and allow the brewer to achieve high levels of bitterness without the expense of using low-alpha hops. Whatever you choose, give the hops a good long boil. Some recipes recommend at least a 90-min boil for the bittering hops. Remember the limitations of your boiler when designing your recipe. Several brewers have horror stories about overloading boiling kettles or stopping up pumps with hops. Considerations such as these might influence your choice of hop form (pellet or leaf).

If you choose to brew a contemporary version of the style, select fresh hops for additions during midboil. I recommend additions at 10-min intervals beginning at 40 min. This seems to provide the full flavor necessary to make its presence known in this very bitter style. Again, as with the aroma component, I recommend Kent Goldings, Cascades, or Fuggles. For a traditional recipe, minimize the amount of hops used to flavor the beer. The finishing hops, used liberally for either interpretation, should be carefully selected based on freshness and preference. I like the peppery nose offered by Kent Goldings or the floral grassiness of Cascades. Aroma hops may be added to the last 5 min of your boil, especially if you use an extended hot break after boiling.

Traditionally, aroma hops were added to the cask before shipping. If you choose to dry hop your IPA, use caution. I have seen dry hopping in the secondary work for several breweries; Cantwell et al. provided interesting insights into dry hopping in a previous issue of BrewingTechniques (20). A true IPA with its associated high alcohol content should withstand the risks associated with heavy dry hopping. My experience suggests that the heavier the dry hopping, the longer the beer needs to condition before drinking. Recipes for l9th century IPAs report the use of 1/4-1 lb of hops per cask. In addition to wonderful aromas, dry hopping provides other advantages. The tannic acids provided by the hops aid clarification, while the diastase associated with the hops helps break down maltodextrins for further fermentation. Finally, the hops add additional protection against infection by increasing the isohumulone content of the beer. Recommended hopping rates vary depending on hop selection and starting gravity. An IPA should never dip below 40 IBUs and can on occasion exceed 60 IBUs. Hopping rates of 1.1 kg/UK bbl (1 UK bbl = 36 Imperial gal, or ~43 U.S. gal) are common.


When most brewers hear Belgian ale, they immediately think about yeast and its critical role in brewing a true example of that style. Proper yeast selection is equally important for India Pale Ale. The yeast should contribute some esters and impart a minerally flavor to the beer; these properties were critical to the success of the Burton IPAs and should be considered essential for the style. Although many good yeast sources exist (watch for a directory of yeast suppliers in an upcoming issue of BrewingTechniques), remember to choose a yeast with the above properties. Wyeast (Hood River, Oregon) supplies a good working yeast that has the desired characteristics. Wyeast #1028, commonly called London ale yeast, offers a rich, minerally profile and produces fruity esters, which makes this yeast a successful match for the style. This yeast also produces small quantities of diacetyl which, in small doses, does not hurt the style. Caution should be used, however, to keep perceived levels of diacetyl low (21). I have found that the popular Wyeast product, American ale #1056, does not provide the character needed for the India Pale Ale. It is just too clean, especially if your starting gravity dips down to the low 1.050s. Irish ale yeast suppresses hop bitterness compared with the other two yeasts, and for this reason I do not recommend it. Use caution when adopting a yeast for your IPA. Some English breweries find that yeasts adapted to ordinary bitter gravities yield out of proportion ester content when used in strong beers. When pitching yeast, use large volumes to get fermentation started rapidly. Tom Dawson of Bass Brewery brewing recommends 1.1 kg of live yeast/bbl of wort. Make sure that you understand the temperature requirements of your yeast. Many yeasts that are excellent for this style do poorly if the temperature climbs above 65 xF (18 xC).


Some home brewers and professional brewers add oak chips to their beer during fermentation or aging. The practice stems from the belief that the oak casks used to ship IPAs to India imparted some flavors to the beer during the long voyage. My research indicates that the oak used for cask production in 19th century Britain was harder and contained fewer tannins than the oak we use in this country. I find no evidence that oak casks used in shipping contributed to the beer's flavor profile. If anything, the strict standards for entry into India suggest that had the oak changed the flavor, the brewers would have changed cask material.

