The market for India Pale Ales was created thanks to an increasing demand from repatriated Britons returning from India to drink the beer they had drunk whilst in India. “What was so special about the beer in India?” Grab a beer. Here’s the spiel:
Not all that long ago it was a popular pastime of many to travel and conquer distant territories in the name of king and country. Naturally while travelling it was always good to have some home-grown creature comforts here & there, to remind one that it wasn’t devilishly hot and sticky in all parts of the empire. Somewhat ironically most soldiers and travellers agreed that beer sufficed as an excellent reminder.
Beer was exported from the UK to the subcontinent by many a company on a long journey that took up to 6 months if it travelled around the Cape of Good Hope or up to 2 months by the mid 19th century via the Suez Canal. Some of these shipments arrived in much better condition than others (which is an unmeasurable bonus because at this point in time it was often blind luck if the beer brewed around the corner arrived in decent condition), and it was up to enterprising and innovative breweries to unlock the recipe which best survived the lengthy journey east.
It didn’t take them long to figure out that beer with higher concentrations of malt (read: alcohol) and hops (read: nature’s preservative) rode the waves and arrived in much tastier condition than beers brewed with lower quantities of both. Boozy, hoppy beers were tremendously popular tipples amongst the subcontinental colonists and soldiery, whether or not it served as a sufficient reminder of all things green and good in the mother country.
As we all know, all things must come to an end. Many folks found themselves trekking or floating back home, only to find upon arrival that the beer was anything but boozy and hoppy! As the numbers of returning citizens increased, so did the disdain for non-boozy, under-hopped beers. Enter those enterprising breweries from a few decades earlier. They eventually cottoned on to something: “Let’s sell that ale we sent to India here!” They thought. “Let’s get all super inventive and call it India Ale. Better yet, India Pale Ale. It’s got a nicer ring to it. Yes, the ring is good.”
That, in a nutshell is the IPA spiel. A beer that was so called because folks wanted a reminder of being in a place unlike the place where they were whilst enjoying a solid glass of reminder. Or forgetter. I’m not sure. Let’s move on. Finish your beer.