Friday, 16 March 2018

India Pale Ale - It's an interesting story!!



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The story of India Pale Ale and its growth is told  several times by historians and and writers who go after the origin of many brews. Nevertheless, it an interesting one because the entire British community settled in India in the 18th and 19th centuries needed some kind of alcoholic brew of suitable taste to wet their dry throat and to get sober. During the colonial days, when the British had established their hegemony over a vast land in India, they needed a better and efficient army to defend their possessions  and treasures and move their war weapons, etc., across the Indian subcontinent  that geographically  varied from place to place.  They supplied British army to the Maharajahs and Nabobs to defend their kingdom against their  enemies for an annual fee. At the same time, to get their business going, they diabolically saw to  it that they were squeezing each others' throat.  Besides, dealing with thick and wild jungles infested with dangerous  animals, mosquitoes and poisonous snakes became a serious problem for the army and pioneers when moving from one place to another in the early days. On top of it, they had to survive  hot Indian summer and wet Monsoon. Accustomed to living in a cold country where the Sun did not trouble them, the British, with their khaki uniform, not only became parched and sun baked, but also sweated profusely during the hot days in their line of duty. In the middle of nowhere, expecting ice-filled Gin  and tonics was far beyond their dream. So, during the 18th century, the British Army, Navy, sailors and the British settlers  who ran farms, business, etc.,  in India missed the drink closest to their heart - their beer. They badly needed something alcoholic -  fermented magic to subdue their frustration and fatigue  - just to cool off and forget their mundane existence in a sun-soaked land. 

The Brits in India in the early stages of their rule had an access  only to light Porter beer - specifically dark and heavy one, that was  the most popular brew of that time   in cold London. But, it was not fit for the tropical climate as it was not hopped. It failed to give them the necessary kick and thrill because  it often arrived sour, stale, infected and flat. Sometimes  it arrived with off-flavors ranging from cardboard to rotten vegetables.  In many cases  the barrels  were leaky or broken (may be caused by too much rattling on the high seas) and, sometimes, almost emptied by ship riders en route. For many boozers disappointment and frustration were writ on their face as they could not down a foul-smelling beer.
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IPA -_India Pale Ale was the right answer to the problem of quenching the parched British Army in India where, in the horrible tropical heat, it was difficult to make a nice brew with long shelf-life. The British officials frantically  wanted some kind of brew that could survive  grueling six-month journey without refrigeration from Britain to India and was good enough to consume. Thus IPA was specifically made in England for the British Angelo Indians. It is a beefed-up version of pale ale, using more hops and with a higher alcohol content. It became a popular brew  with British troops stationed in the various barracks of India in the 19th century, when the subcontinent was under the control of the British Crown.  In all social gatherings,  you could see British Bobs  either trading talks with their fiancee or  relaxing over this brew.  Bow Brewery, England  came up with a new version of a brew that was later called India Pale Ale. The name was based on its color and  was not dark or brown. As to it's exact origin and method of preparation, controversy still persists. Any way, it gave the British the required break when they were off duty or on holidays.  

Surprisingly IPA - India Pale Ale became the most sought-after beer internationally  and its sale increased manifold between 1775 to 1800. Later
Lager became popular  for many reasons like industrialization, better techniques, mass production, etc. However, IPA is believed to be the strongest name in craft beer circles and coinciding with the craft beer revolution starting in the USA, IPA  regained  some of the lost ground and became a popular brew.

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It was the arrival of October Ale in India that gave  British soldiers and others  a sigh of relief  and satisfaction.  In the 1780s, a London brewer  by the name of Hodgson successfully made a strong  heavily hopped beer called  October Ale that would normally be aged like wine before drinking. The beer, surprisingly, survived the rough and long sea- voyage and over a time improved taste-wise. This prototype IPA (beer)  gradually became paler and more refreshing to suit the Indian climate.  The higher alcohol percentage, in the beer had an advantage and kept the British Bobs in thrall. They could get drunk faster than expected and never felt homesick being in India. Extra hopping and a bit higher alcohol content made all the difference!! 
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Some beer historians say that
Hodgson involvement in India trade was on a low key level. That the IPA was first introduced by Hodgson by hopping and increasing alcohol content is not true. Prior to him, 18th century brewers were making IPA that could survive long trip to India; anyway, the discovery of IPA by the English changed the drinking habit of the people world over and the tropical India gave them the impetus to subdue the British men's thirst in a hot country.  
http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/how-india-pale-ale-got-its-name-180954891/#gjA71GBO1fGiSOxv.99