IPA'S Broad Horizons

India Pale Ale was a solution to a great beer problem (12). More than any other style, IPA's character is defined by the function it served in history. We can identify trends in the current production of these fine ales. The trends indicate that interest in this classic style is on the upswing and that brewers want to present India Pale Ales with the important characters of high bitterness, high alcohol content and high hop aroma. While a number of breweries produce excellent IPAs, many breweries still produce low-gravity, low-alpha pale ales and sell them under the name IPA. This is a shame given the current sophistication of the market. As a marketing plan, it could backfire. Consider that the usual logic behind such low-gravity, low-alpha beers is as follows, "My customers will not drink such strong and bitter beers." If this is an unchanging truth (unlikely) then fine, brew a pale ale and be done with it. However, if you insist on serving a pale ale as an IPA your customers' level of sophistication may surprise you. One day soon a customer may ask why you choose to call the low-gravity, low-alpha beer an IPA!

There are brewers who tell me that they will not brew a hoppy India Pale Ale, one that is strong in the tradition of the style. Again they cite customer concerns. My suggestion is always the same: Do not underestimate the tastes of your customers. Sure, the strong bitterness and high alcohol content are not for everyone, and some customers will definitely not like the beer. But, remember that as the brewing revolution continues, the sophistication of the consumer grows. With the continued expansion of the pub and microbrew market, more room will open up for challenging styles like India Pale Ale.

* Hogsheads were large casks or barrels with a capacity of 54 Imperial gal (about 65 U.S. gal).

Table 1: Properties of water in the Trent basin (ppm)


Source: J.S. Hough, Malting and Brewing Science (Chapman and Hall, New York, [1982]).


The author thanks Roger Bergen for helpful and kind-hearted editorial assistance on this and the previous installment and Mark Dorber for sharing a wealth of information about the history of the style and the White Horse Project.


  1. Peter Mathias, The Brewing Industry in England 1700-1880 (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England, 1959).
  2. S.D. Woodruff, R.J. Slutz, R.L. Jenne, and P.M. Steurer, "A Comprehensive Ocean-Atmosphere Data Set," Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc. 68, 1239-1250 (1987).
  3. Buchnan, Burton and Its Bitter Beer (1858).
  4. Michael Jackson, New World Guide to Beer (Running Press, Philadelphia, 1988).
  5. Circular on the Beer Trade of India (1829).
  6. Michael Dorber, "News Release on White Horse India Pale Ale," (The White Horse on Parsons Green, London, 1993).
  7. R. Wahl and M. Henius, American Handy Book of the Brewing, Malting, and Auxiliary Trades, vol II (Wahl-Henius Institute, Chicago, 1908).
  8. Roger Bergen, "A Stout Companion," BrewingTechniques 1 (4), 18-21 (1993).
  9. Terry Foster, Pale Ale (Brewers Publications, Boulder, Colorado, 1990).
  10. M. Jackson, New World Guide to Beer (Running Press, Philadelphia, 1988.)
  11. C. Finch, Beer: A Connoisseurs Guide to the World's Best (Abbeville Press, New York, 1989).
  12. T. Tomlinson, BrewingTechniques 2 (2), 20-27 (1994).
  13. Institute for Brewing Studies, North American Brewers Resource Directory (Brewers Publications, Boulder, Colorado, 1993).
  14. T. Foster, Pale Ale (Brewers Publications, Boulder, Colorado, 1990).
  15. F.Eckhardt, Essentials of Beer Style (Fred Eckhardt Associates, Portland, Oregon, 1989).
  16. M. Dorber, "News Release on White Horse India Pale Ale" (The White Horse of Parsons Green, London, 1993).
  17. R. Protz, "Championing the Past," The Morning Advertiser (1993).
  18. M. Dorber, personal communication, 1994.
  19. J. Rodin and G. Colon-Bonet, Zymurgy 14 (5), 28-32 (1991).
  20. D. Cantwell, F. Allen, and K. Forhan, BrewingTechniques 1 (4), 22-28 (1993).
  21. G.J. Fix, BrewingTechniques 1 (2), 20-25 (1993).

Further Reading

About the Author

Thom Tomlinson designed "Renegade Red," the 1993 Great American Beer Festival's Gold Medal India Pale Ale. He currently teaches psychology at the University of Colorado and designs traditional ale recipes for commercial ventures. He was one of two American brewers asked to speak at the British Guild of Beer Writers India Pale Ale Conference 21 May 1994.

Column editor Roger Bergen has been a micro and pub brewer and consultant since 1983. He is now Vice President, Technical Service and Design, with DME Brewing Services (headquarters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin) and a contributing editor for BrewingTechniques.

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