IPA: much later than you think part 2

king-barnes-ipaClick to read part 1
From 1823 the Burton brewers began to brew pale ales for the Indian market. I’m not going to go into the development of Burton pale ale here, but between them the big Burton brewers and Hodgson of Bow certainly never had a monopoly of the Indian pale ale trade. In November 1831, for example, when the Hope brewery, “near the Friend at Hand”, Hammersmith (in what is now West London) was put up for auction, its stocks, according to the advertisement in The Times, included “150 barrels of pale ale for the Indian market”.

But this was still not being called “India Pale Ale”. Even Hodgson’s product, even when it was being advertised directly at “Families from India”, as it was in an advertisement in The Times in July 1833 (clearly the brewer was hoping for custom from people now back in England who had enjoyed its beers out East), was still only referred to as “Hodgson and Co’s Bottled Pale Ale”. No mention of India in the name of the beer, no indication that this was special or different from anybody else’s pale ale, except for the brief hint in the note that “The Nobility, Gentry and others (especially Families from India”) could be supplied with the product.

In October 1834 a London wine and spirit merchant, WG Field and Co, of Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, was advertising in The Times “Burton, Edinburgh and Prestonpans Ales, Pale Ale as prepared for India [my emphasis], Dorchester Beer and London and Dublin Brown Stout”. Earlier in the century Thomas Field of London had been a big customer of Bass in Burton upon Trent, and it seems quite likely this was the same firm, probably selling Bass’s “Pale Ale as prepared for India”, carried down from Burton by canal or wagon. In the 1840s Field was certainly selling Bass pale ale. What was “Pale Ale as prepared for India”? William Loftus explains, under the heading “India Pale Bitter Ale”, in his book The Brewer: A Familiar Treatise on the Art of Brewing,, published in 1856. The book says about “Bitter Ale” that “that prepared for the home market is less bitter and spirituous than that which is prepared for exportation to India.”

Continue reading IPA: much later than you think part 2

IPA: much later than you think

worthington-carWhen do you think the expression “India Pale Ale” was first used? Much, much later than you’d imagine, and much, much later than the idea of a pale ale exported to the Far East. The term India Pale Ale does not appear in print until June 1837 (correction – a couple of years earlier, as I described here), more than half a century, at least, after pale ale brewed in Britain started being sold in India.

So what was it known as, then? Before 1837 the beer we now call India Pale Ale, or IPA, was labelled simply “pale ale” when it was being sold in India, or “Indian beer” back home in England, or, in the early to mid-1830s, “Pale Ale as prepared for India”.

On Thursday June 15 1837, however, George Shove, a wine and beer merchant of Threadneedle Street, close to the Bank of England in the City of London, advertised for sale in The Times, alongside “Guinness’s extra Double Stout”, six shillings and sixpence (6s 6d) a dozen bottles, Barclay’s brown stout, 6s 6d, and best porter, 4s 3d, and Edinburgh ale, 7s 6d, “Hodgson’s India pale ale, 6s 6d”, This was the first time, as far as either I or the Oxford English Dictionary can see, that the phrase “India pale ale” was ever used in print. Five days later William IV died, and his niece Victoria climbed on to the British throne. Doubtless some of her new subjects toasted her health in IPA.

I was digging around the Times archive after somebody on the Northern Brewer homebrewer’s site in the United States posted a link to my “George Hodgson didn’t invent IPA” page, which brought a torrent of hits (at one point around 75 per cent of my blog hits were coming from across the Atlantic) and a wave of anger from people upset that I was trashing one of their favourite stories. Somebody asked when IPA was supposed to have come in, which made me realise I didn’t actually know when the words “India Pale Ale” were first used. Somebody else complained that I was “nit-picking”. If saying “the generally accepted story about the birth of IPA is almost entirely wrong” is nit-picking, that’s a bloody big nit. Someone else complained that

“this guy is just going out of his way to poke holes in the common story about the ipa style … The point is that Hodgson was the first to brew ‘india pale ale’ (from everything i’ve read) and therefore brewed the first of the style”

which is entirely not grasping my own point, or points. The first is that the “common story” already has huge holes in it, and I’m not poking them, I’m just holding them up and saying: “Look – big holes!”. There is no contemporary evidence (and by “contemporary” I mean “contemporary with George Hodgson”) to support the “common story” that Hodgson deliberately designed a beer to survive the journey to India. No writer before William Molyneaux in 1869, in a book called Burton-on-Trent, its History, its Waters and its Breweries, says Hodgson invented IPA, and Molyneaux was writing more than 80 years at least after pale ale had begun being regularly exported to India. Certainly Hodgson never claimed it invented the style.

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Thomas Hardy’s 2008 versus Thomas Hardy’s 1988

The latest, 2008 edition of Thomas Hardy’s Ale, the strong bottle-conditioned beer from the West Country, has just hit the shelves, with a special label celebrating the 40th anniversary of the first brewing of THA back in 1968.

