I’ve recreated Mycenaean beers, Viking beers, ancient Peruvian beers [and] revolutionary American beers, but recreating the original Indian Pale Ale was by far the hardest thing for me to do, says Travis Rupp, a beer archaeologist who teaches on the subject at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
The city of Rocky Mountain is also home to the Avery Brewing Company. Rupp led its research and development until recently, where he led a project called Ales of Antiquity.
For the IPA, I had to figure out how to make beer by mimicking conditions in London [in the 1700s] and then simulating sending the beer to India, Rupp explains. But in a modern brewery, certain archaic techniques would certainly be out of the question.
One, for example, is the practice of burning coke. Coal could therefore be used as a fuel for malt, which was confirmed in the mid-16th century. Only at the end of the 19th century was it possible to control the process better. It burned purer and gave a lighter roast than wood or peat, which darkened the malt and gave it a smoky flavor.
In the early 18th century In the 19th century, this technique enabled the production of Pale Ales in England. This beer was shipped to Madras, India as early as 1717. In 1784, this Pale Ale was advertised in a newspaper in Calcutta. This is pretty convincing evidence that the British managed to ship beer to India long before they loaded the brew with tons of hops.
At the time, dark porter was a more popular type of beer shipped to India. Not only were they stronger, but it was the predominant beer in London at the time and was something that British soldiers used to drink at home.
According to beer historian Ron Pattinson, the British East India Company ordered 23,511 barrels of Pale Ale and 46,363 barrels of Porter in 1849-57.
This heavy, syrupy, semi-sweet finish suited the cool British weather better than an oppressive tropical humidity, Nicholas J. Hamlin wrote of Porter in his Britannia, Bengal, Burton and Beer.
Six months – or even two years – of shipping to India and other warmer climates, plus year-round storage of the beer, and English exporters realize they may need more hops than usual to keep the beers alive.
How the rumours got started
George Hodgson is the most famous exporter of the time. He is often incorrectly referred to as the inventor of the API. He started brewing beer in East London in 1752. The Sa Bow Brewery was located near the East India Pier, where merchant ships loaded their goods.
Hodgson began exporting his beer, and he was one of the few English brewers to give credit for beers that didn’t sell for 18 months.
Hodgson took the same beer he sold in London, and dried the barrels to ship them to India, says Rupp, who says Hodgson even developed a special spring-loaded locking device in which he could insert and pound the hops from a whole cone into the barrel.
Burton-on-Trent, early 1900s / Alamia
Like many historians, Rupp believes that Hodgson and the other Ur-IPAs of the time came from what was called October beer or malt wine. These were essentially Imperial Bitter Ales, made in the fall from freshly harvested hops and then aged for two to three years. But they were super, super expensive to brew, Rupp says. It is not for nothing that the officers in India usually got them drunk. The cheap luggage rack fell on the mob.
There is absolutely no evidence to support the idea that Hodgson’s beer was formulated or invented specifically for export to India, writes famed American brewer Mitch Steele in his 2013 book IPA : Brewing techniques, recipes and evolution of Indian Pale Ale.
This type of strongly hopped pale ale will be around for many decades before it is called Indian Pale Ale. The first written mention of the Indian Pale Ale is found in an Australian newspaper in 1829.
By this time Burton-on-Trent, a market town 135 miles north of London, had become the epicenter of this type of exported beer, now produced by breweries such as Bass and Allsopp.
William Molyneux’s 1869 book Burton-on-Trent: History, water and breweries were the first to pay tribute to Hodgson by inventing an Indian beer that polishes a legacy he may not have earned.
Reconstruction of original DPI now
Rupp will make an IPA 1752, which corresponds to the year Hodgson opened its brewery. Rupp made water from the Thames, a dry, chopped beer with almost twice the amount of East Kent Goldings he would use in modern breweries, and let it ferment in used English oak barrels.
At regular intervals, Rupp even vibrated the barrels and fluctuated the storage temperature for the next three months to simulate the arduous journey to India.
God, people have to buy this… what if it tastes like shit? Rupp says he remembers thinking at the time. It breaks all the rules of the fresh, fruity, misty APIs that are so popular today. I thought the beer would be terrible, but it was actually pretty mild.
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