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Question: What is India Pale Ale? How does it differ from English Pale Ale or American Pale Ale?
Answer: India Pale Ale, often abbreviated IPA, is one of those beers
that homebrewers just can't get enough of. In addition, it is one of the styles
that has a specific history. Back in the late 1700's and early 1800's, England
held a large colonial presence in India. The soldiers, sailors and eventually
civilians, had a huge appetite for beer. Trouble was, the voyage to India was
long and had to cross the equator twice to get there. The high heat and rocking
action of the sea conspired to make sure that by the time the ship made it to
India, the traditional beers had spoiled. Even when they didn't, the sweet dark
porters that were popular at the time weren't quite the ticket in the hot climate
George Hodgson of the Bow Brewery in London was the first person to come up with an answer to this problem. In the 1750's, he began brewing a lighter style of beer, known as pale ale, since it was considerably lighter than the brown ales or porters of the time. By 1775, Hodgson realized that high alcohol and hop levels (both bittering and aromatic) would retard spoilage. High carbonation levels and high attenuation (from addition of sugar during the boil and at casking) would also help preserve the flavor over the long voyage. His process succeeded, and for about 50 years, he held a virtual monopoly on the market. Salt, Allsop and Bass breweries, located on Burton- on-Trent, contributed a further refinement, with the introduction of their high-sulfate water. This added crispness to the high bitterness soon won over the largest part of the market. Interestingly, even though IPA was brewed in England, it was almost all exported to India, until a shipwreck in the Irish Sea led to the English locals scavenging the wreckage, and discovering the allure of the intensely bitter and highly aromatic brew.
Today, IPA, English pale ale and American pale ale all have differing characteristics. English tax laws generally favor lower-alcohol beers. Hence, English pale ale is generally a weaker brew than the exported IPA. Both, however, favor some caramelly contribution from long boils, often up to two hours long. English hops are usually used. American pale ale, in contrast usually uses a shorter boil and American hop varieties. Sometimes, competitions make a further distinction between English IPA and American IPA. In this case, the English version will have more of a malty base. Both, however, will have an assertive bitterness and a robust hop aroma. Thom Tomlinson, writing in www.brewingtechniques.com makes a further distinction between traditional and contemporary styles. The traditional style would have some sugar as an adjunct, a low final gravity, and should be well aged. Contemporary IPA, in contrast, would have a richer all-malt base and generally is served fresher, to highlight the hoppy character. Lately, the term double IPA has come to vogue, with microbrewers just not knowing when to stop when it comes to making a big bitter beer.
If you're making an IPA, start out with English or American 2-row pale malt. Add about 10% sugar for an English style, or a good does of crystal malt for American. Aim for a starting gravity of at least 1.050 and preferably over 1.060. Plan on using at least 40 IBU of bittering hops. Add some gypsum to stay true to the Burton style of water and enhance the bitterness. Then follow it up with a good dose of flavor hops. For a top quality IPA, dry hopping is a must. I prefer a robust mix of Columbus and Cascade hops for the American version. Pitch with Wyeast 1028 for English or Wyeast 1056 for American. Finally, keep the carbonation level a bit on the high side. Remember, that even though IPA is a bitterness-dominated style, the malt base should not be overshadowed.
If you're one of the few people who hasn't discovered what IPA tastes like, a couple of commercial examples are Samuel Smith's India Ale (for the
English version) and Hop Ottin IPA (for the American version).
Vital Statistics for various Pale Ales:
|Bitterness, IBU||Color, SRM||Hop Aroma|
|India Pale Ale||1.050-1.075||1.012-1.016||40-60+||8-14||High|
|English Pale Ale||1.046-1.065||1.011-1.020||30-65||6-14||Low-Med|
|American Pale Ale||1.045-1.056||1.010-1.015||20-40||4-11||Med-High|