National IPA Day is on Sunday, August 7th and before the celebration begins, we think now is an appropriate time to shed some light on the storied history behind this popular beer style.
Take a peek at the packs of frosty bottles in the beer cooler or browse the beer list at your favorite tap house during any time of year, and you’re sure to notice the growing assortment of IPAs. Unlike many beer styles that come in and out of favor from season to season, India Pale Ales (IPAs) have recently emerged as a year-round craft beer mainstay.
The storied and debated history of the IPA dates as far back as the early 1800’s and may have come about as a solution to a problem: English soldiers occupying territories in the East were hot, homesick and thirsting for a cold beer.
The relentless, sweltering heat in India resulted in far from ideal conditions for brewing beer, making it necessary to brew back home and ship the bounty to the East. During this time, the trip from England to India was slow, taking about 6 months to complete just one leg of the journey. Sloshing around in the hot and dirty hull of the ships, the beer that arrived (if it arrived at all) was usually spoiled or hardly consumable.
Looking to fight the spoilage problem, brewers in England began to notice that beers brewed with strong pale malts, loads of fresh hops and high alcohol content seemed to weather the journey better than most.
Because of this knowledge, English Brewers began packing their beer with fresh hops and adding extra sugar to their wort (pre-fermented or young beer) to produce higher alcohol content. The high alcohol and extra hops acted as the perfect preservative, keeping the beer fresh and adding a distinct, fruity and bitter taste when the beer finally arrived.
For many years the IPA reigned supreme, but the need for intense preservatives became less and less with the advent of refrigeration, and the style fell from favor. Decades passed and the IPA remained relatively unpopular and difficult to locate. That is, until recent times when craft brewers and beer aficionados began to bring the style back to the forefront.
These days, you’ll be hard pressed to find a craft brewery that doesn’t have an IPA as a part of their year-round line-up, if not two or three. Breweries have embraced the IPA as a palate-pleasing, year-round style with broad appeal. Many brewers have even taken to creating a new variety referred to as “Session” IPAs.
Much like the original, the session IPA was created to solve a problem: most IPA drinkers have a desire to drink a few more over a longer period of time, but the alcohol content in a traditional IPA is too high for this. These “sessionable” brews are considerably lower in alcohol content (generally less than 5% ABV) than their traditional counterparts, but maintain the distinct characteristics of the IPA we’ve come to know and love.
So, what’s cooling in your fridge? Just in time for IPA Day, we just tapped two IPAs from Elysian Brewing Co. of Seattle, Washington: Space Dust IPA and The Immortal IPA.
Known for classic styles, flexibility and innovation, Elysian has been crafting unique and sometimes unusual, but always great-tasting, beer in Seattle since 1996. Never before available in our area, we’re over the moon to feature two exceptional IPAs from this heralded West Coast brewery during the month of August.
Space Dust IPA: The hopping is pure starglow energy with Chinook to bitter and late and dry additions of Citra and Amarillo. 8.2% ABV.
Cheers to National IPA Day!