That first brew, made by Eldridge Pope of Dorchester in Devon, was itself commemorating the 40th anniversary of the death of the novelist Thomas Hardy in 1928. Hardy lived in Dorchester, set one of his best-known novels (The Mayor of Casterbridge) in the town, eulogised the town’s beer in another novel, The Trumpet Major, and was a friend of the Popes, owners of the brewery. When the brewery refurbished a local pub called The Trumpet Major in 1968, it celebrated with a special 12 per cent abv beer.

It was another six years before Thomas Hardy’s Ale was brewed again, but the beer was produced in both 1974 and 1975, and from 1977 onwards Eldridge Pope brewed and bottled the beer every year. The last brewing in Dorchester took place in 1999, and the brewery closed a few years later.

Fortunately the American beer wholesaler Phoenix Importers, which had been selling Thomas Hardy’s Ale in the United States since the first brewing in 1968, managed to commission a new small brewer in the West Country, O’Hanlon’s of Whimple, near Exeter, in Devon, to recreate the beer in 2003 and it has been making the beer every year since then.

Waitrose supermarkets are currently doing a five-for-four special on the 2008 THA, which at £3.49 full-price, is worth investing in, so since journeyman journalism currently takes me near a branch of middle-class England’s favourite food outlet I bought a stash. I don’t have any 1968 versions (the oldest I own are a couple of bottles of the 1975) but I did have a bottle of the 1988, and in honour of the 40th anniversary brew I thought it would be fun to see how it compared with the 20th anniversary version.

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A religious experience in a restaurant

To be “intoxicated” means, literally, to have been shot with a poisoned arrow, thanks to a roundabout philological journey involving the old Greek word for bow, toxon.

The same root led to the made-up word “toxophilite” for people who practice archery for sport. Early in the 19th century the Royal Toxophilite Society used butts (that is, “archery grounds”, unrelated either to “butt”, a 108-gallon cask, or “butt”, posterior) near Lancaster Gate, just north of Hyde Park in London. In an apparent attempt to attract the custom of the society’s members, a pub nearby in Bathurst Place changed its name some time after 1831, when it opened, from the Crown to the Archery Tavern.

The Archery Tavern was an airy, attractive retreat from the thundering traffic of the Bayswater Road, the sense of being deep in the country rather than just a short walk from Marble Arch and the hordes of Oxford Street increased by the occasional clack-clack of hooves as horses from the mews next door were ridden out to exercise in Hyde Park.

Sadly, the pub closed at the beginning of 2006. Some 18 months later, however, it reopened as the Angelus Restaurant, run by the French-born Thierry Tomasin, who was head sommelier at Le Gavroche in Mayfair for 12 years and then general manager at Aubergine in Chelsea, where he gained a reputation for open-minded willingness to try beer as well as wine with fine-dining menus.

The Angelus doesn’t seem to be that bold in its standard menu yet. But it was probably Tomasin’s known friendliness towards beer (and the name – the angelus bell is rung three times a day to summon Catholics to “dwell for a few moments on the mystery of the Incarnation”) that led the supermarket chain Waitrose and the beer importer James Clay to pick it for a “saintly beer dinner” earlier this week to publicise some of the beers now found on Waitrose’s shelves, with every dish and every beer having a religious hint in the name.

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Going for a Californian Burton

After I had met Matt Brynildson brewmaster at the Firestone Walker brewery in Paso Robles, California, on his way to make a Californian-style pale ale at Marston’s brewery in Burton upon Trent, for this year’s Wetherspoon’s International Beer Festival, I was eager to try Matt’s brew.

The problem with the Wetherspoon’s festival, though, is that with 50 beers on offer and no one pub able to do more than eight or so at a time, finding the one you want in any random ‘spoons outlet is, at best, five to one against: indeed, some pubs, I found last year, weren’t carrying any festival specials at all.

But since I was on the eastern side of the City on Friday night I decided the Masque Haunt in Old Street was worth a punt: despite the poor reviews you’ll find at that link, this is, as pubs underneath office blocks go, not bad, I’ve been drinking there for a dozen years and the condition of the beer is generally good, the customers are no more wacky than anywhere else in the City after 8pm when anyone normal has caught the train home*, and, most importantly, it offered a very good selection of beers during last year’s festival.

Result! Not only was the Haunt stocking Matt’s California Pale Ale, it also had two of the other three “international guest brewer” beers on tap, Baron’s Black Wattle Original Ale, with the Sydney-based brewers coming to Banks’s in Wolverhampton to recreate their beer (two more different places than “Sinny” and “Walverampton” it would be tough to think up) and Yona Yona from the Yo-Ho brewery in Kitasaku, Japan, being brewed at Banks’s.

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